Goals from skipper Jack Stobbs and substitute Preslav Borukov sealed a 2-0 mini-derby success for Sheffield Wednesday U23s at the home of city rivals United last night.
United fielded a strong side, including Welsh internationals Ched Evans and David Brooks as well as Samir Carruthers, but Wednesday were good value for their comfortable victory in front of a crowd of 862 at Bramall Lane.
“I think it was a deserved victory for a professional performance,” Owls boss Neil Thompson said.
“We’ve had a rough couple of weeks, performance and results wise, and the challenge is to get the levels back.
“And we did that tonight. We changed the system and it seemed to suit the boys, although I still think they can pass it out from the back a little bit quicker.
“Stobbs looked bright up front, we brought him off the right wing and I thought he flourished, so there were a lot of encouraging signs.
“It was a combative game and United are a tidy team, so we had to match their work rate and ethic but I think we played some good football too.
“They had one or two little opportunities but overall, I think the lads stuck to the task well.”
The Owls, fielding a number of youngsters who have had a taste of action in recent weeks, started brightly and after Blades skipper Regan Slater was booked for a foul on Sean Clare - who made his first-team debut in the first-team derby last month - in just the second minute, Wednesday went ahead with 15 on the clock when Stobbs was sent clear, firing past Hugo Warhurst in the home goal.
United began to grow into the game as Carruthers set Rhys Norrington-Davies clear down the line, before the wing-back’s cross grazed the bar, and they almost drew level just before the half-hour mark when Tyler Smith met Carruthers’ inviting ball to the back post, but drifted a header just wide.
After a spell of Wednesday pressure, Warhurst was forced to deny Connor O’Grady from close range but United’s best chance to level the scores came in the second half, when sub Stephen Mallon’s shot was parried by Wednesday’s Dan Wallis and Jordan Hallam blazed the rebound over.
Then it was game over when substitute Borukov, minutes after replacing Fraser Preston, got his head to Stobbs’ inviting cross and headed it past Warhurst.
Borukov almost added a third for the visitors when a crossfield ball found him in acres of space, but his shot was dragged wide of the target.
“I feel good,” Evans said afterwards.
“A little tired, but it was just about getting 90 minutes under my belt really and coming away with no issues, which I’m pleased to have done.
“Now, I’m just looking to be considered for the first team. We’ve got a week of training now and I’m just biding my time and waiting my turn.”
“It was a bit of a battle out there,” Evans, who rejoined United in the summer from Chesterfield, added.
“Playing with the younger lads is very different to playing with the first team because they’re learning all the time, but it was one of those games where we didn’t really create much in the final third.
“But since I’ve come back from the operation, everything has more or less gone to plan.
“I got an infection in the early stages which knocked me back a few weeks, but other than that it has been fine.
“The physios here have done a great job and there wasn’t a need to rush me back, because we have so many other strikers here.
“I’m really pleased with how it’s been dealt with and how I have recovered.”