Now is the hour for Sheffield United: Martin Smith column

It can go either way from here.

Monday, 11th February 2019, 09:00 am
Updated Monday, 11th February 2019, 09:03 am
Jack O'Connell, Chris Basham and George Baldock leave the field frustrated during the Sky Bet Championship match at Villa Park Stadium

To snatch a draw from the gaping jaws of an imminent 3-0 victory will have been devastating on Friday for Chris Wilder and his Sheffield United players.

Blades fans will never forget the feeling.

It’s the kind of result that can easily knock a promotion challenge off course.

Or make it unstoppable.

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Learn and get tougher and the memory of their despair can drive them on to the Premier League. 

If they dwell on it and let late-collapses start to become their thing, well, we know the rest.

Wilder will have been more hurt than anyone by his side’s uncharacteristic wastefulness but he has proved himself an excellent coach and motivator in his time at Bramall Lane.

He and his team have been fighting all season for a chance to prove they can take that final step up.

Now is the hour. 

*A Caribbean ray of hope for Joe Root and England’s Ashes preparations?

Mark Wood’s five-wicket haul in the dead rubber of England’s third test in the West Indies is a welcome late response from a fairly depressing England tour.

After their ball-tampering shame the Aussies have a lot to do to win back the respect of the average cricket fan around the world. 

They may never win it back.

But they are winning matches again.

Following their 2-1 test series defeat in India - no shame there - they saw off Sri Lanka 2-0 at home.

Two sides in transition?

Yes - but transitioning to what?

This summer’s Ashes series will tell us.

*A young team full of fight, energy and belief going in to a World cup.

Not a look back to England’s heroics in France but a look forward to the other England’s chances in Japan at this year’s rugby union world cup.

With respect to those who give their all every week neither the League nor Union game is huge in this area but when it comes to the national team we all take notice.

And this side is worth watching.

After last season’s disappointments it’s brilliant to see Eddie Jones’ team looking so well set.

That’s what he been aiming for and England look on track to make a challenge.

September is a long way off and the southern hemisphere will have plenty to say.

But so far so good - and great to watch.