WOW! As the dust settles after a pulsating local derby, and we still sit proudly at the top of League One, it’s given us Blades time to reflect on the draw against our nearest rivals for automatic promotion.
Three days on and I haven’t changed my view stated after the game that given the importance of the match, and the pressure on us to deliver from a packed Bramall Lane, it was the best first half performance I’ve ever seen from a Blades team.
A bold statement maybe, but I’ve been up here and a Blade some 26 years now, as a player for the first four years and I’ve now watched just about every home game in the past 19 years since, plus a fair few away ones. I genuinely can’t recall a first 45 minutes of football which offered up such an impressive all-round display.
All that was lacking was a goal, but it was generally accepted that we should have been 3-0 up as a bare minimum, and this was against a team who’ve been in the top two all season. We made them look very ordinary indeed.
The words I’ve seen and heard used to describe that first half by fans, players, commentators, management and journalists, across all media outlets were along the lines of these: Incredible. Amazing. Outstanding. Superb. And then my favourite one of all... Relentless. What a great word!
Relentless… not a word commonly used in football, but the perfect descriptive word to convey the message to the fans who weren’t there to see for themselves the wave after wave of Blades attacks. It was a non-stop barrage of attacking intent, and an absolute joy to witness. Added to that, the intensity at which we went about our business as we shut down the opposition, flew into tackles and won headers was astounding. It was really quite magnificent to watch.
Yet, at the break we somehow went in at 0-0. However, far from being disappointed, the mood in the ground at half-time was one of sheer joy at what we’d just witnessed. It certainly was in the TC10 Suite, because I was with about 200 Blades fans and could see, hear and feel the excitement in the room as people came up to me, marvelling at the performance. The smiles on the faces said a thousand words.
But, we hadn’t scored, and here I must give credit to Scunthorpe, as lesser sides would have probably caved in. They stood their ground, defended heroically, kept chasing, kept trying to get near us, and rode their luck at times too, but crucially they didn’t concede. They also made their presence felt and ‘put themselves about’ to coin a phrase! But I’d expect nothing else in a passionate local derby and we can add that to the list of ways teams will try to unsettle us in the future.
The second half was slightly less one-sided but the pace of the game never stopped and nor did the drama as we pegged back their fortuitous opening goal. Cue a final half hour of more last-gasp defending, combined with poor finishing and frustration as chances went begging, shots screamed just off target and the inside of a post was hit! A point each then. Nothing gained on our rivals, but nothing lost either. I’d said in this column last week that I’d be happy with two draws from Scunthorpe and Bolton. So was I happy? You bet I was, and here’s why...
Enjoy and savour these days and weeks ahead, because I believe we in the midst of very special times at Bramall Lane. In my opinion it’s the most flowing, most footballing, most effective, most dominant, and definitely the most entertaining Sheffield United team I’ve seen in decades.
We had some great cup runs and a promotion under Warnock, some good times under Wilson, and some more fleeting excitement in the cups under Clough, but nothing compared to our performances of the past 30 or so games this season. I could back these claims up with some facts and figures, but that’s been covered already this week so let’s look at what’s happening from another angle.
There are some things that simply can’t be statistically measured, things that we all experienced on Saturday watching this current group of players. How can you possible measure the absolute pride that we all felt in that performance? How do you the measure the joy in our hearts to see the ground that full and hear nearly 26,000 Blades in full voice?
How can you gauge (!) the passion we felt as we won our tackles, ran ourselves into the ground and kept going, searching for the winner? You can’t of course, but we know it’s there because we all feel it, and we’ll feel exactly the same this Saturday when Bolton roll into town.
And what’s more, I have another feeling. A feeling that we’ll be just fine. Bring it on! UTB
Kevin Gage owns The Manor House: bar/hotel/cafe, High St, Dronfield, S18. @ManorHouse_S18
Follow him on Twitter: @gageykev