Blades 1 Rochdale 1: Chris Wilder's Sheffield United come from behind to gain first point of new campaign

Blades v Rochdale

Blades v Rochdale

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Billy Sharp's late equaliser secured Sheffield United's first point of the season at Bramall Lane earlier today.

Chris Wilder's side appeared to be heading for defeat after producing a chequered display in front of over 19,000 supporters.

But their persistence was rewarded when Sharp swept home in the 81st minute to deny Rochdale only their second ever win over United who handed a debut to new loan signing Harry Chapman.

Andy Cannon fired the visitors ahead moments before the break. It was conceived in scruffy fashion - George Long, who had earlier made an excellent save to deny Ian Henderson, blocking an initial strike - before Cannon converted from close-range. And, because of that, it proved a fitting if not desirable end from United's perspective to the opening period.

Leon Clarke went close to grabbing an equaliser midway through the second but headed inches wide.

United, who introduced new loan signing Harry Chapman, eventually engineered a breakthrough when Sharp met Chris Hussey's superb set-piece.

For the third match in a row, Wilder named an unchanged starting eleven although Harry Chapman, signed on loan from Middlesbrough yesterday, was named on the bench. If the ploy was designed to help kick-start his team's campaign after back to back defeats, it only had a limited effect with Cannon ensuring the visitors finished a forgettable first-half in front.

A fourth minute burst from Sharp, which left Rochdale's back four training in his wake, was rewarded with a round of applause from Wilder but also an offside flag from the assistant referee. But with Matt Done inches away from prodding home soon after, it also sparked United into life with Mark Duffy, John Fleck and John Brayford all combining to good effect before the ball was hacked clear. Jack O'Connell met the resulting corner at the far post but again his header was eventually scrambled away to safety.

Rochdale responded well with Donal McDermott forcing O'Connell to intervene after plotting a course towards United's penalty area. Duffy dragged wide again soon after before the contest descended into a scrappy arm-wrestle. There were flashes of promise with McDermott spuring a half chance and Brayford testing Rochdale's positional sense with a drilled low cross. But, for the most part, is was industrious rather than inventive fayre.

A delightful pass, swept over the top of Rochdale's rearguard by the outside of Hussey's boot, caught the eye but Clarke's pass was poor. A 40th minute cameo from McDermott summed-up the story of the match so far perfectly. He did well to strip United of possession and ghost into position but sliced his shot to such an extent that it went out for a throw.

Cannon's 44th minute goal was also scrappy with Long blocking Ian Henderson's initial attempt before the Rochdale man, having been left in acres of space, pounced on the rebound.

McGahey, the former United defender, turned a free-kick wide at the start of the second period before Clarke and Sharp combined well to release Done who shot just wide at the far post from an extremely tight angle. Duffy thundered a free-kick into the wall following a 55th minute foul on Sharp. Fleck showed good enthusiasm to intercept from Nathaniel Mendez-Laing.

Four minutes later, United sent-on Chapman. With the mood inside the stadium growing increasingly irritable, it was a baptism of fire for the teenager. But Sharp showed nerves of steel to secure his team a share of the spoils.Clarke thought he had dragged United level in the 65th minute after overpowering his marker and connecting with Duffy's cross. The centre-forward's header back across goal fell just the wrong side of Josh Lillis' post.

Applause rang out around the stadium in the 71st minute as the home crowd - and the away supporters too - paid tribute to their former goalkeeper John Hope who passed away recently. Stefan Scougall, now on for Duffy, nearly engineered perhaps an even more welcome tribute after burrowing his way into position on the left hand side of Rochdale's area but, again, the cross was cleared.

With eight minutes remaining, Sharp opened his account for the season with a wonderful first-time finish from Hussey's inswinging free-kick. The delivery, arcing towards the near post, was perfect and meant neither Lillis nor Rochdale's defenders dare intervene. Sharp, though, had no such problem and swept home a first time finish in front of The Kop.

Sheffield United: Long, Brayford, Hussey, Fleck, O'Connell, Basham, Sharp, Done (Chapman 59), Wilson, Duffy (Scougall 68), Clarke. Not used: M McNulty, Ramsdale, Wright, Coutts, Freeman.

Rochdale: Lillis, Rafferty, J McNulty, Canavan, McGahey, Andrew, Mendez-Laing (Odelusi 68), McDermott, Allen, Cannon (Camps78), Henderson. Not used: Tanser, Thompson, Logan, Morley, Bunney.

Referee: Kevin Johnson (Somerset). Atendance: 19,399.

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