RECORDS will always show that the 126th Sheffield Derby ended in a 2-2 draw. But to Wednesday and their fans it will have felt like a victory, writes Owls reporter Paul Thompson.
The celebratory scrum involving players, coaches and management after Gary Madine’s equaliser could hardly have been more ecstatic if this had been a Cup final.
Wednesday supporters, thrilled by their team’s fightback, stayed beyond the final whistle to cheer their players were in turn applauded by the team, while Gary Megson gave a two-fisted salute to the away stand.
Many United fans were filing away before the end, perhaps stunned by the way the Blades lost a two-goal lead after appearing to have three points almost in their grasp.
In the end, however, there were no losers: it was the all-square outcome that many observers - including me - had predicted, even if I did say 1-1, not 2-2. Both sides came out of it with pride intact.
There had been months of anticipation, weeks of build-up, days of debate among fans, and then 90 minutes of typicallty enthralling and full-blooded football.
But arguably the two most sigificant spells of the match added up to no more than six minutes.
I mean, firstly, the chance that Chris O’Grady had to level after United had scored the first goal.
A minute after Steve Simonsen had touched O’Grady’s effort on to a post, instead of it being 1-1 and possibly a different game, the Blades made it 2-0 and left Wednesday facing a salvage job, which they managed to achieve in that four-minute burst near the end which transformed the moods of the rival camps.
Mere numbers fail to convey the tension and excitement of a contest fought out in an electric atmosphere created by both sets of fans.
Gary Megson and Danny Wilson, both wearing dark suits, paced back and forth in their respective technical areas,
Players got stuck in, and it wouldn’t be a derby without the occasional flare-up, a few bookings, and a touch of controversy: Wilson claimed that his keeper was fouled in the incident that brought the equaliser, something I didn’t spot and would need to see again before passing judgement.
I would not have been surprised if the ref had given the Blades an early penalty when Lee Williamson and Reda Johnson collided in going for a cross, with the Shoreham Street erupting. Wilson said he didn’t think it was a foul “but it was close.”
Wednesday will ponder that opportunity for O’Grady and others for James O’Connor, Ben Marshall, when his shot was touched on the bar; Danny Batth, Madine, and, in the second minute of stoppage time, Rob Jones.
What a sensational comeback it would have been if Jones’s header from a Marshall cross had not gone straight at Simonsen.
United showed ruthlessness in front of goal when Stephen Quinn, a major force in midfield, pounced after a ball that was going wide deflected off Jones, came back to Quinn off the post and was smacked home.
Ched Evans found space well to head home and make it 2-0.
On chances, Wednesday should have won it, and though you don’t get points for missing opportunities, I thought the Owls deserved their point and had the Man of the Match in Marshall.
Quinn, though, took my eye, as did right-winger Lee Williamson, who was taken off because Wilson was concerned that he might pick up a second yellow card.
Seeing Wednesday showing tenacity and grinding out a result was nothing new.
Here, after their four successive wins, was further evidence that they are a strong, fit, well-organised side who are a threat from crosses and set pieces.
They also passed the ball well at times, as did United, who often showed their own durability in the way they defended.
Wednesday’s point takes them back up to third place, after they slipped from second in the wake of Saturday’s results.
United’s point keeps them five points behind the Owls, with a game in hand.
For both teams there is all to play for this season.