Sheffield United 2 Derby County 1: Billy Sharp proves he is still indispensible at Bramall Lane, as he fires Blades to a Carabao Cup win

They did their best to raise spirits beforehand, publishing videos of past goals against Derby County on their official Instagram account.

Tuesday, 24th August 2021, 10:55 pm

The ploy, orchestrated by Sheffield United’s social media gurus during the countdown to kick-off, was designed to lift spirits - among the home crowd at least - ahead of a Carabao Cup tie between two clubs in desperate need of a pick-me-up. They might have entered this tie in danger of forgetting how to win a football match. But, if medals were awarded for making pigs’ ears out of silk purses, these two clubs would have amassed a haul bigger than Real Madrid’s.

Goals from Luke Freeman and Billy Sharp ensured it was United who kicked the habit here, firing them into the third round after Louie Sibley had given the visitors the lead.

For Slavisa Jokanovic and Wayne Rooney, the Serb’s opposite number across the technical area, tonight’s match was an escape from the off-the-pitch problems which have beset their respective reigns. While United’s inertia in the transfer market has kaiboshed Jokanovic’s attempts to quickly repair his squad’s shattered confidence following its relegation from the Premier League, financial issues of a different kind have seen Rooney’s employers become embroiled in a legal wrangle with the EFL.

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No matter what is going on around him, though, Sharp continues doing what he does best. His strike here - soon after being introduced from the bench - showcased the instincts and awareness which make him indispensable at Bramall Lane.

Having made only one loan signing since officially taking charge last month, Jokanovic again used the competition to blood several graduates of United’s development programme rather than prepare senior players for Championship action. It was a tactic which had proven successful a fortnight earlier, during a 1-0 victory over Carlisle. But, against visitors of comparable quality and from the same division, it undoubtedly represented a gamble. Albeit one, given his side’s woeful form in the Championship, Jokanovic probably felt compelled to take.

One of those handed a chance, teenage centre-forward Daniel Jebbison, was responsible for creating United’s first opening of the game when he sent Oliver Burke scampering through only for Ryan Allsop to dart off his line and clear.

Kacper Lopata, Zak Brunt and Kyron Gordon also looked composed and comfortable. Unlike Michael Verrips and Jack Robinson when, midway through the opening period, they nearly conspired to let Kornell McDonald in after over-elaborating on the edge of the box. Jack Stretton should have given Derby the lead soon after but, with Lopata using his pace to recover and put him under pressure, shot straight at Verrips.

Billy Sharp of Sheffield Utd takes the ball past Ryan Allsop of Derby County to score their second goal during the Carabao Cup match at Bramall Lane, Sheffield. Picture credit should read: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

The first moment of quality came at the end of an otherwise woeful first-half when, having seen United fail to clear McDonald’s cross, Sibley trapped the ball, turned, and smashed it past the despairing Verrips.

The Dutchman did well to prevent Jack Stretton firing Derby back into the lead after Freeman, stooping to meet Gordon’s centre, headed home into the roof of the net.

As penalties beckoned, Sharp did what he does best - seizing upon a misplaced pass by McDonald to round Allsop and seal United’s progress.

Sheffield United: Verrips, Burke (Sharp 68), Freeman, McGoldrick (Ndiaye 63, Robinson, Bogle, Osborn, Brunt, Gordon, Lopata, Jebbison (Fleck 46). Not used: Foderingham, Basham, Brewster, Norrington-Davies.

Sheffield, England, 24th August 2021. Billy Sharp of Sheffield Utd celebrates his goal: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

Derby County: Allsop, Forsyth, Jozwiak (Buchanan 64), Stearman, Sibley, Brown, Stretton (Borkovic 66), Watson, McDonald, Hutchinson, Williams. Not used: Roos, Byrne, Shinnie, Bird, Morrison.

Referee: Anthony Backhouse (Cumbria).

Attendance: 7,973

Slavisa Jokanovic manager of Sheffield Utd looks on during the Carabao Cup match at Bramall Lane, Sheffield. Picture credit should read: Simon Bellis / Sportimage
Slavisa Jokanovic manager of Sheffield United looks on during the Carabao Cup match at Bramall Lane, Sheffield: Simon Bellis / Sportimage