Pride and passion to match La Liga

Sheffield Wednesday v Sheffield Utd.....Blades Fans
Sheffield Wednesday v Sheffield Utd.....Blades Fans
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JOSE Mourinho and Pep Guardiola exchanged flowers ahead of a recent El Classico encounter.

Gary Megson and Danny Wilson conciliatory words and compliments.

Sheffield Wednesday manager Gary Megson (right) greets Sheffield United manager Danny Wilson during the npower League One match at Hillsbrough, Sheffield. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday February 26, 2012. See PA story SOCCER Sheff Wed. Photo credit should read: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. Maximum 45 images during a match. No video emulation or promotion as 'live'. No use in games, competitions, merchandise, betting or single club/player services. No use with unofficial audio, video, data, fixtures or club/league logos.

Sheffield Wednesday manager Gary Megson (right) greets Sheffield United manager Danny Wilson during the npower League One match at Hillsbrough, Sheffield. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday February 26, 2012. See PA story SOCCER Sheff Wed. Photo credit should read: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. Maximum 45 images during a match. No video emulation or promotion as 'live'. No use in games, competitions, merchandise, betting or single club/player services. No use with unofficial audio, video, data, fixtures or club/league logos.

But the fall-out from the previous meeting between these two great rivals earlier this term meant their respective players were more likely to swap taunting Tweets and insults rather than platitudes and blooms.

Cyberspace will once again be crackling with activity after yet another eventful Steel City showdown.

Comparisons between Sheffield Wednesday, Sheffield United and their Spanish cousins seem slightly ridiculous while South Yorkshire’s sporting heavyweights are languishing in English football’s third tier.

But, as yesterday proved, League One derbies are contested just as feverishly as those in La Liga.

This was a game of controversy, passion and intensity. Not to mention, as Chris O’Grady’s winning goal demonstrated, two distinct halves.

As Steve Simonsen, who was powerless to prevent the former Rochdale marksman from guiding home Lewis Buxton’s cross, acknowledged: “To begin with we got the ball down and didn’t get drawn into a battle or an up and under affair. But we did get embroiled a bit after half-time.”

United had run the gauntlet on the way into Hillsborough when their team coach was forced to a halt some yards ahead of its entrance.

But the hostility they encountered outside paled into insignificance compared to venom which spewed from three of Hillsborough’s four stands when this encounter got underway although the red and white hordes massed in the Leppings Lane end made their presence felt as United started in accomplished fashion.

“The atmosphere was superb,” Wilson, their manager, said afterwards. “Just as it was at Bramall Lane. These are special occasions and I’m saying that as someone who has just been beaten.

“It’s what we’re in the business for. The support we got was absolutely phenomenal.”

“Danny made some comments earlier in the week that were spot on,” Megson said. “That there wasn’t a fag paper between the two sides.

“So it was always going to be a mistake, a set-piece or a great goal that settled it and I think it was the latter.”

Megson, whose future had been the subject of intense debate beforehand, made a statement of intent by electing to wear a baggy tracksuit rather than his usual tailored blue suit. The message was simple.

This was an afternoon, from Wednesday’s perspective at least, all about blood, guts and thunder.

Wilson, by contrast, cut a more business-like figure and, during the early skirmishes, his team set about their work with similar attention to detail; Ched Evans going close with an early back heel and Lee Williamson caressing a free-kick against the underside of the crossbar.

“When you start out in management you worry about things you can’t control,” said Megson. “But I don’t do that now. “It’s not about me. It’s about ‘us.’

“There’s a great deal of honesty and pride in our performances and they know from me, as a Sheffielder, what it means to win that game.”

Wednesday, taking Megson’s lead, looked to assert their authority through industry, endeavour and debutant Michail Antonio’s howitzer of a throw.

However, it was a delightful piece of skill from the on-loan winger which forged the hosts’ first opportunity of note when, midway through the opening period, his cross skidded tantalisingly across United’s area but just too far in front of Ryan Lowe.

United saw their second penalty appeal turned down by the officials when Evans, after Williamson had been challenged by Jose Semedo, claimed to have been tripped by Lewis Buxton.

A third quickly followed with Danny Batth and the Wales striker colliding in the box.

Referee Mark Halsey’s decision to ignore Evans’ protests provoked the first overt display of emotion from the United bench.

Wilson said: “I don’t know about the other two but that one was blatant. It was an obvious body-check.”

United, with the tireless Richard Cresswell delivering a typically robust shift in attack, were smarter and slicker before the interval but Wednesday upped the ante after the break and made their advantage pay when O’Grady, who had earlier flashed wide after a powerful run, directed the ball beyond a helpless Simonsen.

Previously composed, United, shorn of the injured Kevin McDonald’s calming influence in midfield, unravelled before regaining their shape during the closing stages.

Ryan Flynn spurned a late chance to restore parity and Stephen Bywater palmed away a header from the Scot’s fellow substitute Will Hoskins.

“Wednesday started the second-half well but I do feel as if we dealt with that pressure well,” said Wilson. “Simmo didn’t really have a save to make other than the goal and overall we defended well.

“It goes without saying that we’re bitterly disappointed but the bigger picture still looks positive so we draw a line and move on.”