SHARP FINISH GETS BLADES OFF THE MARK
THE BLADES’ return to the Championship after six years away ended perfectly thanks to Billy Sharp’s predatory first-half winner.
The masses of home fans rejoiced wildly at the final whistle once the Bees were repelled following a late rally.
Blades boss Chris Wilder was clearly relieved, and he also began his post-match debrief by saluting the noisy home faithful, who made a right old racket from the first minute until the last.
“That’s a fantastic first result for us, and the support inside the stadium was fantastic,” he said. “Don’t forget the fans here have had it tough these last six years, being down in the third tier. This result is just reward for their outstanding support and loyalty.
“We’ve had some big cup games and promotion games these last few seasons, but the atmosphere today was right up there.”
Wilder went on to salute his players after they ground out an eye-catching success.
“All the lads put in an outstanding effort against a very good Brentford side,” he added. “We were a bit loose at times, but we created some decent chances.
“We won’t play many better technical sides than Brentford either. They’re going to be there in the top half.
“We know exactly what challenges await now in this division, but we’ve shown already that we’re ready for them.
“Everyone around the club ought to be lifted by this result.”
Last season’s League One champions just about deserved to be ahead at the break at a packedout Bramall Lane.
They struck after 39 minutes, with Leon Clarke particularly delighted as he mocked the visiting Bees fans.
Clarke was jeered after fluffing an initial attempt to cross, but the burly striker swivelled superbly to eventually float over a peach of a cross for Billy Sharp to head home clinically past Dan Bentley.
Earlier Danish striker Lasse Vibe had gone close for Brentford, while Blades left-back Enda Stevens saw a 25-yard deflected pile-driver rebound off a post.
Both sides were denied by the woodwork during an equally eyecatching second period.
Blades midfielder John Fleck fired against a post, with Sharp’s neat finish from the rebound being ruled out thanks to an assistant referee’s flag. At the other end, as the visitors pressed late on, Jota saw an accurate strike saved by debutant Jamal Blackman, before substitute Nico Yennaris nodded the rebound against the crossbar.
The Bees’ best chance of grabbing an equaliser fell to another substitute, Neal Maupay, who charged clear of the Blades’ back-line before being thwarted by a smart Blackman save.
Bees boss Dean Smith pinpointed missed chances as the main reason for the opening-day reverse.
“I suppose I’m disappointed, but certainly not disheartened,” he said. “The result wasn’t what our performance deserved.
“There wasn’t a lot of goalmouth action throughout the game. Billy Sharp has ended up with one chance and he’s scored from it. That’s what he does.
“United made it difficult for us, but we’ve been guilty of missing too many chances, particularly in the second half. We just didn’t take ours , and that’s proved to be the difference.
“I have to be satisfied that we are creating. We just need to work harder going forward.”
PUMPED: Billy Sharp celebrates his winner with his team-mates