Sheffield United scraped a 1-0 victory over Cumbrian opponents Carlisle United on Saturday.
With James Beattie set to return to The Lane, the Sheffield United campaign looked to have taken a turn for the better, despite the club revealing major financial losses over the last year.
Beattie, having trained with the United players throughout the week, took his seat in the directors’ box to get a taste of what he’s letting himself in for – much has changed since Beattie left after failure to stay in the top flight of English football.
There was a really great atmosphere inside the ground in the build up to kick-off that would be expected from a derby match, with more than double last weekend’s attendance.
Despite the buzz inside The Lane, the match didn’t promise too much, with Carlisle struggling to progress further up the table and the Blades’ current form in doubt.
But the game started brilliantly.
The home side instantly looked the main threat, looking dangerous with every corner launched into the penalty area and each shot fired towards goal.
Lee Williamson watched his drive sting the palms of Collins early on, having been encouraged to run 20 yards or so by the static Cumbrian midfield.
Quinn, meanwhile, seemed to be constantly whipping corners into the Carlisle box, only to see the majority clawed away by Collins.
Collins took full advantage of a couple of poor deliveries from the Blades winger, launching long throws into the Cumbrian forwards.
Quinn brought down Berrett at the other end before he could advance into the box, but Matty Robson couldn’t guide the subsequent free-kick past Sheffield United’s wall.
The game’s first goal came from the home side.
Eventually, Stephen Quinn’s corner kick dropped to the likely scorer, Ched Evans, who was in the right place at the right time to smash home his eighth of the campaign, from no more than two yards out.
After the Welshman had raised the decibel level after 20 minutes on the clock, the away fans were muted, as they watched their side fail to test Simonsen, and the atmosphere mellowed.
With the Carlisle players lacking energy and the Sheffield United players, seemingly, disinterested in doubling their lead, the second half looked as if it might live up to its low expectations.
There were reassuring glimpses of creativity after the restart though.
Richard Cresswell couldn’t find the net after Lowton’s low cross found him in the 48th minute – the striker could breathe a sigh of relief when he realised the linesmen had raised his flag for offside.
Three minutes later, Williamson was withdrawn from the game, having picked up a knee injury.
Wilson replaced the Jamaican with his flying Scotsman, Ryan Flynn, as he has chosen to do on many occasions this season.
Like the Blades in the first half, when Carlisle attacked in pursuit of an equaliser, they left holes at the back.
Flynn was involved immediately and his fresh legs carried him on an endless run before he wad bundled to the ground inside the area by Ribeiro, who look in the referee’s direction in despair.
Gibbs pointed to the spot and Cresswell stepped up.
The penalty was low and on target but poorly struck and, having guessed the right way, Collins saved.
As the match approached its conclusion, supporters from both sides showed their frustration.
Whilst moans and groans could be heard amongst the Blades’ supporters, the away fans took a more physical approach; two fans had to be escorted from the ground.
Sloppy passing crept into the Blades’ midfielders, resulting in counter attacks from Carlisle in the closing stages but still they couldn’t find the net.
Miller came closest and saw his effort fly agonisingly wide of the target. `
The Blades’ supporters breathed a sigh of relief, accompanied by a murmur of disappointment, when the referee blew his whistle for the last time, recognising that the three points were what mattered most.
By Sam Fletcher