Nothing could separate Wednesday and United in the Sheffield derby at Hillsborough.
Ex-Owls striker Gary Madine came closest for the visitors while Sam Hutchinson watched on as Dean Henderson saved from point-blank range.
The draw means the Blades failed to reclaim their place in the automatic play-off places while Wednesday remain unbeaten under their new manager.
This fixture needs no introducing nor building up with its place in the hearts of both camps deep-rooted in history and pride.
But this one felt even more special in its build-up. With Wednesday’s revival under Steve Bruce giving the Owls hope of a potential play-off place should they put together a run of results, and the Blades keeping pace with Norwich and Leeds while playing free-flowing, attacking football, there was a lot hinging on this.
Perhaps playing on the backs of both sides was the corresponding fixture last year when the Blades, fresh off the back of promotion from League One, stunned Hillsborough in a six goal thriller. Form and history, as is the case in derbies across the world, does, however, tend to be drop-kicked out of the window. This one just wasn’t the classic we’d all been hoping for.
Wednesday’s only disruption heading into this derby was Achraf Lazaar’s injury – keeping him out of action for four to six weeks – meaning Bruce’s arm was twisted into making a change with Dominic Iorfa coming in.
Chris Wilder’s had an injury crisis of his own lately and had to depart from his tried and tested system on a couple of occasions to manage. He was boosted by the return of defenders Jack O’Connell and Chris Basham while opting to pair ex-Wednesday striker Madine with Billy Sharp to add an extra spice to the match.
And it was the striker who almost nodded the Blades in front before the 10-minute mark. Ollie Norwood’s teasing cross from the right was met by the head of Madine only for Westwood to react quickly and smother the close-range effort.
United were unfortunate not to be awarded a spot-kick after quarter of an hour when Madine was hauled to the floor by Michael Hector. One of those ‘seen them given’ incidents and, with VAR, it almost certainly would’ve been.
After that, in truth, not a lot happened in the first-half. A couple of free-kicks from Norwood and Barry Bannan could’ve threatened but didn’t, and both sides were guilty of going for the longball far too often.
The re-start had appeared to rejuvenate both sides and Norwood’s cross-cum-shot flew into Sharp at some speed, but the skipper couldn’t sort his feet out quick enough to connect.
The captain – who hasn’t scored in his five previous games against Wednesday – almost pounced on Tom Lees’ tame backwards header but was beaten to the ball by the on-rushing Westwood.
His opposite number then had to be alert to tip Rolando Aarons’ teasing cross over the bar as Wilder brought on Martin Cranie for Kieran Dowell.
The change saw Basham push into midfield to give the Blades a little more assurance in the middle of the park, and Cranie had appeared to impress the boss during United’s mini injury crisis.
Then, on the hour mark, the chance Owls fans had been dreaming of. Aarons dazzled on the wing yet again, putting the ball on a plate for Hutchinson who had broken free from Egan and Stevens. With the ground falling silent, the midfielder struck the ball straight at Henderson who snooped low to deflect the effort away. Pure instinct from the Blades keeper, but a crucial stop nonetheless.
It was the first time since the 1992/93 season that three consecutive Sheffield derbies have finished goalless and, unfortunately in this case, both sides cancelled each other out and just couldn’t find that extra bit within them to win the game.
Hutchinson may be replaying that chance in his head for a few days to come.
Sheffield Wednesday:Westwood; Iorfa (Fox, 79’), Lees (C), Hector, Palmer; Reach, Hutchinson, Bannan, Reach, Forestieri (Boyd, 46’); Aarons, Fletcher (Nuhiu, 89’). Subs not used: Pudil, Pelupessy, Matias, Dawson (GK).
Sheffield United:Henderson; Basham, Egan, O’Connell; Freeman, Norwood, Fleck, Stevens; Dowell (Cranie, 62’); Madine (McGoldrick, 68’), Sharp (C). Subs not used: Hogan, Coutts, Stearman, Duffy, Moore (GK).
Referee: Peter Bankes
Bookings: Sheffield Wednesday:None
Scorers: Sheffield Wednesday:None
Attendance: 31, 630
Man of the Match: Ollie Norwood (Sheffield United)