Blades pro­moted in style

The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE ONE - By John Brind­ley

THE longer the wait, the Wilder the pro­mo­tion cel­e­bra­tions even­tu­ally are.

Six long years, five man­agers and three failed play-off cam­paigns later, the toast of Bra­mall Lane is un­doubt­edly Chris Wilder.

Back on the ground where he led Northamp­ton to the League Two ti­tle amid a des­per­ate bat­tle for club sur­vival, Wilder saw John Fleck score a dra­matic 88th-minute win­ner to pro­vide the per­fect cli­max to his spe­cial day.

And now he has set his new­lypro­moted side the dream tar­get of not only win­ning the ti­tle but claim­ing 100 points, one more than he man­aged with the Cob­blers.

Wilder, who wit­nessed three pitch in­va­sions from Blades fans said: “This club was drift­ing, it shouldn’t have been drift­ing – but I’ve come in and done my best.

“We’ve not only pulled it around on the pitch, we’ve done it off the pitch too.

“It didn’t mat­ter to me where this hap­pened. I just wanted to win a proper game of foot­ball and Northamp­ton gave us that.

“I was dis­ap­pointed with the first half. They de­served their lead.

“But the sec­ond half epit­o­mised what this team is all about. We’ve got the abil­ity to get off the can­vas and turn losses into draws and draws into vic­to­ries.

“(Northamp­ton goal­keeper) Adam Smith had made some ridicu­lous saves but no­body could deny we de­served it in the end.

“We knew when it was 1-1 we were nearly there but the play­ers wanted to press on and win it.

“The pitch in­va­sions aren’t ex­actly what you would want but you’ve got to re­mem­ber what these sup­port­ers have gone through over the last six sea­sons.”

More than 1,400 trav­el­ling Blades sup­port­ers – sup­ple­mented by 6,000 back at Bra­mall Lane – pro­voked an elec­tric at­mos­phere, matched by the ex­cite­ment and drama on the pitch.

To their im­mense credit, Wilder’s old boys wrested con­trol af­ter United’s light­ning start saw Samir Car­ruthers clip the bar and both Jay O’Shea and skip­per Paul Coutts send shots fly­ing just wide, all in­side nine hec­tic min­utes.

Marc Richards volleyed over from eight yards from a su­perb

Bren­dan Moloney cross in the 11th minute and when early in­spi­ra­tion Daniel Lafferty harshly saw yel­low the best news on of­fer for Blades hordes was an early set-back for ri­vals Fleet­wood.

Michael Smith’s sharp shot was kept out by the div­ing Simon Moore in the 29th minute as Northamp­ton main­tained a mea­sure of con­trol.

Their open­ing goal in first-half in­jury time was stun­ning in all senses of the word. Richards worked an ex­cel­lent one-two with fel­low striker Smith be­fore send­ing a right-footed cross-shot soar­ing over Moore.

Wilder’s in­ter­val move to bring on 26-goal Billy Sharp was al­ways likely to in­spire a Blades on­slaught although the first dan­ger came from an un­likely source.

De­fender Jack O’Connell jug­gled his way into space deep in­side the penalty area only for Smith to paw his shot to safety.

The equaliser came soon af­ter as Northamp­ton’s off­side trap was sprung and Leon Clarke fin­ished su­perbly with a ris­ing shot. Cue pitch in­va­sion num­ber one.

Smith pro­duced fur­ther hero­ics to deny Chris Basham, Sharp and Fleck be­fore the Blades, in­evitably per­haps, had the fi­nal word. Sharp’s ap­proach play on the right was ex­cel­lent and Fleck fin­ished in style – cue in­va­sion num­ber two!

Northamp­ton man­ager Justin Ed­in­burgh said: “A draw would have been a fair re­sult. We’ve gone head to head with the League One cham­pi­ons and very nearly got over the line for a very good point.

“Our play­ers ap­proached the game very well and I don’t think you’ll see a bet­ter goal all week­end.

“Con­grat­u­la­tions to Sh­effield United on their achieve­ment and to Chris Wilder – he has had a fan­tas­tic two sea­sons.”

TOUCH OF CLASS: Leon Clarke cel­e­brates scor­ing a sub­lime goal for Sh­effield United

PIC­TURE: ProS­ports/ Den­nis Good­win

JACK THE LAD: Blades de­fender Jack O’Connell heads the ball

ON THE MARC: Marc Richards takes the applause

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