United 2-2 Wednesday
Bramall Lane, Sheffield
08/04/08 - 19:45
An injury-ravaged Wednesday side picked up a much-needed point against the odds at Bramall Lane in the second Steel City derby of the season, making it a win and a draw against our red and white neighbours this term, and more importantly giving the Owls a huge boost in the battle against relegation.
Most Owls fans would have taken a point before the clash, but Owls boss Brian Laws put out a side to make it two wins from two against Kevin Blackwell's troops this season, and two goals from Adam Bolder either side of half-time looked to have put the Owls en route to a fine win.
But an unfortunate own goal from Richard Wood and a superb James Beattie free-kick rescued a point for the Blades, although Wednesday still had late chances to snatch all three points.
It was an action-packed Sheffield derby, with huge amounts of passion from both sides, and goals to match.
Owls boss Brian Laws made just the one change to the side that drew 1-1 with Scunthorpe United at the weekend with Mark Beevers fit to return to the heart of the Owls' defence alongside Richard Wood, with Peter Gilbert dropping out of the squad and Tommy Spurr moving back to left-back.
United boss Kevin Blackwell also made a trio of changes to his Blades line-up despite their comfortable 3-0 victory over Leicester City at the weekend.
Former Owl Derek Geary returned to the starting line-up at the expense of John Halls, while Paddy Kenny came back in for Ian Bennett and Chris Morgan returned to the defence in place of Ugo Ehiogu.
Blackwell stuck with Saturday's hat-trick hero James Beattie and former Owls target Billy Sharp, who came up against his former Scunthorpe boss, and will no doubt have been keen to bag for his boyhood side.
The start of the clash had a minutes applause for former Owls goalscoring legend and former Blades chairman Derek Dooley, with the clash being the first derby since the death of the Sheffield footballing legend.
But, as is common with big Steel City derby matches, the clash started off in sloppy fashion with neither side making any clear-cut chances from the opening exchanges in front of the fine atmosphere inside Bramall Lane.
Wednesday made the brighter start as they took control of the match in the opening minutes, forcing an early corner for the visitors but causing little concern for Kenny in the Blades goal.
Wednesday had struggled to mount any serious challenges on Kenny's goal, but in Jermaine Johnson they had an attacking winger who could cause something out of nothing and the Jamaican international raced away and forced Kenny to spill the ball just before the half-hour mark, but no Wednesday players followed up to pounce.
And with the game bursting in to life, United had a good chance at the other end minutes later as Sharp tried a cheeky chip over Owls' stopper Lee Grant, but the Wednesday number one did well to tip the ball over for a corner.
United were making the better of the width of the pitch and David Cotterill was causing problems for the Owls defence, dancing by Mark Beevers but seeing his effort cleared by Richard Wood.
Former Leeds man Matthew Kilgallon had a good chance for the hosts just before the half-hour mark but his header went comfortably in to the arms of Grant from a Michael Tonge corner.
United were having the better of the play but the breakthrough came against the run of play and it was through the unlikliest of sources as Adam Bolder popped up to head home the opener and send the travelling Wednesday support ecstatic after 38 minutes.
Steve Watson had had a relatively quiet game but provided a superb cross for the QPR loanee to head home from the edge of the six-yard box and give Wednesday the lead.
The goal gave Wednesday a huge confidence boost and they enjoyed the better of the remainder of the half, possibly being unlucky not to add to their lead before the half-time interval as Frank Songo'o saw his effort tipped over by Kenny, before the Portsmouth loanee should have done better with an effort from inside the box minutes before the break.
But regardless of the Blades enjoying the best of the possession and the chances, the Owls were leading at the break and boss Brian Laws needed a top half-time teamtalk to rally his troops for the second half.
Half-Time: United 0-1 Wednesday
And despite United making the better start to the second half it was Wednesday who looked relatively comfortable in the early stages and they had a half-shout for a penalty when Chris Morgan looked to have handled in the box.
Another unlikely goalscorer in captain Richard Wood almost made it two when the United defence were left sleeping, but the Owls defender fired his effort straight at Kenny.
The Owls continued pushing forward as Songo'o again carved himself out an effort on goal but Kenny comfortably picked up the effort.
But he was left picking the ball out of the net for a second time just a minute later, Songo'o again involved as he put in Bolder to bag his second goal of the match from the edge of the box to send the Owls' fans behind the goal wild.
Off the pitch, scuffles broke out following the goal, with dozens of riot police being called to the Blades' Kop to sort out the antics going on off the pitch.
The clash had burst in to life, both on the pitch and off it, and it wasn't long after before United got themselves a lifeline as Richard Wood unfortunately put the ball in to the back of his own net just after the half hour mark.
With the match reaching its peak, both managers made tactical substitutions with Stephen Quinn coming off for Jonathan Stead for the hosts, while Ben Sahar came off for the more physical Bartosz Slusarski.
But United were back in the game and were forcing the pressure as James Beattie and Stead both had efforts saved by Grant when they should have done better.
But Wednesday had probably the best chance as substitute Slusarski saw his powerful effort brilliantly saved by Kenny, who also prevented an Owls corner at the same time.
United were still looking for a way through the Wednesday defence but they failed to gain any momentum and found their chances coming few and far between as Wednesday looked to break on the counter-attack.
The Owls managed to calm the play down with ten minutes to go, with Jermaine Johnson, Bolder and Burton both doing well in holding the ball up at the United end of the pitch, thwarting any trouble at the other end.
Speedy winger Johnson continued to pose a threat for the Blades with his pace and he ran half the length of the pitch on the break before seeing his shot on goal well blocked and going in to the arms of Kenny.
But it was all level on 86 minutes as James Beattie produced another top-drawer free-kick from the edge of the box and slotted it low and by Lee Grant's near post to bag the leveller for the Blades and leave Wednesday sweating for a point in the latter stages.
The fourth official indicated four minutes stoppage time and the Owls almost snatched the winner in the first minute of added time as Tommy Spurr collected a neat pass before lashing the ball across the face of goal but no Wednesday players were able to get the finishing touch on the ball.
And Jermaine Johnson lashed an effort over the bar after good work from Burton O'Brien and Deon Birton as Wednesday looked to finish the stronger.
But the Owls had to settle for a point in an absorbing contest, hopefully a point which will help Wednesday towards safety this season, and which will put an end to United's promotion hopes.
Full-Time: United 2-2 Wednesday
Wednesday: Grant, Watson, Beevers, Wood, Spurr, Johnson, Kavanagh, Bolder, Songo'o, Burton, Sahar. Substitutes: Burch, Hinds, O'Brien, Boden, Slusarski.
United: Kenny, Naysmith, Morgan, Kilgallon, Geary, Tonge, Cotterill, Speed, Tonge, Sharp, Beattie. Substitutes: Bennett, Halls, Ehiogu, Hulse, Stead.