Victories at Bramall Lane have become a rarity this season, in particular in front of the Sky camera's but with ten minutes remaining 'our' Billy did thus - bundling the ball home from the corner he initially won. It was a tense affair with United on the wrong end of four bookings, it was the visitors who finished the game with ten men after Sam Ricketts was handed his second yellow of the afternoon.
The loss of two Sheffield United greats during the week, supporters respected the occasion with a minutes applause. Former goalkeeper Alan Hodgkinson and club photographer Martyn Harrison both sadly passed away, overshadowing 75 years since the Sheffield Blitz which coincided with our opponents which both Cities were on the receiving end of enemy bombs during WWII with both arguably the most hit cities outside the capital.
Despite starting on the substitute’s bench, many would have you believe that this fixture was all about Coventry's Joe Cole, making his first appearance after recovering from injury. On loan from Aston Villa, he made his way to the stage on the hour mark and his presence perhaps explained why he is currently in League One and struggling to get into a failing Premier League side who they themselves are in a relegation battle. Maybe harsh considering he has been recently injured but long are the days the midfielder set alight the Premiership with West Ham and dazzled us at Chelsea!
Blades boss Nigel Adkins made three changes against a side wearing alternative but yet very similar colours to Sheffield United. The Blades were as usual in their home kit of white shirt and red shorts and socks, whilst City were in a unfamiliar red shirt with white shorts and socks! Woolford made a rare start whilst Edgar and Sammon started - they were without the injured Harris and suspended Adams as Sharp was dropped to the bench.
Having won the toss, Coventry forced United to kick towards the Kop in the first half, a physiological approach as the Kop end is the most favourable goal United score in. The opening 15 minutes saw the visitors seize the majority of possession but, to their credit, United kept their guests camped mostly in their own half with the spectators, both in the stadium and those watching at home having to wait until 19th minute until a chance on goal was created. It fell to City, Lameiras through ball found Adam Armstrong unmarked on the edge of the box, off-side appeals were waved away as Long made a decent save to keep out the on-loan Newcastle striker.
Charles-Cook, the City keeper always looked eager to come off his line, a attributing factor to the Blades goal later in the game, but as United won a duo of corners his presence kept them at bay. Hammond was booked following a number of fouls whilst Turner received the same punishment following a needless push on Done just outside the 18 yard box. As the first half drew to a close United wasted a number of opportunities to breach the defence as the half ended goalless.
The second 45 minutes began with the visitors on top, Fleck saw his long range effort drift wide and Long was on hand to dig out a World Class save, denying Lameiras after Collins failed to clear his lines. Both sides made changes before City went mightily close to breaking the deadlock on 64 minutes. Firstly, Scougall replaced a rather unconvincing Woolford for the hosts whilst O'Brien made way for Cole for Coventry. Collins was caught in possession on the left flank with Armstrong nicking the ball off the Scot, his low powerful drive across goal proved too powerful for the unmarked and sliding Fleck and Murphy as both desperately attempted to latch onto and into an amongst empty net.
They went even close on their next attack with United lucky not to be a goal behind. Murphy whizzed round Brayford and from his cross saw the ball bounce off Edgar and Long smothering the ball on his line with desperate appeals from City waved away - referee Ian Williamson was unconvinced the ball crossed the line first.
Sharp's introduction a minute later for Sammon sparked a new lease of life into a United side which was struggling in the final third of the pitch. With ten minutes remaining Sharp cut down the left wing and his attempted cross was cut out, forcing a corner. From Coutts delivery Charles-Cook was left in no-man’s land as he scurried off his goal line, failing to gather in a crowded box and could only watch, for him, in horror as the ball cannoned off SHARP and trickle nicely into an unguarded goal.
Predictably, United slowed the game down from then on and in professional manor too. Late on Ricketts received his second yellow in injury-time, Hammond had been lucky not to receive another booking minutes earlier. Flynn was flung late on for Done and his jinxed run through the middle forced a save out of the keeper and as United looked to waste valuable seconds in Cities half, the referee blew the final whistle.
Sheffield United: Long, Brayford, Basham, Coutts, Done (Flynn 84), Collins, Woolford (Scougall 54), Sammon (Sharp 65), McEveley, Edgar, Hammond. Unused: Howard, Reed, K Wallace, McGahey.
Coventry City: Charles-Cook, Stokes, Vincelot (Antoine-Fortune 81), Fleck, Lameiras (Kent 70), Armstrong, O'Brien (Cole 60), Turner, Ricketts, Martin, Murphy. Unused: Burge, Tudgay, Haynes, Kelly-Evans.