United recorded their fourth successive win and their second victory of the season over Barnsley courtesy of Billy Sharp’s fifth goal of the season – his third in as many games. Sharp’s brilliant finish midway through the first half ultimately settled a game that the visitors deserved to win, although terrible conditions meant the South Yorkshire derby was hardly a classic spectacle.
Although the first half undoubtedly belonged to Barnsley, after the interval the FA Cup semi-finalists were limited to optimistic penalty shouts. Their manager, Simon Davey said: “We had a good penalty shout in the first half and two more in the second”.
Sharp: 3 in 3 in United’s revival
One home side effort was cleared off the line and time after time, attacks down the Barnsley right-hand side were repelled by the excellent Gary Naysmith. His namesake, Gary Speed, has an excellent opening to break the deadlock when he found himself one-on-one with ‘keeper Luke Steele, but he struck a powerful shot against the inside of Steele’s right-hand post and watched the ball trickle perilously across the goal-line and to safety.
Speed’s blushes were saved when Sharp continued his rich vein of form with another strike to his late-developing goal tally. Again one-on-one with Steele on the angle, Sharp waited for the perfect moment to squeeze his shot past the advancing goalkeeper and into the bottom right hand corner in front of the delerious 5,000 Blades fans who had made the short journey to Oakwell. Sharp had another great chance to score his second but curled the ball agonisingly wide after the former Scunthorpe marksman had turned provider for his substitute strike partner James Beattie. Sharp picked up the ball in a similar position to his goal but instead delivered a beautiful curling ball across Steele’s area which was met by Beattie, but the on-loan goalkeeper somehow managed to recover and block Beattie’s effort from 3 yards out.
Kevin Blackwell’s call for United to discover their identity seemed to have been heeded by both his charges and the supportes following them. Although the football wasn’t as free-flowing as the snow was at times, the Blades’ chief believes the fans will have recognised the effort put in by their team. Blackwell said: “You could tell what it meant to our supporters to see us tackle the game in the way that we did. It is a terrific sight looking behind the goal and seeing a huge block of Blades fans singing their hearts for us.”
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