Sheffield United manager Nigel Adkins spoke of his “huge” respect for Danny Wilson and his assistant Chris Morgan before today’s meeting with Chesterfield.
On the pitch, however, the visitors showed absolutely none as strikes from Alex Baptiste, Che Adams and Billy Sharp swept their neighbours aside in almost contemptuous fashion.
Baptiste had barely broken sweat when he ended his 14-month wait for a goal during the early skirmishes and the effort, following a training ground set-piece move, set the tone for what proved a surprisingly one-sided neighbourly dispute.
Adams, who had tormented the hosts at Bramall Lane earlier this term, doubled United’s lead midway through the first-half and when Sharp claimed his 19th of the campaign in the second, the match was effectively over as a contest.
Chesterfield’s error-strewn display contributed to the final outcome. But, make no mistake, United were also very, very good and made sure nearly every slip was punished. Matt Done thought he had stretched United’s lead still further after ghosting inside moments before making way for Martyn Woolford but his curling attempt hit the roof rather than the back of the net.
This was not the reunion Wilson, one of Adkins’ most recent predecessors, or Morgan, who served Bramall Lane with distinction for over a decade as a coach, caretaker manager and a player, had in mind.
Making fast starts and utlising set-pieces are two benchmarks of Adkins’ regime and, in a raucous atmosphere, his players obliged on both counts. Chesterfield had already defended, albeit only just, two United corners when David Edgar met Ryan Flynn’s fourth minute delivery at the far post for Baptiste to turn home. The defender, who has been hugely impressive since arriving from Middlesbrough on loan, further endeared himself to the visiting supporters by stopping a Jay O’Shea free-kick with his face; an action which left him polexed on the deck but prevented George Long being forced to attempt what would have been a fine save.
Chesterfield, sitting far too deep for either their health or Wilson’s temper, were soon fortunate not to find themselves in even deeper trouble. Captain Gary Liddle was correctly cautioned for deliberately obstructing Done’s path as United sprung a counter-attack but, moments later, escaped without censure after pulling exactly the same trick on Chris Basham. The fact referee Graham Scott awarded a foul only made the decision even more unfathomable.
As the half progressed, Chesterfield began to establish a foothold of sorts in the game but United were still better and brighter across the pitch with Jay McEveley demonstrating good awareness to thwart Lee Novak at one end and Baptiste combining well with Paul Coutts at the other. So, it was no surprise to to see Adams double their lead in the 36th minute. Or that the goal - which saw him shoot into an empty net from long-range - came following a Chesterfield error. Tommy Lee’s stray pass to be exact.
Fierce competitors, Wilson and Morgan will have ensured the home dressing room was not a comfortable place to be during the interval. Predictably, there was a response with Jay McEveley forced to bravely head clear a deep centre. McEveley was involved again, this time shepherding a loose ball to safety under pressure from former United youngster Conor Dimaio.
But, just before the hour, United reasserted themselves again when Sharp stroked the ball home in front of the away supporters following Coutts’ square pass. Lee redeemed his earlier faux-pas by clawing away a deflected shot from Flynn as United went for the jugular.
Chesterfield: Lee, Hird, Liddle, O’Shea, Novak, Raglan, Dimaio (Slew 60), Anderson, Banks, Talbot, Ariyibi. Not used: Ebanks-Blake, Humphreys, Donohue, Chapman, Simons, Orrell.
Sheffield United: Long, Baptiste, Basham, Edgar, McEveley, Hammond, Coutts, Flynn (Cuvelier 75), Adams (Calvert-Lewin 83), Sharp, Done (Woolford 88). Not used: Howard, McGahey, Whiteman, Sammon.
Referee: Graham Scott (Oxfordshire),