Sheffield Wednesday 0 Sheffield United 0: Nothing between rivals in tense and intense Sheffield derby

Frantic play, little attacking quality and few clear-cut chances.

Monday, 4th March 2019, 22:03 pm
Updated Monday, 4th March 2019, 22:07 pm
Billy Sharp and Keiren Westwood clash during the Steel City derby

The 131st competitive derby will not live long in the memory as the two teams played out a hard-fought goalless draw for the third match running.

It was a fair result. Neither team did enough to win a scrappy, dour encounter. Defences reigned supreme.

Steven Fletcher goes for the spectacular against Sheffield United

"I don't think either side deserved to win it," said United manager Chris Wilder. "t was a bitty game. It was stop-start.

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"The game was littered with fouls and never got going.

"It was a local derby, a passionate crowd, players giving everything for the cause, not a lot of quality on show. We’ll take a point and move on."

The draw keeps United in third position, just two points off the automatic promotion places.

Jack O'Connell of Sheffield Utd faces Adam Reach of Sheffield Wednesday during the Sky Bet Championship match at the Hillsborough Stadium, Sheffield. Picture date: 4th March 2019. Picture credit should read: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

As for the Owls, the stalemate extends their unbeaten run under Steve Bruce to seven matches. The point just about keeps their faint hopes alive of a late play-off push.

Bruce said: "We went toe to toe with a team at the top of the division and there was nothing in it."

It had the feel of one of the biggest Sheffield derbies in years. There was plenty at stake and, under the lights at a rain-lashed Hillsborough, the atmosphere was electric before kick-off. The noise was deafening and made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

With so much riding on this all-Sheffield affair, it was perhaps understandable that it took a while to get going.

Sam Hutchinson and John Fleck get up close and personal

There was an unsavoury moment when United defender Jack O'Connell, fit-again following a spell on the sidelines through injury, appeared to have a coin thrown at him in front of the North Stand as he prepared to take a throw in.

The Blades, the in-form side in the Championship, almost grabbed a seventh minute opener. Ollie Norwood, an influential figure in the midfield engine room, whipped in a delightful cross from the right to the far post but Keiren Westwood produced a smart block from six yards out to deny Owls old boy Gary Madine.

Twenty-eight-year-old Madine, who spent over four years at Wednesday, hitting 28 goals in 113 appearances, was booed by some of the home faithful when his name was read out prior to kick-off.

He was unlucky not to be awarded a 15th minute penalty after Michael Hector wrestled him to the ground before Norwood took a corner but referee Peter Bankes failed to spot the grappling offence.

The horrible weather conditions did not dampen the spirits of the crowd as the tackles flew in in the heart of the battle.

It took a good block from John Egan to repel Steven Fletcher's header after great work by Adam Reach.

Defences were well on top as Owls captain Tom Lees dealt with another superb Norwood delivery.

There was a brief break in play when Fletcher went down in a heap on the floor after a sliding challenge. After receiving treatment for several minutes, the centre-forward was eventually coaxed to his feet and play continued.

There was little goalmouth action in a scrappy first half packed full of industry but low on quality.

The teams cancelled each other out in difficult playing conditions. Both looked frightened to make a mistake or take a risk.

Fernando Forestieri, playing in his first Sheffield derby along with Sam Hutchinson, was taken off at half-time after suffering a hamstring problem and replaced by George Boyd.

It did not take Boyd long to make an impact. The midfielder raced on to a smart through ball by Rolando Aarons and floated in a teasing cross near the byline only for Fletcher's spectacular overhead kick attempt to go high over the top.

Moments later at the other end, Chris Basham pulled the ball back to Norwood, whose cross turned shot agonisingly evaded Billy Sharp in the centre.

Things began to open up and Reach produced a superb clearance to stop a lightning United counter attack.

Sharp, the most prolific marksman in England's top four divisions since the turn of the century, came within a whisker of pouncing on a weak back header by Lees but Westwood dashed off his line to fist the ball to safety. Lifelong Blade Sharp, who has scored 101 goals for United, was penalised for fouling Westwood with his follow through.

Dean Henderson then had to be alert to punch Aarons' shot from an acute angle away as Wednesday pressed for the opener.

The hosts created the best chance of the contest in the 65th minute. Aarons broke down the left and his low delivery picked out Sam Hutchinson from eight yards out but the defensive midfielder, on the stretch, fired straight at Henderson. It was a big opportunity spurned by Bruce's side.

Liam Palmer, filling in at left-back in the absence of the injured Achraf Lazaar, then saw his ambitious right foot curler fly narrowly over as the Owls' enjoyed a good spell of pressure.

Boos rang around the ground when former Wednesday player Madine was subbed off midway through the half.

Hector, solid as a rock at the heart of Wednesday's rearguard, expertly hacked away inside  a dangerous cross by David McGoldrick from inside the six-yard box after a fine pass by Northern Ireland international Norwood.

Aarons, a lively figure in the second half, drilled a shot over late on as it finished all square.

Owls: Westwood; Iorfa (Fox 79), Lees, Hector, Palmer; Reach, Bannan, Hutchinson, Aarons; Forestieri (Boyd HT), Fletcher (Nuhiu 89). Substitutes: Dawson, Pudil, Pelupessy, Matias.

United: Henderson; Basham, Egan, O’Connell; Freeman, Fleck, Norwood, Dowell (Cranie 62), Stevens; Madine (McGoldrick 68), Sharp, Substitutes: Hogan, Coutts, Stearman, Duffy, Moore.

Attendance: 31,630

Referee: Peter Bankes (Merseyside)

Star man: Michael Hector