Sheffield United moved up to second in the Championship following a comfortable win against 10-man Wolves.
Separated by just two points before kick-off, United leapfrogged promotion rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers to enter the top two of the EFL Championship with 21 points. Wolves remain in 4th.
Leon Clarke put the Blades in front against his former club after Connor Coady was sent off for a professional foul. Portuguese midfielder Ruben Neves missed a penalty just after half-time, costing the visitors dearly when Clarke headed in United’s second.
In an initially well-contested affair, the early dismissal of Coady effectively ended the contest as a spectacle. The red card followed great work from George Baldock down the right, whose through ball put Clarke in on goal, only to be cynically brought down by the Wolves man. Neither Coady nor Wolves manager Nuno Espírito Santo had too many complaints.
The resulting free-kick was parried by Wolves goalkeeper John Ruddy with the rebound scooped narrowly over the bar by Paul Coutts.
Wolves’ chief attacking threat Helder Costa was sacrificed shortly after the red card incident, replaced by midfielder Romain Saiss, reverting from a 3-4-3 to a more robust 4-4-1.
Following a period of resolute defending from Wolves, United finally made their numerical advantage count six minutes from half-time. Enda Stevens’ low cross was turned in by Clarke six yards out, continuing his goalscoring form after his brace against rivals Sheffield Wednesday in last Sunday’s 4-2 derby victory.
While United boss Chris Wilder would have been desperate to see his team press home the advantage after the restart, it was the away side who began the brighter. Half-time substitute Bright Enobakhare’s physicality started causing the United defenders problems, and five minutes later Wolves were awarded a penalty.
Cameron Carter-Vickers was penalised for fouling Jota from behind, despite appearing to make only minimal contact.
£15m record signing Ruben Neves stepped up for the away side, only to see his spot kick cannon off the outside of the right-hand post.
Wolves were made to pay for that missed chance in the 59th minute. Clarke made it four goals in two, leaping brilliantly to plant a stooping header into the far corner of Ruddy’s goal from a Mark Duffy free kick.
As the clock ticked for the visitors, their frustrations became increasingly apparent, epitomised by a wild 30-yard slash from Alfred N’Diaye which ended up in the second tier of Bramall Lane.
Duffy had the chance to put the result beyond doubt late on, diverting George Baldock’s low cross narrowly wide from close range.
Despite Ivan Cavaleiro finally forcing home keeper Jamal Blackman into a routine save in stoppage time, Wolves never truly looked like getting back into the game late on.
The Blades travel to Nottingham Forest for their next league fixture on Saturday, while Wolves will be entertained by Burton Albion.
Sheffield United Manager Chris Wilder: “The talk from everybody was what would the reaction be after obviously winning a local derby. But I thought yet again they got themselves up for it.
“This is a great result for us on the back of what happened on Sunday and I am delighted for everybody.’’
Wolves Manager Nuno Espírito Santo: “it was a tough game, we knew we were going to find a tough team. But everything changed [after] 75 minutes.
“It was a clear red card, it’s clear, it’s fair, it’s the law and last man holding is a red card.’’
Sheffield United Goalscorer Leon Clarke: “It’s nice to score goals whoever it’s against. If it helps the team get three points that’s the most important thing.’’
Man of the Match: Leon Clarke