Sheffield United were ready for Steel City battle but Wednesday clearly were not

David Brooks with two-goal Leon Clarke. Pictures: Steve Ellis, Simon Bellis and Joe Perch
David Brooks with two-goal Leon Clarke. Pictures: Steve Ellis, Simon Bellis and Joe Perch
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Five years is far too long to wait for a Steel City derby.

A breathless, passionate, tense, thrilling and enthralling afternoon at Hillsborough proved that.

David Brooks in derby action

David Brooks in derby action

In the end, for Sheffield United at least, it was worth the wait. For Sheffield Wednesday, they probably could have done with waiting a bit longer.

The Blades were ready for it. The Owls were not.

In the build-up, the game was summed up far too simply as quality versus passion, big-money stars versus grafters.

If the match was to be decided on pure quality terms then Wednesday would win, surely.

Gary Hooper scores for Wednesday

Gary Hooper scores for Wednesday

Well, the outcome of the derby was indeed decided on quality and it certainly was not the blue half of the city that was left celebrating.

After falling behind three minutes in, Wednesday were handed the initiative to attack by a United side happy to concede possession and look to launch forward on the counter.

The Owls simply could not take advantage.

Passes were misplaced, play was ponderous, crosses were, frankly, awful.

Leon Clarke scores the Blades' fourth goal

Leon Clarke scores the Blades' fourth goal

And Wednesday were as poor without the ball as they were with it, something highlighted when Leon Clarke took advantage of flat-footed defending to spring clear and score the second. They would be embarrassed further defensively with United’s third and fourth goals from Mark Duffy and Clarke respectively.

Three and a half sides of Hillsborough - rocking before kick-off - grew increasingly frustrated and the supporters had every right to be annoyed.

A side built to win promotion to the Premier League was thoroughly out-played and overwhelmingly out-thought by a side which, in the main, was constructed to win promotion out of League One.

Top-level experience counts for nothing when those with it fail to deliver.

Delivering in spades was a player with next to no experience at all, a young lad who could so easily have been engulfed by the scenario in which he found himself.

As the United team left the pitch after the warm-up, assistant boss Alan Knill made a beeline for 20-year-old David Brooks, who was set to make only his second league start.

He stuck an arm around the youngster and began to whisper in his ear. It is not hard to imagine what he was saying.

Brooks had looked more than a little intimidated when he stepped off the team bus to an aggressive ‘welcome’ on arrival at Hillsborough.

It was Brooks who kicked the game off and he was involved again soon after, winning the free kick which led to the match-defining opener.

We had waited five and a half years for a derby. The wait for a derby goal was three minutes.

Brooks flicked the free-kick back for John Fleck to curl in a superb low effort down the blindside of the wall. Keiren Westwood - who had a particularly off day - was planted.

The air was quickly sucked out of Hillsborough. Three sides of it at least.

Unitedites sang and danced. Wednesdayites sat quiet, stunned.

And Brooks never looked back. Playing off Clarke, he bamboozled the Wednesday defence by continually popping up in space while his superb footwork and movement ensured he caused problems all afternoon.

Those in S2 have been talking of Brooks’ star power for some time. Those in S6 - and plenty beyond the city’s boundary - now know it too.

There should be a fair few players in the Wednesday side frankly embarrassed that they failed to handle the situation anywhere even approaching as well as someone with less than 20 senior appearances to his name.

As the United players left the pitch after celebrating with their supporters, it was Chris Wilder’s turn to stick an arm around Brooks. Again, you can imagine what he was saying.

While Brooks shone, it was not only he in red and white that dealt with the occasion.

Incisive, intelligent and composed, United were excellent and everything their bitter rivals were not.

As written earlier, the Blades were ready for it, the Owls were not.

The four months until the next Steel City derby will not pass quickly enough for Wilder and co.

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