The first half was fit for a prince. The second half fit for a king.
In the end, it was the Millers who ended up feeling like royalty. The Blades? They’re co-owned by a prince but they ended up feeling like paupers!
No doubt Prince Abdullah enjoyed the first 45 minutes of his induction to football a la Sheffield United and life in League One. And, even for one so wealthy and used to the good things, he probably enjoyed this full-house South Yorkshire derby and the New York Stadium experience with the fans giving it what for.
A football fanatic, he’ll have noted the passion.
He will also have noted how Sheffield United crumbled at the first sign of pressure being applied. Which was straight after half-time.
The David Weir way they are being inducted in is fine. And it is the simplest thing to say all that possession and passing needs an end product.
Well, they got one via the sort of individual flair and skill Jose Baxter was brought in to produce. What will worry Weir is - having got the advantage, in a big derby affair which should have lifted them above and beyond the call of duty - the failure in so many areas to stand up and be counted when Rotherham got in their faces.
I’m not privy to the innermost secrets of the Blades dressing room but I imagine - and would be surprised to learn otherwise - if Weir didn’t let it be known afterwards that he wasn’t happy with the response when the heat came on in the second half.
And this, remember, against a Millers side already weakened by the loss of three key players and then losing their skipper and top defender, Craig Morgan, at half-time.
Credit Rotherham for changing things and upping their game after the break.
In a fashion typical of this side when the mood really does grip them, they really got after the Blades. The matching up 4-2-3-1 of the first half had given way to 4-4-2 and Daniel Nardiello’s additional support for Alex Revell who had been ‘bossed’ by Messrs Harry Maguire and Neill Collins in his first-half lone role.
The Blades never looked comfortable at all in the second half. The first-half composure on the ball was nowhere to be seen as Rotherham harried them and got in their faces.
Silky first-half Blades, to an extent, in the first half, yes. But they need steel and character as well and it was missing the moment Rotherham turned up the heat and certainly after Kieran Agard’s viciously-struck equaliser which doubly galvanised the home side and its support.
At 1-1, the second goal looked to be going only one way and the Blades following in a stadium record crowd of 11,758, must have sensed and feared that as the second half unfolded.
Rotherham had begun to challenge where previously they stood off. The Blades suddenly found less time where, previously, they had some or were able to manufacture it.
If Weir wants them playing out from the back and beyond then that’s a fine philosophy but lessons can be learned the hard way and that’s what happened to Maguire over the third goal, although it wasn’t the first, or to be the last, time the young man shed possession.
Rotherham, perhaps adjusting to the changed personnel and formation in the first half, were more like the team Steve Evans demands in the second half. They got after their opponents out of possession and then did something positive when they had the ball.
It was their first home win in the league after two draws and they look to have a bit of momentum, drive and belief about them. It’s now six league games unbeaten this season tagged onto the ‘Famous Five’ wins at the end of last.
Would it have been different had Tony McMahon’s third minute free-kick gone in instead of hitting the bar? Possibly.
Lee Frecklington could have done better after breaking clean through the middle and Rob Milsom headed a clear chance over the top.
The Blades, seemingly growing in confidence as the half and their passing progressed, had Rotherham defending desperately at times and there was a clear penalty shout against Claude Davis on Chris Porter. I thought it was one.
Rotherham couldn’t get into a rhythm or tempo and Baxter’s beating of Pablo Mills near the byline and narrow-angle finish was an indication of the sort of flair he can bring to United.
It was the perfect scenario for them to go on and battle it out for a win out of possession and using the passing skills when they had the ball. They
failed on both counts.
Revell’s wasting of a superb Ben Pringle set-up 90 seconds into the second half was a warning shot. Agard’s bomb, probably swerving late past the deceived Howard, was a blow the Blades never recovered from.
Nardiello’s additional presence up front had helped the Millers and on 72 minutes, typically, he turned the opposite way to what everyone
and a desperate McMahon
bundled him over. Nardiello rattled home the penalty.
Three minutes later Maguire shed possession to Revell and his pass was finished off with calm assurance from 18 yards by Milsom. The Blades looked doomed. The home fans’ reaction told you what they thought.
Weir and his staff must have cringed at what they’d seen in the second half.
Evans, having got it wrong in the first half, would have been delighted with the outcome.
For their second-half showing, Rotherham deserved the points.
It was their first league win over the men from the Lane since 1981 at the ninth attempt - and the only other time they’ve beaten the Blades and the Owls in the same season was in 1951/52.
The Prince is going to spend some money.
This was evidence in front of his very eyes that they need it.