Billy Sharp had put United ahead with his first half net buster in front of the excellent supported away end before two goals in four minutes stunned the life out of visiting Bradford City whose approach was more down beat than the physical challenge they had displayed in the first 45 minutes. Conor Sammon atoned from an earlier 'sitter' he should have scored, finishing at the Kop end with Canadian International defender David Edgar adding a third for the afternoon.
It was otherwise a glittering performance by United with much credit given to both Sharp and the back four defenders - all of whom battled well under such physicality of the City XI. The only gloss which could be scraped off a fine finish was Gary Liddle's goal for the visitors, and with seven minutes remaining when they gave their hoard of travelling support a glimmer of hope, proved to be nothing as a scant consolation.
From a neutrals 'point of view,' the Yorkshire Derby between these two sides from South and West are, most unlikely, the first fixture of their list they would like to attend. But for the excitement and end to end football, as a United fan, is very much recommended. Perhaps more so are both City and United have shared similar formations and playing styles, giving an even playing field to the game. The Blades haven't lost a league game at Bramall Lane since 1988 against Bradford and (including this 3-1 victory), in the previous six league encounters have notched up eighteen goals between themselves.
Both sides benefitted from Boxing Day postponements, with United's fixture at Wigan Athletic and City's home game with Burton Albion falling victim to the bad weather and thus giving players an extra few days’ rest. Blades boss Nigel Adkins named an unchanged team from which won at Scunthorpe, whilst Jose Baxter returned to the substitute bench after a leave of absence, due to club disciplinary reasons, replacing an injured Scougall.
In the early exchanges of this pulsating fixture, Bradford slung in a few free-kicks into the box but between Collins and Edgar the central pair kept our any advances with United calm and collected to keep hold the ball and patiently build up the play. It was via this method that they were fruitful on virtually their first attack, McEverley was seen in possession and his pass found SHARP, he turned his marker before firing a low shot 25 yards from goal and beating the keeper with a fine finish.
Liddle sliced over the bar and Evans saw his shot blocked in a sea of white shirts as the visitors threatened the United goal. Their physicality showed as they were rewarded with a number of free-kicks and a few players given stern warnings by referee Mark Haywood, McEverley was handed a yellow following a rash challenge before Done was forced to exit the field to injury - replaced by Sammon in a like for like enforced substitution with little over 25 minutes of the first half played.
As the game progressed the action died down a little, though Bradford continued to hold most of the pocession, the United defence stood stern enough to keep them at bay. However on 43 minutes they had to rely on the quick reactions of George Long to keep the tie locked at 1-0. Collins foul on Clarke had awarded City a free-kick on the edge of the area, Liddle's kick was poised and true and with Long stretching, and time seemingly standing still, the keeper plucked the ball away and pushing around the post to safety.
Whilst this was an exceptional save from the young keeper but half-time talking point was more focused on the Blades next opportunity in front of goal. With three minutes of first half stoppage time added on, Sammon started and finished the move but without expert execution. He first laid off Sharp who did well down the right to evade his marker, his cross into the box was perfect with Sammon unmarked at the back post and an almost open goal lying in wait, but despite his efforts he somehow headed wide at the far post. As Williams launched the resulting goal-kick high into the air the referee blew up for half-time.
Bradford again looked the brighter side as the second 45 minutes began and four minutes into it went close to levelling the scores. Hanson laid off Reid after Liddell had played the ball forward but the former Blade fired well wide of the mark. At the other end, neat play from United and following a on-two between Sammon and Woolford, the latter side footed wide. With his miss still fresh in the memories of the Blades supporters the on-loan Derby forward was soon quick to atone from his earlier miss. There was some confusion as to whom had the final touch as Coutts delivered a cross into the box with both SAMMON and Darby challenging at the far post and heading into the net - it’s unlikely that the City defender will claim credit for United doubling their lead but the announcer credited the attacker as the goal-scorer.
Four minutes stood between Sammon's finish and the Blades third which sucker punched the Bantams into a defeat, but not before Reid fired aimlessly over the top of goal. Bradford half-cleared a corner and as Woolford recycled the ball and delivered into the box, EDGAR powered his header home to score his first goal in Blades colours; 3-0. In desperation City threw everything they could at United, Hanson came close from a Meredith cross, his downward header colliding with the foot of the post with Cole ruled offside as he attempted to follow home the rebound.
McMahon, another former Sheffield United custodian, tested long twice from distance with his second dramatically tipped over the bar. With seven minutes of regular time remaining the United defence buckled unsurprisingly under the City pressure. McMahon's corner was headed home at the far post by LIDDLE but whilst they made a vain attempt at reducing the arrears further, the game had already been won.
Devante Cole, son of former Newcastle United and Manchester United striker Andy flashed wide during the four minutes of stoppage time. Adkins used up the remainder of his substitutions in a killing time tactic, Flynn replacing Woolford and Campbell-Ryce replaced a rather exhausted Sharp as the game ended 3-1 in what was a professional performance by the Blades.
Sheffield United: Long, Brayford, Basham, Coutts, Sharp (Campbell-Ryce 90), Done (Sammon 26), Collins, Woolford (Flynn 89), McEveley, Edgar, Hammond. Unused: Howard, Baxter, Reed, K Wallace.
Bradford City: Williams, Darby, Evans (Knott 69), Liddle, Hanson, B Clarke (Cole 76), Leigh (Meredith 69), Burke, Reid, McArdle, McMahon. Unused: N Clarke, Marshall, Bowery, Cracknell