No Witty headlines, no messing about, the Blades did exactly what was needed tonight, with a 3-2 victory over City rivals Sheffield Wednesday for the first time since 2006.
Second half strikes from Marcus Tudgay and Etienne Esajas weren’t enough to comeback from an electric first half which saw the Blades race into a 3-0 lead.
As expected, Matt Kilgallon failed to make the side and Kevin Blackwell explained after the game that the defender, who’s at the centre of a contract row hasn’t been out of bed for five days. Therefore, 11th hour loan signing Andrew Davies lined up alongside Chris Morgan at the heart of the Blades defence.
Unlike in previous encounters, the game began with the feel of a Steel City derby, neither side able to gain control. However, with the Blades second corner in a short space of time, Chris Morgan, unmarked, headed goalwards and the ball fell to Jamie Ward who instinctively poked the ball home on the turn before celebrating in front of the John Street faithful (and the Bramall Lane lower tier).
Varney and Potter both had shots from distance that caused no trouble for Mark Bunn, and when another set piece fell in the Wednesday are, Evans shot was deflected home by under fire Darius Henderson.
After Bunn tipped over a header from Tudgay, the Blades suffered their first blow. Jamie Ward went down under a tackle from Johnson, and was withdrawn with a suspected hamstring injury. It could see the striker out for around six weeks.
Cotterill replaced the Northern Ireland international and his free-kick landed on the head of Darius Henderson, unmarked, five yards from goal, but his header was straight into the hands of Lee Grant.
Cotterill did eventually get an assist on 42 minutes. His marauding run was followed by a cross for Henderson that was headed home in “Des Walkeresque fashion” by full back Lewis Buxton.
After previously having a word with Henderson, referee Wiley booked him just before half time for “persistent infringement of the laws of the game” (yes, that’s the official term).
Unusual scenes followed at Bramall Lane, with fans smiling on the concourse at half-time, but those confident moods would soon turn to second half nerves, Esajas replaced Johnson for the Visitors and it soon paid dividend.
Varney blocked a header by Esajas, but Marcus Tudgay was on hand to expertly volley home left footed into the bottom corner.
The second half would then follow a similar pattern to previous games, with the trailing side throwing balls and men forward but with no real quality, or clear cut chances as consequence.
However, the visitors closed the lead down to one goal just after the hour; Cotterill’s foul on Wood gave the Owls a free-kick thirty yards out, which Etienne Esajas struck hard and low past the despairing Bunn in goal.
The final four and a half hours (well, that’s what it felt like) was played out with Sheffield Wednesday trying to camp in the Blades area, and United hitting them on the counter.
Ched Evans had an effort saved, before Lee Grant was again called into action making a sensational save from Darius Henderson.
Esajas had another effort saved by Bunn and Kyle Walker was on hand in the final seconds to prevent a final chance.
It was Kevin Blackwell’s first derby win in the fourth attempt and one to savour.
Jamie Ward, off 33
8 – Despite only being on the pitch around half an hour.
David Cotterill, on 33, off 90
“To be honest with you that monkey has been on my back for a while.
“As great a season as we had last season many locals dismissed it because we lost twice to Sheffield Wednesday.
“So it was a massive, massive victory tonight. I had 10 new players who had never experienced a Sheffield derby.
“Try tell them what it’s like. They now know what it’s like. I’m delighted to get such a big result.”
“Andrew Davies looked a bit rusty in the first half an hour, but as the game went on he got better and better.
“He came in this afternoon and it was a case of throwing him in, so he showed terrific mental toughness.
“We were superb in the first half. It could have been four or five, but Wardy was a big loss.
“He’s on fire at the moment. He took his goal really well. He has goals in him and he’s a real threat, so to lose him for six weeks is a blow.”
“I blame myself because you’ve got to pick the right team.
“We had three games in six days and maybe I needed to change a few more players.
“Etienne had been in our thoughts and we wondered if this was the game for him. Jermaine Johnson was poor tonight. He was ineffective.”