Steel wins the day in derby battle: Sheffield United 0 Sheffield Wednesday 0

Share this article
0
Have your say

On occasions like this, details are unimportant. The only thing that matters is the result.

But two moments of brilliance and one of utter recklessness were the real story of last night’s game, which finished in deadlock following over an hour-and-a-half of football bristling with industry but lacking true invention.

Wednesday's Ross Wallace tussles with numerous United players during the Steel City derby

Wednesday's Ross Wallace tussles with numerous United players during the Steel City derby

Sheffield United, whose manager Chris Wilder was left lamenting his team’s failure to turn possession into clear cut openings, saw goalkeeper Simon Moore acrobatically palm an Adam Reach attempt away to safety as Sheffield Wednesday went close to snatching what would have been a shock winner given Glenn Loovens’ earlier sending-off.

But not before, at the other end of the pitch, Joe Wildsmith’s equally memorable block from Clayton Donaldson had denied United the breakthrough they spent all evening chasing without tangible reward.

“We’re disappointed not to win the game,” Wilder said.

“I thought we deserved to win it but the fact we didn’t is down to us.

Owls skipper Glenn Loovens is sent off after a second yellow card in the Steel City derby

Owls skipper Glenn Loovens is sent off after a second yellow card in the Steel City derby

“We’re disappointed because we don’t want to do ‘nearly’ and it’s happened a few times to us of late.”

The psychology surrounding the fixture was fascinating given that United, now sixth in the Championship table, entered it as favourites.

Although they owed their status to an impressive start to the campaign, it also provided Wednesday with the opportunity to adopt a pragmatic gameplan which, until Loovens collected his second yellow card, ensured the contest became an exercise in probing and patience rather than blood and thunder.

“I must compliment my players,” Jos Luhukay, the Wednesday manager, said.

Clayton Donaldson battles with Daniel Pudil

Clayton Donaldson battles with Daniel Pudil

“I thought we showed good defensive stability.

“It was a hard game and it gives me confidence for the future, for the next game.

“Then, at the end, the United goalkeeper made a fantastic save.”

Despite managing the likes of Hertha Berlin, VfB Stuttgart and Borussia Mönchengladbach, Luhukay was largely unknown in England until his appointment earlier this month.

But the Dutchman, taking charge of Wednesday for the first time since being unveiled, clearly understands English football.

The decision to deploy Lucas Joao alongside Jordan Rhodes might have been prompted by injuries elsewhere in his squad but, with the Portuguese’s physicality providing a focal point for the visitors, it prevented United from establishing a foothold in the game.

Indeed, it was not until Wildsmith excelled himself to thwart Donaldson at the beginning of the second period that United went close to making their possession pay.

Loovens’ dismissal, for two needless fouls on Donaldson, inevitably changed the pattern of the match and encouraged the hosts to commit in greater numbers.

But with 15th placed Wednesday showing greater fortitude than they had during September’s 4-2 defeat, United were unable to pick a way through with James Wilson, making his debut after arriving on loan from Manchester United, forced to try his luck from long distance following a period of pressure.

“I knew, at half-time, that Glenn had to be careful, because of the booking,” Luhukay acknowledged.

“In those situations, you must learn to stay long, not go to ground.

“But it is very difficult in a match like this.”

After less than 16 weeks of celebration, debate and bitter recrimination, United and Wednesday convened to do it all over again.

The passion was the same. So, in front of a baying Bramall Lane crowd, was the overbearing intensity.

But, 110 days after Wilder’s men confirmed their status as noisy neighbours after six long years away, the personnel involved were markedly different.

Luhukay’s first act after taking charge of Wednesday following Carlos Carvalhal’s departure on Christmas Eve was to select a starting eleven which, despite the absence of numerous key names through injury, was designed to negate the attacking threat Wilder’s men posed.

“Credit to the opposition,” Wilder continued.

“They turned-up. My team turn-up every week, though, it’s a pre-requisite.

“Possibly one or two of their lads might, on the basis of that, feel like they’ve short-changed their old manager a little bit.

“That might be controversial but I always say what I feel.”

John Lundstram, who deposited a looping volley on the roof of Joe Wildsmith’s net, and George Baldock were the first to test Wednesday’s resolve under Luhukay although the latter’s touch let him down.

But suspicions that Wednesday have developed a soft centre in recent months quickly proved unfounded when Joao and Liam Palmer responded with attempts of their own.

Jordan Rhodes also glanced a header wide as Wednesday broke forward on the counter and, although the lack of clear cut openings clearly suited them better, United continued to do most of the pressing with Donaldson drawing an exceptional save from Wildsmith soon after the interval. The impressive George Baldock, who had earlier squared-up to Joao as tempers boiled just below the surface, delivered the cross.

Ross Wallace was the next to show, twisting and turning his way into position just inside the United area before producing a low shot Simon Moore smothered.

If Loovens’ first booking was needless - Donaldson, with his back to goal and hugging the touchline, was going absolutely nowehere - the second, in the 64th minute, was utterly ridiculous.

United’s centre-forward, again with little or no room to work in, was simply holding up the ball when Looven’s dived in and took his legs to leave referee David Coote with no option but to produce a red card.

Wilson unleashed a powerful drive from long-range during the closing stages before Reach, with Moore hobbling following a collision with Richard Stearman, saw his looping effort turned behind for a corner.

“Both ‘keepers have excelled tonight,” Wilder said.

“It was keenly contested but we are here to win.

“That’s the aim for us, always.”