Wolverhampton Wanderers ensured Sheffield United’s 125th birthday celebrations did not go with a bang by condemning Nigel Clough’s side to their first defeat since February 1.
United, founded on March 22 1889, arranged a host of events to mark the occasion with former players, including Fred Furniss, Tony Currie and Alan Hodgkinson providing a guard of honour to welcome the two teams.
It was a poignant moment but once which, unfortunately for United, preceeded the start of a contest which failed to deliver the desired result, with James Henry and Dave Edwards scoring the goals which propelled the League One leaders to victory.
United created several promising positions and saw at least two strong penalty appeals waved away by referee Kevin Friend.
However, the FA Cup semi-finalists were unable to make them pay.
McDonald admitted beforehand to being unsure about the type of reception he would receive on his first return to the United, since rejecting their contract offer and instead joining Wolves.
He was left in no doubt when, with barely thirty seconds gone, both Coady and Doyle attempted to dump him on the seat of his pants while Scougall, who forced a superb save from Ikeme in the fourth minute, also tangled with his fellow Scot.
The jeers which greeted McDonald’s every touch during the opening exchanges nearly turned to cheers when Freeman, replacing Harris at full-back, made progress down United’s left flank before turning the ball into the penalty area.
Scougall’s shot appeared to be heading into the back of the net but Ikeme, somehow, turned the ball behind for a corner. It was an excellent move thwarted by an equally fine save.
United, tapping into the mood inside the stadium, had burst out of the blocks.
But, soon after Scougall’s attempt, Wolves provided them with a reminder of the quality Kenny Jackett has at his disposal and they took the lead in the 13th minute, albeit in slightly fortuitious fashion.
Edwards, positioned in front of Howard, wheeled away in celebration claiming he had got the vital touch.
He had not. Instead, it was HENRY’S right wing cross which found its way straight into the back of the net although the Welshman’s presence clearly prevented Howard from tracking the flight of the ball.
United, conceding for the first time since February 16, regained the composure with impressive speed.
Baxter’s free-kick, following a foul which brought Doherty the afternoon’s first yellow card, took a deflection but flew straight into the arms of a grateful Ikeme.
As the half wore on, so the action became inceasingly fractious with plenty of intent from both teams.
Not to mention effort, as Clarke demonstrated when he looked to chase down Howard. Batth was cautioned in the 30th minute for a naive foul on Baxter as the United midfielder looked to wheel away on the half way line before the Wolves captain survived a strong penalty appeal from Coady.
Only the width of Howard’s left hand post prevented Henry from doubling Wolves’ advantage with a sweeping long-range shot, and Baxter tested Ikeme with a low drive on the turn.
Stearman then headed Brayford’s goalbound effort off the line following a corner and, during the melee which ensued, Collins insisted he had been shoved to the floor in the penalty area but, once again, Friend was unmoved.
Inevitably United, given their gruelling fixture schedule, had appeared fatigued before the break.
Clough, however, could have no complaints about the effort his team were putting in, but Scougall blazed over from close-range after Murphy had chested Brayford’s centre into his path.
But, in the 53rd minute, EDWARDS extend Wolves’ lead. Jacobs and Henry worked the ball forward and when the latter’s centre took a touch off Doherty, the former Luton Town man smashed home an unstoppable first-time shot.
Clarke was adjudged offside after beating Howard just past the hour before chipping wastefully over the crossbar.
United were tiring visibly but continued to press. However Wolves, who swapped Sako and Jacobs in the 90th minute, kept them at bay.