Match Report: Sheffield United 1, Brentford 0

Blades v Brentford
Blades v Brentford
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Sheffield United were relentless, tenacious and after over 90 minutes of breathless action, victorious, too.

Billy Sharp's first-half goal proved enough to beat Brentford as his club made a successful return to the Championship following six long years in exile.

Make no mistake, Dean Smith's men are a talented group of footballers and, particularly during the closing stages of the second-half, forced United to dig deep and demonstrate huge levels of desire.

But Chris Wilder's charges, who remain unbeaten since January, deserved their win. They went about their business in fearless fashion and, crucially, showed plenty of technical ability.

Indeed, but for two disallowed efforts, the margin of victory would have been even greater.

Wilder had insisted his players would look to "attack the division" following last season's League One title triumph.

Within moments of kick-off, it became apparent United were intent on keeping their word rather than simply indulging in pre-match hype. Richard Stearman, one of three debutants in the hosts' starting eleven, was inches away from connecting with a corner after Paul Coutts and John Fleck had worked the ball forward.

Then, seconds later, Kieron Freeman saw a long range shot blocked as his team mates swarmed towards the Brentford box. Freeman was nearly clean through again midway through the opening period when Clarke and Sharpe worked the ball across the penalty area but a defender's foot prodded the ball away.

In between, however, Lasse Vibe had forced a fine save from on-loan goalkeeper Jamal Blackman after seizing upon a defensive error. Blackman, making his first appearance since arriving from Chelsea, will have been pleased to make the block. But it did confirm Wilder's suspicions that opponents in this division are far better equipped to punish mistakes than those below.

Nevertheless, seven minutes before the break, United took a deserved lead. Clarke mis-timed a volley but did superbly well to recycle the ball. Sharp, showing the predatory instincts which reaped 30 goals last term, was on hand to turn the ball home past a despairing David Bentley.

The combination between United two centre-forwards nearly produced another goal early in the second-half. Clarke showed tremendous tenacity to hold off his marker and make his way towards the touchline before whipping a delightful cross towards the far post.

Sharp had read his colleague's intentions but, on this occasion, his header was saved. Clarke, who had earlier seen a goal harshly ruled-out, was on hand as Sharp put the ball in the back of the net again after Fleck had hit the foot of the post from a Coutts set-piece.

But, just past the hour, Brentford spurned a glorious chance to claim an equaliser against the run of play. Blackman parried a shot from Jota, the ball struck the crossbar and Vibe inexplicably headed over from point blank range. The Denmark international was in the thick of the action again when it took a terrific tackle from Jack O'Connell to prevent his shot from reaching Blackman.

As the match became increasingly stretched, and Brentford gathered momentum, Blackman drew a standing ovation after smothering Neal Maupay's close-range attempt.

Sheffield United: Blackman, Stevens, Fleck, O'Connell, Basham, Clarke, Sharp (Lavery 79), Coutts, Freeman, Stearman, Carruthers (Lundstram 71). Not used: Wright, Duffy, Lafferty, Eastwood, Brooks.

Brentford: Bentley, Henry, Bjelland, Jozefzoon (Watkins 59), McEachran (Maupay 79), Mokotjo (Yennaris 59), Egan, Woods, Vibe, Dalsgaard, Jota. Not used: Colin, Sawyers, Daniels, Barebett.

Referee: Stephen Martin (Staffordshire).

Attendance: 26,746.