The rain was pouring down on Bramall Lane as the Blades cruised to a 2 – 0 victory over local rivals Rotherham United in the South Yorkshire Derby.
Already in the second minute, Norwood had a dangerous free kick which tested Rotherham keeper Rodak, as the Slovakian failed to hold on to the ball and let it loose in the six-yard box, but no Blades player managed to capitalise on the keeper’s mistake.
However, it didn’t matter too much, as just three minutes later, Norwood whipped in a low corner which O’Connell calmly slotted into the left-hand side of Rotherham’s net, something clearly straight out of the training ground.
In the following minutes, neither side had many chances until McGoldrick in the 20th minute found himself through on goal and tried to put the ball to the keeper’s right, but just missed the target.
Afterwards, Rotherham upped their intensity and had a few chances from set pieces as well as a few shots, but none of which truly tested the Blades defense.
Rotherham suffered another setback when in the 28th minute, captain Will Vaulks saw a straight red card after a rough tackle on Baldock.
With one man up, Sheffield United put on the pressure for the rest of the first half and had several chances to up their lead. Fleck had a shot outside the penalty box that forced keeper Rodak to make a fine save, Hogan had goal disallowed as the ball was judged to have been out of play previously, and Norwood had a strong hit that again forced Rodak to make an acrobatic save.
At the start of the second half, Sheffield United continued where they left off and kept pressuring the Rotherham defense, however, there were still no clear cut chances from either team, despite much of the game being played in the Miller’s half.
There were plenty of occasions where it looked like the Blades would finally double their lead. In the 60th minute, Basham pushed through on the right hand side of Rotherham’s penalty box and delivered a low cross, only for none of the four Blades player in the box to get a touch on it.
Straight afterwards, in the 62nd minute, McGoldrick was again through on goal, only for Rodak to come off his line and make a save. However, the ball was still loose in the penalty area and found Duffy who again had Rodak in front of him. Duffy looked for an angle to shoot from but instead chose to pass it back to McGoldrick, who was now facing an open net with only a few Rotherham defenders in front of him. However, he couldn’t finish off the attack, and tried to chip the ball in, only for it to go over the bar.
Wilder made his first substitution of the game moments afterwards, taking off Basham and putting on Madine in the 65th minute, in an effort to fully exploit their one-man advantage.
This move seemed to do the job, as in the 72nd minute, Duffy made a well-delivered cross that found Stevens head, but Rodak again had to make an acrobatic save
The Blades finally doubled their lead when in the 74th minute Duffy received the ball outside Rotherham’s penalty area after a corner and with a precise finish put it into the top right hand side of Rodak’s net.
It went from bad to worse for Rotherham, as centre-back Robertson went down seemingly with a hamstring injury with five minutes left to play. He continued to play on but hardly made any movements for the remaining few minutes of the game.
The home team then slowed down their tempo and seemed to be happy with retaining their scoreline.
It was a solid, comfortable win for the Blades, but it was an afternoon to forget for the Miller’s as they had to play for almost an hour with just ten men and created little that truly tested the Sheffield defense.
Sheffield United: Henderson; Basham (Madine, 65’), Egan, O’Connell; Baldock, Norwood, Duffy, Fleck, Stevens; Hogan, McGoldrick (Cranie, 84’). Subs not used: Moore (GK), Dowell, Sharp, Coutts, Stearman
Rotherham United: Rodak; Mattock, Robertson, Ihiekwe, Jones (Crooks, 82’); Ajayi; Newell (Williams, 69’), Wiles, Vaulks, Taylor (Forde, 69’); Smith. Subs not used: Price (GK), Wood, Towell, Yates
Referee: Geoff Eltringham
Bookings: Sheffield United: None
Rotherham United: Will Vaulks (28’ red card)
Scorers: Sheffield United: Jack O’Connell (1 – 0), Mark Duffy (2 – 0)
Rotherham United: None
HT: 1 – 0
FT: 2 – 0
Man of the Match: Mark Duffy (Sheffield United)