They laboured, toiled and lacked rhythm until the closing stages.
But, against Blackpool this afternoon, Sheffield United got the job done.
In claustrophobic conditions, Adkins cut an agitated figure on the touchline as United struggled to pride apart disciplined opponents who had clearly spent hours working on their shape during the week.
So the first goal was always going to be crucial and Sharp, scoring for the first time since returning to United during the close season, provided it when he turned home following a Jay McEveley corner just past the hour. McNulty doubled the lead soon after as the hosts finally discovered their swagger and Blackpool, still without a victory all season, became increasingly bedraggled despite their earlier work.
Brad Potts nearly set-up a nervous finale when he forced Mark Howard to make a good reaction save.
United just shaded the opening thrusts of a contest which, until Sharp broke the deadlock, quickly descended into an arm-wrestle. Che Adams and Sharp both beavered away without ever escaping their markers clutches while Conor Sammon adopted a more barnstorming approach. But Blackpool, despite their off-the-pitch issues, did not look like a team in chaos on it. Kieran Wallace was twice forced to clear from Mark Cullen while David Ferguson, the visitors’ captain, sent a long-range effort searing just past the far post. Howard could thank his lucky stars the effort, from 10 yards outside United’s penalty area, was not on target.
The game continued to meander, largely due to too much dithering and square passes. Sammon tried to take matters into his own hands just before the half hour mark, holding-off two defenders before turning to face Kyle Letheren, but the resulting shot was scuffed.
Chris Basham conceded a dangerous free-kick at the start of the second period and was duly cautioned.
Blackpool nearly inflicted an even greater punishment but the ball, perhaps with a helping hand from Howard, rebounded back off the post.
Sammon was guilty of a dreadful miss seconds before being substituted when he turned Jamal Campbell-Ryce’s cross wide, unmarked, at the far post. McNulty also entered the fray with Martyn Woolford as Adams was withdrawn. Just past the hour mark, though, Blackpool’s luck ran out when Sharp, following McEveley’s corner, squeezed the ball through a crowd of players and beneath Letheren before celebrating wildly in front of The Kop. McNulty, having enjoyed a prolific debut season at Bramall Lane, can count himself unfortunate not to have enjoyed more game time this time around. But, 13 minutes after Sharp’s intervention, he provided Adkins with a reminder of his talents by depositing an excellent low finish past Letheren and into the back of Blackpool’s net.
Sheffield United: Howard, Freeman, Basham, Sharp, Baxter, Sammon (McNulty 57), McEveley, Campbell-Ryce (J Wallace 71), Adams (Woolford 57), K Wallace, Edgar. Substitutes: Reed, Higdon, Long, McFadzean.
Blackpool: Letheren, Ferguson, McAlister, Robertson, Potts, Cullen (Thomas 79), Cameron (Redshaw 68), Oliver (Cubero 79), Aldred, Boyce, Osayi-Samuel. Substitutes: Jones, Boney, Dunne, Higham.
Referee: Darren Deadman (Cambridgeshire),