Match Report: Sheffield United 4, AFC Wimbledon 0
James Hanson marked his first appearance in Sheffield United colours with a goal as Chris Wilder's side returned to the top of League One.
Billy Sharp, who turns 31 tomorrow, opened the scoring from close range before his fellow striker pounced during the closing stages of the first-half.
Although Hanson later put United firmly in the driving seat, a flurry of close shaves, near misses and spurned opportunities meant it was not until the 80th minute that they made the game safe.
John Fleck, who had been instrumental in the move which saw Sharp claim his 19th of the season, is better known for his passing than finishing. But a delightful piece of footwork saw him carve apart AFC Wimbledon's rearguard before sweeping the ball home before Caolan Lavery completed the rout.
Wilder, despite spending much of the afternoon prowling around his technical area, will have been delighted by his team's focus as theyh ended a run of three matches without a win.
Possibly the only down point of an otherwise profitable afternoon was an injury to Ethan Ebanks-Landell which could potentially rule him out of next weekend's visit to Peterboirough.
Hanson made his presence felt as early as the second minute when his header set in motion the chain of events which led to Sharp's strike. The former Bradford City centre-forward won a header just outside the opposition's penalty area, Kieron Freeman was fouled and, when James Shea failed to gather Fleck's shot, United's leading goalscorer this season prodded home.
It was an instinctive finish from a player whose goals have done so much for propelling his boyhood club into promotion contention and, given that he turns 31 tomorrow, an early birthday present too.
Wimbledon looked dangerous on the break, with Tom Elliott in particular proving a handful. But Hanson was a constant menance and, just before the interval, marked his debut with a well-taken effort. Fleck twisted the knife in some style and, in added time, Lavery also got in on the act.
United, who recalled Jake Wright and named Jay O'Shea and Samir Carruthers on the bench, made the perfect start when Sharp turned home in the 3rd minute. But, if they thought AFC Wimbledon would crumble, they were sorely mistaken. Although Wilder's men controlled long periods of the first-half and most of the second, Ardley's players demonstrated the character which had prompted a handsome tribute from his counterpart earlier in the week.
Mark Duffy did well to create the space to test Shea's handling following a teasing run but, instead of placing the ball in the far corner, deposited it in the goalkeeper's hands instead.
Sharp went close again at the near post before Hanson opened his account. Having earlier seen a header land on the roof of the net, the 29-year-old found the back of it when Freeman whipped a low 38th minute cross into the box.
Wimbledon seized the momentum during the opening exchanges of the second-half before United wrestled it back. Sharp will have been disappointed not to score when, after Paul Coutts had found Daniel Lafferty, he met the Irishman's centre on the edge of the six yard area bit turned wide.
Moments later, in the 54th minute, he was sent scampering clean through by Duffy but failed to lob the advancing Shea. Duffy picked up the gauntlet, fizzing a low drive just past the foot of the post following a short set-piece before seeing Shea palm a curling shot away to safety. With 10 minutes remaining, though, Fleck put the result beyind doubt when he danced through Wimbledon's defence before beating Shea. Lavery converted deep into stoppage time as United continued to press.
Blades: Moore, Fleck,O'Connell, Sharp (Lavery 77), Wright, Coutts, Hanson, Freeman, Ebanks-Landell (Basham 46), Duffy (Carruthers 84), Lafferty. Not used: Long, Done, Riley, O'Shea.
AFC Wimbledon: Shea, Fuller, Bulman (Francomb 63), Robinson, Reeves, Elliott, Soares, Barcham (Poleon 63), Kelly, Charles, Taylor. Not used: Barnett, McDonnell, Egan, Owens, Robertson.
Referee: David Webb (Lancashire). Attendance: 20,549.