Kevin Gage's Sheffield United Column: Blades fans roared their team to Boxing Day success over Derby County'¦ andÂ doing so for rest of season could make the difference in push for Premier League
WOW. Just simply... WOW!
I'm sure us Blades fans are still on a huge high after witnessing what surely must rank as the one of all-time classic Bramall Lane games, against Derby County on Boxing Day. And there have been a fair few over these past couple of seasons as well!
Usually, I come away from games enthusing at the quality of our play having thoroughly enjoyed what I've seen. Sometimes it's outstanding, and most of the time it's just very good! Recently our results had dipped a touch.
'ThreeÂ wins in 11' kept getting repeated to me, without a thought as to our actual levels of performance, which in my opinion had been in that '˜very good' category. I was certain results would follow.Â
On Wednesday, against '˜Frank Lampard's Derby' the result certainly did'¦ and some!
After a first half of trading a few blows and feeling each other out, we could see that our opponents were a quality side. I sensed the players felt it too as we certainly weren't at our scintillating best and weÂ gave Derby just a bit too much room and maybe respect.Â
A few chances for both teams came and went, until just before half time when our captain fantastic landed a potentially knockout blow forÂ 1-0 at half-time. Did we deserve to be in front? Probably not, but after our first-half batterings of Leeds & West Brom, it was time the tables were turned a touch.
The bell went for the second half and we sensed that this game was far from finished. Little did we know that we were about to witness a second half that had the same intensity and passion that is stirred up twice a season when we play our S6 neighbours. The game against Derby turned into a kind of derby!
The drama really unfolded when McGoldrick was denied firstly a goal and then what looked like a clear penalty in the space of about three seconds.
The howls of derision from 27,000 Blades hadn't stopped when a minute later Wilson smashed home a stunning free-kick, and then, before the kick-off, it all rather kicked-off!
Boxing Day took on a whole new meaning as Dean Henderson's goal suddenly was full of players pushing, shoving, wrestling, and the odd punch being thrown I'm sure.
Festive cheer all of sudden felt a bit scarce, and even more so as the season of goodwill to all men certainly didn't extend to the technical area as the two managers traded a bit of '˜verbals' which threatened to escalate into some '˜physicals', only stopped by a combination of the fourth official and some coaching staff.Â
I said in my live iFollow commentary that my money would have been on Chris Wilder to come out on top in that particular battle, and as the crowd chanted 'Wilder, knock him out' we got the feeling that if they'd met on Eccy Road or somewhere similar in town, he might well have done!
So football wise, we'd just been dealt a hammer blow, and it felt like a case of 'here we go again' as from a strong position and potentially being 2-0 up, we were back level.
But, and it's a BIG but, something special happened in the space of the few minutes immediately after the Derby goal and the following melee.
Because '˜Beautiful Downtown Bramall Lane' suddenly turned into a stadium far from being a thing of beauty. It turned into noisy, intimidating, cauldron of built up frustration, aggression and dare I say a bit of hate as the tension and disappointment suddenly boiled over, and the remarkable thing was this: It was a far better ground for it! Â
The noise level went through the roof and the crowd reaction seemed to immediately spur the players into life as from that moment on we seemed two yards quicker and played with a higher tempo and more aggression as we pressed, harried, hurried and hunted the Derby players down all over the pitch.Â
All of a sudden there was only one team that were determined that this was to be their day.Â We were a team totally transformed and as an ex-Blades footballer, I can also say with hand on heart that when a crowd is behind you to that extent, you DO raise your game to new levels, especially when your manager is leading from the front as we saw him do! Â
The Blades players probably didn't see the confrontation on the sidelines, but I can 100 per centÂ guarantee that they were well aware of it with those thousands chanting those words. Well done to everyone involved. You played your part on Wednesday, you really did.
Of course we go again tomorrow against Blackburn and I for one can't wait.Â We need the same again. Same result, same performance and the same backing and noise from the stands.Â
After Blackburn, we'll have 10 home games left and eight of those are against teams in the bottom half, including all the current bottom four. Our home form will be an absolute key factor to any potential play-off or even auto-promomotionÂ success, so lets learn from that wonderful experience of our Boxing Day Bramall Lane battle and leave nothing in the tank with regards to getting behind this brilliant team and the superb staff.
Under Chris Wilder, the players will give it their all. Its our duty to do the same.
Kevin Gage ownsÂ The Manor HouseÂ bar/hotel/cafe, High St, Dronfield.Â Â @ManorHouse_S18.Â Follow him on Twitter: @gageykevÂ Â