Sheffield United: Chris Wilder the toast of Hillsborough after masterminding superb 4-2 derby victory

Blades fans celebrate at Hillsborough
Blades fans celebrate at Hillsborough
Have your say

Five and a half years separated the last Steel City derby from this, and absence certainly did not make the heart grow fonder for fans of Sheffield Wednesday and United at Hillsborough this afternoon.

Yet it was a familiar figure who inflicted the damage for Chris Wilder's United, as they went 2-0 ahead and then withstood a spirited Wednesday comeback to deservedly prevail 4-2 at the home of their most bitter rivals.

Leon Clarke spent three years with Wednesday before, 14 moves and six years later, crossing the Steel City divide and joining United. Roundly booed as he entered Hillsborough before the game, he had the last laugh with two well-taken goals as Wilder's side moved fourth in the Championship - but more importantly, for their fans at least, reclaimed the city bragging rights after a six-year exodus in League One.

"I don't think it gets any better than this," admitted Wilder, a boyhood Blade who turned 50 on Saturday.

"This was everything today for both clubs, but I think we won it pretty comfortably.

"It was special; I don't think you can put it into words. We've had it rammed down our throats over the last six years so it's nice to give the supporters something back."

United, who were pipped to promotion by Wednesday in 2011/12 and have endured taunts ever since about playing in the 'Pub League', had not won at Hillsborough since 2006 - the season they were promoted to the Premier League - and have seen Wednesday twice make the Championship play-offs in the last two campaigns under Carlos Carvalhal.

But on Sunday, in front of the Sky cameras and a packed Hillsborough, they were equals at last. Albeit not for long; United seized the advantage just three minutes into the contest, when John Fleck smashed home from a free-kick after the excellent David Brooks was fouled.

United's travelling supporters were in dreamland, and it got even better 11 minutes later when Clarke, taunted with chants of 'Wednesday reject', latched onto an innocuous looking ball over the top and finished coolly.

The home fans enjoyed a glimmer of hope in first-half injury time when Gary Hooper poked home at the far post, and a predictable onslaught at the start of the second half had United hanging on.

The goal Wednesday had threatened came when substitute Lucas Joao fired high into the net, and Hillsborough was literally rocking. But United weren't. They took just one minute and 49 seconds to regain the lead, substitute Mark Duffy twisting and turning before firing a superb shot past the flailing Westwood.

Then came the icing on Wilder's birthday cake as Clarke, operating as a lone striker in the absence of Blades skipper and fan Billy Sharp, made it four, taking advantage of poor Owls defending to roll his shot past Westwood and in off the far post.

Clarke was the hero, Brooks the star player, but Wilder was the toast of Hillsborough.

His United may have spent six years in the shadows but, until the next derby in January at least, this proud old football city is theirs.