With their pre-season schedules now completed, both Sheffield United and Doncaster Rovers can approach the new campaign with cautious optimism.
Goals from Billy Sharp and David McGoldrick, his second in as many outings, ensured Chris Wilder's side will enter next weekend's meeting with Swansea City unbeaten during a warm-up programme which has also pitted them against the likes of Internazionale and Maritimo.
Grant McCann later described himself as disappointed by the result but not, he acknowledged, most other aspects of his team's display
Played with an encouraging degree of intensity and at decent pace, the game revealed both squad's
weaknesses and strengths. The visitors showcased the intricate passing which has been a feature of this
summer's preparations but were careless on occasion as their concentration seemed to wane. Rovers,
meanwhile, will have been heartened by the number of opportunities they created against Championship
opposition. United were technically superior, particularly when new signing McGoldrick entered the fray. But
McCann's charges, not without ability themselves, reduced the deficit with endevour and enthusiasm. Until,
that was, first McGoldrick and then Sharp ensured United's class eventually told.
Although both sets of supporters will have viewed this fixture as a precursor to the main event, it was of vital
importance to a number of those selected to take part. Ricky Holmes, who has spent the majority of his first
six months in South Yorkshire stepping-off the bench, knew a strong performance was required to influence
Wilder's thinking ahead of the meeting with City. Likewise John Lundstram and Richard Stearman; who if
United persist with overlapping centre-halves, appears the member of last term's back three most under threat
following John Egan's arrival. After a couple of early slips, all three obliged to differing extents. Whether or
not it will be enough to change United's selections for the big kick-off, however, remains to be seen.
One player who did excel, much to Wilder's obvious annoyance, was Simon Moore. Twenty-four hours after
committing his future to the visitors, he produced a series of excellent saves to deny Mallik Wilks during a
first-half bookended by periods of Rovers pressure. Indeed, for a moment, the contest was in danger of
becoming a personal duel between the two men, Wilks, on loan from Leeds, caused United all manner of
difficulty with his direct running and acceleration and, on the evidence of this 45 minute cameo, should be a
force to be reckoned with in League One. But McCann will have been concerned by the sight of Ali Crawford
hobbling off midway through the opening period with what appeared to be a knee problem.
Rovers pumped-up the pre-match atmosphere to such an extent, one could have been forgiven for thinking
this was a European final rather than a friendly fixture. Their team began the match with similar vigour too;
James Coppinger forcing Moore to make the first of numerous interventions after Jack O'Connell's clearance
was partly blocked.
Wilder, who had spent the final moments before kick-off deep in conversation with McCann, chewed his
coaching staff's ears instead as the action continued ebbing towards United's goal. Until, that was, Andy
Butler's punt upfield was charged down by Sharp who in turn fed Leon Clarke. The centre-forward brought to
ball under control but, in doing so, provided Rovers with the opportunity to recover.
Although the hosts caused problems with their tenacity and rapid counter-attacks, United's superior
technical ability soon became evident. Daniel Lafferty, who appears in a strong position to start Graham
Potter's side, unleashed a long range effort which Marko Marosi did well to save before the Slovak thwarted
Mark Duffy with an even better block. Moments earlier, an exchange between Clarke and Kieron Freeman had
ended with the latter striking the crossbar after failing to recognise he had strayed offside.
Ali Crawford drew a round of applause from McCann after his rising shot whistled inches past Moore's post
before the 28-year-old thwarted Wilks three times in quick succession.
McGoldrick broke the deadlock soon after coming on when he stretched to prod home fellow substitute Rhys
Norrington-Davies' cross before Sharp extended United's lead with a clinical finish during the closing stages.
Doncaster Rovers: Marosi (Lawlor 46), Mason (Lund 46), Wright (Anderson 46), Butler, Amos (Andrew 46),
Whiteman (McCullogh 46), Blair, (May 46) Crawford (Rowe 25), Marquis (Beestin 46), Wilks (Taylor 46),
Coppinger (Viera 46).
Sheffield United: Moore, Freeman, Egan, Stearman (Basham 60), O'Connell, Lafferty (Norrington-Davies 60),
Lundstram, Duffy (Lavery 84), Holmes (L Evans 60), Sharp, Clarke (McGoldrick 60). Not used: Henderson,
Referee: Darren England (South Yorkshire).
Goals: McGoldrick, Sharp.