There is much more to come from record scorer Sharp, says Wilder

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - FRONT PAGE - ROBERT GLED­HILL

SH­EFFIELD UNITED man­ager Chris Wilder has hailed the con­tri­bu­tion of record-equalling Billy Sharp and warned Cham­pi­onship pro­mo­tion ri­vals that his cap­tain will con­tinue to fire on all cylin­ders in 2019.

Sharp’s brace against Black­burn Rovers, in a game where both sides had a man dis­missed, set up a 3-0 vic­tory that moves the Blades to within four points of an au­to­matic pro­mo­tion place.

In do­ing so, Sharp be­came the high­est English league goalscorer this cen­tury along­side for­mer Southamp­ton team-match Rickie Lam­bert on 219.

Wilder en­thused: “Bril­liant. You don’t back against him and he has four against Black­burn this sea­son.

“They will be glad to see the back of him and there is much more to come from Billy in the sec­ond half of the sea­son.

“Even if we can add at the top of the pitch (with sign­ings in the trans­fer win­dow) he will still be want­ing to start and fight ev­ery­body off.

“He has that tag of a lo­cal lad and has had to do it the hard way. He had to go away for his ca­reer but he has come back and been out­stand­ing for me.

“His record speaks for it­self since I have been here on and off the pitch. What has Billy Sharp done for him­self and this foot­ball club? That is the ques­tion you should ask and not ‘what have we done for him?’

“We have put him in the team and played two up front. He looks as fit as a fid­dle and has been out­stand­ing as a leader of the play­ers, out there scor­ing goals.”

Sharp struck in the 73rd and 77th min­utes af­ter for­mer Rother­ham United mid­field man Richie Small­wood was shown a straight red for a high chal­lenge on the Blades cap­tain.

The Blades had lost cen­tral de­fender Chris Basham 20 min­utes ear­lier when he han­dled as Char­lie Mul­grew fired a free­kick into the de­fen­sive wall, hav­ing been shown a ninth­minute yel­low for a ball-win­ning chal­lenge on Har­ri­son Reed.

Wilder said: “It’s a phys­i­cal game and play­ers have to ex­pect con­tact. Basham’s tackle was a great one and he was un­for­tu­nate with the sec­ond one.”

Of the vic­tory, he said: “That is right up there. Com­pli­ment to the way the op­po­si­tion at­tacked it in the first half. They fresh­ened it up and made it a bit of a grind for us. For 45 min­utes, they were as good a team as has been at Bra­mall Lane this sea­son. We found it a bit of a strug­gle. When we went down to 10 men no-one would have seen the re­sult that was com­ing.

“The or­gan­i­sa­tion and dis­ci­pline of the play­ers was great. When it went to 10 v 10, the ruth­less­ness of the play was very clin­i­cal and the sup­port when we needed it gave us that lift and en­ergy. When it went to 10 v 10, there was only one win­ner.”

NOT bad for a ‘fat lad from Sh­effield’ eh?

This light-hearted jibe was aimed at Billy Sharp by Don­caster Rovers’ man­ager Sean O’Driscoll when he was scor­ing a goal ev­ery two games for them in the Cham­pi­onship.

Since then the Blades’ cap­tain has con­tin­ued those goalscor­ing ex­ploits and now stands along­side for­mer Southamp­ton team-mate Rickie Lam­bert with 219 league strikes af­ter his dou­ble in a fre­netic fes­tive en­counter against Black­burn Rovers.

They are the joint league top scor­ers among English play­ers this cen­tury with Sharp’s goals hav­ing come in 110 fewer games – 495 against 605.

Sharp’s 15th and 16 goals for the sea­son in all com­pe­ti­tions made it a dou­ble dou­ble for him against Rovers.

A keen statis­ti­cian, Sharp knew he had equalled Lam­bert’s record and said: “I played with Rickie at Southamp­ton and he was a goal ma­chine. He’s prob­a­bly had too many beers to come out of re­tire­ment now, though.

“It’s a great per­sonal achieve­ment, but re­ally, I just want to win some­thing for Sh­effield United. I need to make sure I go on and score more goals. I need to keep do­ing my job for Sh­effield United.”

Sharp’s jour­ney has taken him from Bra­mall Lane to Rush­den & Diamonds, Scun­thorpe, Don­caster, Southamp­ton, Not­ting­ham For­est, Read­ing and Leeds United and back to his beloved home club for the third time.

“If I could have played for Sh­effield United all my ca­reer I would have loved to,” said Sharp. “I had to go away a cou­ple of times to ben­e­fit my ca­reer, but I feel I came back at ex­actly the right time. I feel as fit and as strong as ever and I feel I can keep go­ing for some time yet.”

The 32-year-old said there was no real se­cret be­hind the run that has brought him five goals in his last five games.

“I’m play­ing week-in, week­out, which helps a striker. The gaffer has stuck with me and shown be­lief in me. It’s about get­ting a rhythm and grind­ing away. That’s how you get goals.

“The way we play ev­ery player in the side en­joys it. I love play­ing for the club and I love the way we go about it as well with two play­ers up top. I’ve got a great part­ner­ship go­ing with Didzy (fel­low scorer David McGoldrick). He’s scor­ing goals at the mo­ment and I’m scor­ing goals as well.”

Man­ager Chris Wilder stuck with his front two even af­ter see­ing cen­tral de­fender Chris Basham dis­missed for a sec­ond yel­low card in the 51st minute and it paid div­i­dends af­ter for­mer Rother­ham mid­fielder Richie Small­wood fol­lowed him down the tun­nel 20 min­utes later for a tackle be­low the knee on Sharp.

By then Rovers’ man­awger Tony Mow­bray had gam­bled and failed by send­ing on two at­tack­ing play­ers and go­ing for width against the 10 men af­ter Basham, harshly booked for a ball-win­ning early chal­lenge, had gone for han­dling as Char­lie Mul­grew fired a free-kick into a de­fen­sive wall.

Dean Hen­der­son had been forced into just one smart save from Der­rick Wil­liams and, back to par­ity, the Blades showed their ruth­less­ness as McGoldrick headed across the six-yard area for Sharp to con­jure enough space to drill in the 73rd-minute opener be­fore strik­ing again four min­utes later.

This time the Blades played on the counter af­ter Joe Roth­well threw him­self to the floor look­ing for a penalty and Sharp pa­tiently waited for the ball to drop from the left be­fore strik­ing down to David Raya’s right for the sec­ond.

There was still time for McGoldrick to puff out his chest in the man­ner his col­leagues had done through­out and di­vert the ball into the roof of the net for his eighth goal of the sea­son af­ter John Fleck had pinched pos­ses­sion in the area and ham­mered the ball across.

It was a de­flat­ing de­feat for pro­moted Rovers, who had suf­fered stop­page-time heartache at Leeds United on Box­ing Day and who had matched the Blades in the first half when Mul­grew struck a post and Enda Stevens hit the bar for the hosts.

They had made seven changes from that El­land Road de­feat, while Wilder stuck with an un- changed team for a fourth con­sec­u­tive game.

Con­ti­nu­ity won the day over ro­ta­tion leav­ing the Blades four points shy of an au­to­matic pro­mo­tion place ahead of to­mor­row’s trip to Wi­gan Ath­letic.

Wilder may freshen things up af­ter their ex­er­tions and he is happy with the strength of his squad, though more at­tack­ing op­tions are in the pipe­line.

Sharp con­tin­ued: “To be hon­est, we’ve been say­ing for a few weeks that we needed to grind one out. We can’t play well all the time, but we kept grind­ing away and the red card helped us. When our spell came, when our chances fell, we took them.

“We said at half-time that we’d not been at our best, but we were told to stay pa­tient. It helped when they went down to 10 men – he caught me high, but it wasn’t hard or with a great deal of force – and we kept on go­ing.

“We want to keep the run go­ing, we want to try and kick on.

“The fans are see­ing 18 play­ers work­ing hard for the club. The play­ers be­hind the 18 are work­ing hard, too. That’s what you need.”

PIC­TURES: SI­MON BEL­LIS/SPORTIMAGE

DOU­BLE ACT: David McGoldrick cel­e­brates his eighth goal of the cam­paign as fel­low striker and cap­tain Billy Sharp runs across to of­fer con­grat­u­la­tions af­ter scor­ing his sec­ond of the game, in­set, against Black­burn Rovers at Bra­mall Lane.

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