Sheffield United produced a Champions display to beat promotion rivals Bolton and extend their lead at the top of the table to 7 points. The result saw Bolton drop to fourth and Fleetwood's victory, married with Scunthorpe's draw saw them go joint second.
A brace from Captain Billy Sharp, who scored in each half was enough to condemn Phil Parkinson's side to defeat in front of a crowd just over 27,000. Blades boss Chris Wilder had named an unchanged XI which had drawn 1-1 with Scunthorpe the previous week. The only change made was on the substitute’s bench, James Wilson in for an injured Joe Riley.
The weather wasn't kind to either side, though the visitors had the advantage of storm Doris against their backs as they played towards the kop end in the first half, but the continuous shower made the ball slippery.
The game started at a fast pace with both sides cancelling one another out. The first golden opportunity fell to United on eight minutes. A floated corner from Coutts into the box saw keeper Howard in no man’s land as Hanson delightfully headed the ball into the top corner but was cleared off the line and from the rebound Wright twisted and volleyed over the top.
United's next attack would see them take the lead. Wright was in the thick of things n defence as he smartly blocked Williams effort at goal and as the ball went loose, Basham supplied Duffy with a neat pass, and he in turn found Fleck but his pass was even better as he split the Wanderers defence in two, and allowing SHARP to race clear and coolly slot the ball home in off the post.
The visitors almost responded immediately and had their strikers taken a gamble, most probably would have levelled the scores. Henry had fed Moxey down the left and his acute cross across goal evaded both Wilkinson and Le Fondre.
Bolton was awarded two free-kicks in succession on the half-hour mark with Morais taking both but neither attempts came too much. Fleck was the first player to enter Mike Dean's book for a challenge on Thorpe, and before the half-time whistle blew he would be replaced by Dervite. An incident involving Le Fondre saw him fall out of favour with the home crowd.
The referee had stopped play following an injury inside United's half. The former Rotherham striker politely booted the ball back to keeper Moore but seemed as though he attempted a shot at goal instead. Had it gone in, it would have stood!
United defended well as the first half drew to a close but became frustrated at the number of free-kicks awarded against them.
The second half saw United come out of the traps quickly. They now had the wind advantage and shooting against their own kop. Sharp scuffed his effort wide of the mark after Hanson had headed down, and moment’s later Sharp turned provider from Duffy's looping ball over the top but Dervite stepped in to clear any immediate threat.
Long replaced Le Fondre for the visitors and was booed off the field. Further changes were made as Carruthers replaced Duffy and the visitors made their final change as Clayton replaced Wilkinson. United came close again when a quickly taken corner saw Coutts fire inches wide at an angle.
United were rewarded with another goal with 20 minutes remaining. Howard's sliced clearance saw a quick throw taken and Carruthers jinxed in the penalty area before being tripped by Wheater, who was booked in the process as Dean awarded a penalty. SHARP stepped up, placed his shot to his left and in turn sending the keeper the wrong way for his 23rd goal of the season.
Wright blocked a Clayton effort as Bolton made attempts to get back into the game but the Blades continued to dominate as the clock ticked down. Lavery replaced Sharp in the final minute as three minutes of stoppage time was announced.
Sheffield United: Moore, Fleck, O'Connell, Basham, Sharp (Ebanks-Landell 90), Wright, Coutts, Hanson (Lavery 90), Freeman, Duffy (Carruthers 63), Lafferty. Unused: Long, Done, Wilson, O'Shea,
Bolton Wanderers: Howard, Moxey, Beevers, Vela, Osede, Morais, Henry, Wheater, Thorpe (Dervite 43), Wilkinson (Clayton 66), Le Fondre (Long 62) Unused: Solomon-Otabor, Alnwick, Trotter, Wabara.