Sheffield United: James Shield analyses today’s derby against Hull City

Sheffield United faced Hull City this afternoon
Sheffield United faced Hull City this afternoon

Sheffield United are on top of the Championship after beating Hull City earlier this afternoon.

The Star's James Shield identifies the key themes to emerge from a game settled by David McGoldrick's second-half penalty.

Key Moment: David McGoldrick was a model of composure when he prepared to take the penalty which, as it turned out, sent United to the top of the Championship. But arguably the pivotal moment of the game came a few minutes earlier when Dean Henderson make two fine reaction saves to thwart City's captain Markus Henriksen. The United goalkeeper also produced a fine stop to deny substitute Nouha Dicko at the near post immediately after the restart. On the balance of play, it seems strange to highlight two blocks from United's goalkeeper. But they were vitally important, especially given City's approach to the fixture. 

Key Man: Once again, McGoldrick will grab the headlines. But this was an afternoon were persistence rather than panache ultimately won the match. Chris Basham ensured United stayed focused and, for the most part, on the front foot with a series of driving runs from deep. The defender, who was presented with a trophy to mark his 200th start for the club before kick-off, personifies what Chris Wilder's squad is all about; hard work married with ability and total commitment. Henderson, however, was awarded the honours after making two key saves from Henriksen before McGoldrick converted from the spot. Henderson had very little to do but performed when it mattered.

How the Game was Won: City dragged men back behind the ball during the first-half but, in a deliberate attempt to condense the play, refused to drop deep. It was a signal they felt United's attack lacked the pace to exploit a ball over the top but also provided Wilder's side with plenty of opportunities to press forward. If City had taken the lead - and they very nearly did when Henderson was called into action - it could have been an even tougher afternoon. But United's key to success was their refusal to panic or ignore their game plan when the visitors tried to drag them into the trenches and suck the life out of the game. They got their rewards, and first place, in the end.

Referee Watch: Match officials come in for plenty of criticism, some warranted and some not, but Peter Bankes was excellent at Bramall Lane. Spotted Eric Lichaj's foul on Jack O'Connell as they contested an aerial ball in Hull City's penalty area and then, at the other end, refused to penalise John Fleck for a shoulder to shoulder challenge on a Hull City player. Bankes allowed the game to flow and always played the advantage whenever the opportunity presented itself.

Summary: This is the type of game where United would have dropped points last season. But they look a much more mature proposition this time around. In both a tactical and psychological sense. City offered little going forward, apart from a decent spell midway through the second-half, preferring to focus on keeping their defensive shape instead. They succeeded, to a point, but were eventually undone by the better team. Wilder's side also reached the top of the table 12 months ago before eventually going on to finish 10th. There are no guarantees but they look better equipped to sustain a serious challenge this time around.