Blades Derby Day Disappointment
Sunday 26th February
A 73rd minute header from home striker O`Grady settled this pulsating Sheffield derby. The first goal was always likely to settle a game between teams with totally different approaches to achieving their aim of promotion out of this awful division, but recent form was never going count for much, as is usually the case in these games.
The old stadium was jumping as Wednesday manager Megson ran around with delight at his likely stay of execution as the well orchestrated player`s celebration engulfed him after the goal.
The first half was an illustration of the differing styles, United attempting to play neat ball on the floor, using width at every opportunity and the home side launching the ball into the United box from set pieces and long throws. Collins and Maguire could have been forgiven for thinking they were back at The Galpharm.
Williamson hit the bar from a free kick, O`Grady headed a Lines cross over then Lowe was just short of turning in Antonio`s cross before Quinn`s through ball to Williamson saw Semedo clip him in the box. Referee Halse looked hard at his linesman before waving away penalty claims.
Simonsen made his first contribution of the half catching a 30yd free kick from Lines. Up front Evans strength and movement was giving Jones and Batth problems, the latter clearly clattering Evans in the box just before half time, referee Halsey once again was 20 yards away and looking towards his linesman for a decision, though he always seemed to be able to award niggling free kicks in non important areas without any help.
The second half was different again. Wednesday stepped up the pace and their aerial bombardment, Doyle and Montgomery struggled to retain any control of midfield and for the first time for many months Maguire and Collins began to struggle in central defense as the home side dragged United into an ugly, scrappy long ball game. Problem was that Wednesday are used to this style, United are not and failed to adjust to cope. In midfield the supply to the front two dried up completely as The Blades began to miss the creativity of Kevin McDonald.
Wednesday were clearly in the driving seat as the half wore on, United were giving away the ball far too easily, and failing to win enough second ball. For long periods United resorted to long ball as Wednesday were the more determined and aggressive, but despite all the home sides` direct play Simonsen was still largely unemployed.
Perhaps a little late, Hoskins came on for the fading Cresswell and Beattie came on with even less time remaining. Flynn who had replaced Montgomery a bit earlier had a chance but side footed straight to the keeper, then from his cross Hoskins brought a good save out of Bywater, flipping over a strong header.
Cue more hysterical celebrating from the blue half at the final whistle - we would have done the same - and both city clubs are very much in the frame for automatic escape in May.
My vote goes to Steven Quinn. Still not back to his best, but involved in much of the early promise and worked hard throughout the game.
United have demonstrated the ability to adjust their game to most styles, but failed yesterday, allowing themselves to be dragged into a route one game. The lack of control and creativity became more and more obvious as the second half wore on.
Doyle and Montgomery are both holding midfielders and don`t work well together, I would have liked to see Williamson alongside Doyle with Flynn out wide to provide a bit of pace from the start. Monty was poor and got worse.
Any derby defeat hurts, but United have the two games in hand and now have an early opportunity to convert one of these into points on Wednesday.