Blades go at full throt­tle to leave Reds trail­ing in their slip­stream

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - FOOTBALL - AT BRA­MALL LANE Email: richard.sut­cliffe@ypn.co.uk Twit­ter: @RSootyYPS­port Richard Sut­cliffe

“TAKE the hand­brake off,” was Chris Wilder’s fi­nal in­struc­tion as his Sh­effield United play­ers left the dress­ing room ahead of south York­shire’s first derby of the sea­son.

The Blades took their man­ager at his word, mean­ing by full-time there was pre­cious lit­tle for Paul Heck­ing­bot­tom and Barns­ley to sal­vage from the wreck­age of de­feat other than the per­for­mance of goal­keeper Adam Davies.

With­out the 25-year-old’s agility and re­flexes, the mar­gin of de­feat could have taken on car­crash pro­por­tions for a Reds side who rarely got out of first gear and whose only real sign of life came via an at­tempted head­butt from An­gus Mac­Don­ald that brought the club cap­tain a red card.

Leon Clarke also rightly saw his in­volve­ment ended early by ref­eree Tim Robin­son for his part in that same 42nd-minute fra­cas, but it could not de­tract from an oth­er­wise en­cour­ag­ing af­ter­noon for a Blades side who chalked up an eighth straight win at Bra­mall Lane, a feat the club last achieved more than five years ago.

“It felt a bit more like last sea­son,” said Mark Duffy, a key fac­tor in how dom­i­nant the Blades were in only their fourth league out­ing since romp­ing to the League One ti­tle with 100 points.

“The gaffer had a chat with us be­fore the game and said, ‘Take the hand­brake off ’. He said, ‘We have done all right but we don’t want to do all right be­cause we are not just here to make the num­bers up’.

“We are here to win games of foot­ball. We are here to stay, def­i­nitely.

“He doesn’t want back-handed com­pli­ments, others say­ing his team will be all right even though we got beat. None of us want that.

“Against Barns­ley, he wanted us to go full throt­tle be­cause that is the way we played last year. It is hard for teams to keep with us when we do play like that.

“The Cham­pi­onship can be about keep­ing the ball and mov­ing the ball, side to side. But we want to over­load teams with bod­ies ev­ery­where. At home, that is how we have got to play. We did that against Barns­ley.

“When you are play­ing, you some­times hear their lads say­ing, ‘There are play­ers ev­ery­where, who am I sup­posed to be pick­ing up?’ That is what we want and we were like that against Barns­ley.

“We had a lot of chances and their goal­keeper prob­a­bly got man of the match for them. He made some un­be­liev­able saves. Maybe we could have been a bit more clin­i­cal – my­self, Sharpy and a few others – and that would have made it 3-0. I don’t think Barns­ley could have moaned with that.”

If any­thing, Duffy’s as­sess­ment of United be­ing wor­thy of a three­goal win­ning mar­gin may have been overly gen­er­ous to Barns­ley.

Cer­tainly, while Blades goal­keeper Ja­mal Black­man had hardly a save wor­thy of the name to make, coun­ter­part Davies kept out three ef­forts that seemed cer­tain to hit the net.

The first came in­side six min­utes, lovely in­ter-play down the United left end­ing with Enda Stevens pick­ing out Billy Sharp and Davies pulling off a fine block.

Barns­ley should have learned from that episode, and in par­tic- ular how Ja­son McCarthy needed more help in re­pelling the hosts down his flank. The warn­ing, how­ever, went un­heeded as, just 11 min­utes later, a near car­bon­copy move saw Jack O’Con­nell in suf­fi­cient space out wide to look up and pick out Sharp.

This time, the United cap­tain was in un­for­giv­ing mood as he fired past Davies to break the dead­lock.

Af­ter that, the first half de­scended into a scrappy af­fair that was heavy on nig­gling tack­les and short on qual­ity. It was com­pletely in keep­ing with this gen­eral malaise that both Clarke and Mac­Don­ald re­ceived their march­ing or­ders.

An at­tempted through ball that ran harm­lessly through to Davies in the vis­i­tors’ goal saw Clarke take ex­cep­tion to Mac­Don­ald step­ping across his path, ba­si­cally the sort of in­ci­dent that hap­pens count­less times in a game with­out es­ca­lat­ing fur­ther than a shout at the ref­eree.

This time, how­ever, things moved on quickly with Clarke claim­ing that Mac­Don­ald had thrown a punch. Whether this hap­pened or not was un­clear but Clarke’s re­sponse was to grab the Reds cap­tain by the throat.

Had the in­ci­dent ended there then Barns­ley would no doubt have had a man’s ad­van­tage for the re­main­der of the derby but, in­stead, Mac­Don­ald at­tempted a head-butt to leave ref­eree Tim Robin­son with no op­tion but the bran­dish two red cards.

Heck­ing­bot­tom switched to a three-man de­fence but Davies con­tin­ued to be the only Red to make a worth­while con­tri­bu­tion, sav­ing bril­liantly from David Brooks at close range and then turn­ing away a goal­bound header from O’Con­nell. Sharp also came within a whisker of con­vert­ing a cross from Chris Basham.

Sh­effield United: Black­man, Basham, O’Con­nell, Wright; Free­man, Fleck, Duffy (Brooks 66), Coutts, Stevens; L Clarke, Sharp (Evans 75). Un­used sub­sti­tutes: Lund­stram, Laf­ferty, Bray­ford, East­wood, Car­ruthers.

Barns­ley: Davies, McCarthy (Ugbo 46), Jack­son, Mac­Don­ald, Pear­son; J Wil­liams, Ham­mill, Potts, Mon­cur (Pin­nock 46), Hedges; Brad­shaw (Thiam 79). Un­used sub­sti­tutes: Townsend, Barnes, Mowatt, Bird.

Ref­eree: T Robin­son (Sus­sex).

PIC­TURES: SI­MON BELLIS/SPORTIMAGE

MATCH- WIN­NER: Sh­effield United cap­tain Billy Sharp, above, cel­e­brates what proved the win­ning goal against Barns­ley. Left, the ma­jor flash­point that led to the dis­missals of An­gus Mac­Don­ald and Leon Clarke at Bra­mall Lane.

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