The Star’s Sheffield United writer James Shield identifies some talking points from this afternoon’s game against Lee Johnson’s side.
For what seems like the last two summers, Sheffield United captain Billy Sharp has been listening to whispers he is too old and too slow to score goals on a consistent basis at Championship level. People inside Bramall Lane, who watch the 33-year-old on a regular basis, know better than to fall for such ill-informed nonsense. But beyond the boundaries of South Yorkshire, the sceptics still seem to find an audience. If United do reach the top-flight, doubtless Sharp will spend the close season being told he won't cut it in the top-flight. After scoring 38 times in less than two campaigns, one suspects Sharp will have the last laugh again.
Chris Wilder had called for his players to enjoy unequivocal support between now and the end of the season. The overwhelming majority of a 30,030 strong crowd delivered. And some. Although United endured some difficult periods, it was noticeable how their fans cranked up the volume whenever they sensed the home side needed a lift. However the rest of the season pans-out, restoring the relationship between the team and the terraces has been one of the manager's greatest achievements at Bramall Lane. And, with only seven matches of the campaign left, that connection could prove priceless.
In a strange sense, the ability to recover from a disappointment could decide who gains automatic promotion to the Premier League this term. This result was certainly a blow for United. It would be foolish to describe it as anything but. However, as they have proven countless times in the past, Wilder's squad boasts a gutsy streak and usually respond to a set-back in positive fashion. The 51-year-old must hope they do so again, starting at Preston North End next time out.
In a national newspaper published on the morning of this game, former Everton and Wales legend Neville Southall bemoaned the attitude of modern day goalkeepers. Southall, one of the finest of his generation, accused many of those who have followed him into the profession of not thinking their way through games and failing to respect their craft. Which is why, although it only seemed unimportant, it was good to see Dean Henderson wearing a cap to shield his eyes from the sun during the first-half. The youngster, who was powerless to keep out any of Andreas Weimann's three goals is more bothered about taking care of business than his image.
United began the afternoon searching for an eighth successive clean sheet and having managed to prevent every team visiting Bramall Lane for a Championship fixture since Boxing Day from scoring. After half an hour, that run came to an end when Weimann's header spiralled agonisingly away from Dean Henderson before nestling in the far corner of the goalkeeper's net. In truth, it was a deserved equaliser. United had been causing plenty of problems going forward but City were equally enterprising and confirmed Wilder was right to talk up the threat they would pose ahead of the match as Weimann completed his hat-trick and condemned United to defeat.