Winning build-up counts for nothing in city derby

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SUPPOSEDLY, there are lies, damn lies and statistics.

Terrible cliches and contentious so-called truths.

But does the form book really get slung out of the window whenever Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday meet in sporting competition?

Are the facts and figures surrounding previous meetings between these two teams an unreliable guide to the story and eventual outcome of this weekend’s Steel City showdown?

Well, having exhausted every other possible angle ahead of Sunday’s contest, I thought it would be a worthwhile exercise to take a look.

So, after dusting down my abacus and checking I’ve still got a full complement of fingers on both hands, yours truly set about investigating the numerology behind these eagerly-anticipated fixtures.

My meticulous, forensic research makes for fascinating reading.

(Assuming this column’s readership consists primarily of anoraks, that is).

And, hopefully, it sheds some light on whether managers, players and supporters alike are right to insist they are impossible to call.

First off, meetings between United and Wednesday are usually pretty high-scoring contests.

Since February 2003 they have averaged 2.9 goals so, chances are, the 36,000- plus folk fortunate enough to have a ticket for this latest dust-up are likely to be enjoy plenty of drama at both ends of the pitch.

The last five matches between the two have produced three wins and two draws.

Bizarrely, though, only once did the highest placed side beforehand take the spoils and never did the eventual victors enter on the back of a win.

Scroll back another five games and seven of the past 10 matches have produced a positive result.

On four occasions, the highest-placed side has finished clutching three precious and highly-prized points.

But, again, only once have the eventual winners gone in having done so in their previous game.

Something which will no doubt encourage Wednesday following their defeat at Chesterfield last weekend and concern the superstitious members of United’s camp.

They, of course, eked out a hard-fought victory over Preston North End.

However, those on the red and white half of the divide can take heart from the bigger picture.

Only once have Wednesday kicked off a derby above United since Steve Kabba, Michael Brown and Wayne Allison propelled Neil Warnock’s side to a 3-1 success nine years ago.

The first goal, something which Danny Wilson, Gary Megson and the vast majority of their counterparts across all four divisions obsess about, does seem to be crucial, with six of the last seven winners responsible for breaking the deadlock.

So, armed with my sexed-up deadly dossier of forensically gathered evidence, I should be able to confidently predict who will prevail at Hillsborough.

But, to be perfectly frank, I haven’t got a bloomin’ clue.

Oh, and my head hurts.