United 3-2 Wednesday
Bramall Lane, Sheffield
18/09/09 - 7.45pm
The proverbial game of two halves cost Wednesday in the first Steel City derby of the season as the red and white side of the city claimed bragging rights for the time being at least with a thrilling victory on Friday night.
The hosts, who hadn't claimed a derby victory under boss Kevin Blackwell, and were reeling following the Owls' double last season, swept into a 3-0 lead at the interval to take full control of the tie.
But it wasn't without the help of Wednesday, who, for the second time in a week, contributed to their own downfall with silly mistakes - Lewis Buxton's own goal coming on the back of a deflected Darius Henderson effort and Jamie Ward opener.
Indeed, it was a game that although United didn't deserve to win, Wednesday maybe deserved to lose after gifting the hosts the heavy half-time advantage.
Strong words from Owls boss Brian Laws seemed to do the trick on the resumption, Marcus Tudgay's volley followed by Etienne Esajas's wonder free-kick narrowing the gap and giving the home support plenty of nail-biting in the final 20 minutes.
But Wednesday ran out of steam, and united clung on to grab the grabbing rights, until the return fixture at S6 that is.
Laws made a number of changes to the side that fell to defeat against Middlesbrough in midweek, Richard Wood and James O'Connor both passing late fitness tests to play a part, with Mark Beevers (injured) and Tommy Miller missing out.
But, like Wednesday made a lightning quick start to the match at the Lane last season, United did the same on Friday night, with Blackwell obviously keen to make amends for last season's double.
Jamie Ward, making an impact in the red and white this season, opened the scoring early on to lift the home crowd just seven minutes in.
And there was no lay-off from the hosts, who also came into the clash on the back of a midweek defeat, as they soon doubled their advantage, albeit with some fortunate play inside the Owls box.
Summer recruit Ched Evans fired a dangerous effort goalwards, but Henderson stuck a foot out and diverted the ball into the back of the net, giving Wednesday stopper Lee Grant no chance to put United 2-0 up after just 15 minutes.
Wednesday looked for a way back into the game but were understandably low of confidence following the set-back, although Marcus Tudgay did force Bunn into his first save of the evening from a Michael Gray free-kick.
Half-chances came and went at both ends, but the visitors were dealt a bitter pill to swallow going into the break as David Cotterill sent a dangerous cross into the box and, under pressure, Buxton was forced to head the ball into his own goal while trying to clear the danger.
Victory for the red and white side of the city looked all but assured going into the interval, but Brian Laws' half-time team talk certainly saw Wednesday come out of the dressing a room a different team in the second half and they more than took the game to their hosts.
Wednesday controlled the first half an hour of the second half and deserved their chance to get back into the clash, playing the better football throughout.
And it took just a minute to get back into the game as Kyle Walker's attempted clearance fell at the feet of Tudgay, who powered a low effort by Bunn in front of the travelling Wednesday fans.
Wednesday were applying all the pressure, lifted by their goal, and substitute Esajas, on to replace Jermaine Johnson at the break, was proving a thorn in the United side - more than meriting a call-up for the home clash with Cardiff City next weekend.
Tudgay had a golden opportunity to double his tally for the evening and get the visitors right back into the contest, but his chance - arguably easier than the goal - went sailing over the bar on the volley.
But Esajas did find the back of the net with 25 minutes remaining when his long-range free-kick went powering into the bottom corner to give the game some real spice in the final 25 minutes.
The relatively quiet United crowd really did silence, with Wednesday looking for the comeback of all Steel City derby comebacks, although when Wednesday were in the ascendancy, Blackwell's men raised their game at just the right time to avoid collapse.
Chris Morgan had the chance to all-but seal the points with a towering header, but Grant was more than a match with a fine save that kept Wednesday in the game, while Evans also came close with a long-range piledriver.
Esajas had another chance with a stinging shot as chances came at both ends, and although Wednesday finished the stronger, the hosts managed to cling on for victory.
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