On Sunday 26th February I was at Hillsborough for the Steel City derby between Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United.
Having seen a classic match at Bramall Lane earlier in the season between the two Sheffield clubs which ended 2-2, the opportunity to see the return fixture at Hillsborough was too good to turn down.
We arrived just over an hour before kick off and walked all around the stadium soaking up the derby day atmosphere as well as taking plenty of photographs. At one point, I spotted Oldham Athletic manager Paul Dickov who was more than happy to pose for a photograph with me. The buzz of anticipation outside the ground was brilliant with both sets of supporters proudly wearing their colours and singing loudly before they had even gone through the turnstiles.
After some time I took my seat in the South Stand. I have visited Hillsborough on 3 previous occasions, all of which were with Chesterfield and so this was the first time that I had sat with the Sheffield Wednesday supporters.
The atmosphere inside the ground was electric with a sell out crowd of 36,364 watching the action, 4,700 of who were supporting the Blades. Both sets of fans were in good voice as the game got underway but the early exchanges were rather scrappy with neither side grasping control of the game.
The first chance fell to Chris O’Grady whose header flew over the crossbar and in to the Kop. United then came just inches away from opening the scoring when Lee Williamson’s free kick hit the underside of the bar and bounced down on to the line before Owls goalkeeper Stephen Bywater smothered the ball and the scores remained level.
The first half was fairly even and rather scrappy in parts. Wednesday’s new loan signing Michail Antonio fired the ball across the United box but Ryan Lowe just couldn’t reach it to convert the chance, while a half-hearted effort from 30 yards out by Ched Evans flew well wide of the post. The first 45 minutes were goalless and it was all to play for in the second period.
At half time, 1966 World Cup winner and former Wednesday manager Jack Charlton came out on the pitch to do some presentations which meant I have seen both the Charlton brothers in real life now this year! Jack had been at Hillsborough the previous evening for a dinner with several of the team from the Owls famous “Boxing Day Massacre” squad of 1979.
The Owls came out in the second half playing slightly better and looked the more likely to open the scoring. However, there were no real clear cut chances it was still goalless as the hour mark approached. As a result, Gary Megson replaced Ryan Lowe with the clubs top scorer Gary Madine in the hope of having more success in front of goal.
On the 73rd minute pressure paid off when Lewis Buxton broke down the wing and his cross met the head of O’Grady whose header beat Steve Simonsen and flew in to the net to put the home side ahead in the Steel City derby.
The Blades were forced to go looking for a goal now and began to pile pressure on the Wednesday defenders who coped well with everything that was thrown at them. Danny Wilson brought on James Beattie as a final role of the dice and United nearly did snatch a late point when Will Hoskins’ header was tipped over the bar by Bywater. However, the Owls managed to hold on and earned not only the bragging rights but a big 3 points that moves them up to 3rd in the League 1 table and within 2 points of the Blades. The win was also Wednesday’s first in the derby since February 2009 and it will certainly be a day to remember for the supporters of the Owls.
After the game I met and had a picture with the legendary Sheffield Wednesday supporter Paul “Tango” Gregory in the club shop. I also had pictures with Wednesday players John Bostock, Richard O’Donnell, Clinton Morrison, Nicky Weaver, Ryan Lowe, Stephen Bywater, Gary Madine and Lewis Buxton as well as United players Steve Simonsen, Johnny Ertl, Andy Taylor, Marcus Williams, Lescinel Jean-Francois, Harry Maguire, Michael Doyle, Ched Evans, Stephen Quinn, Nick Montgomery, Lee Williamson and James Beattie before heading home.
Being born and bred in Sheffield myself, I found it interesting to see the tie from both perspectives across the two games this season at Bramall Lane and Hillsborough. Overall, I had another great day watching the Sheffield derby and it is always a great game to attend for any football fan.
Sheffield Wednesday 1-0 Sheffield United
Bywater, Buxton, Batth, R Jones, Semedo, R Johnson, Prutton (M Jones ’63), Lines, Antonio (Llera ’90), O’Grady, Lowe (Madine ’59)
Simon, Lowton, Jean-Francois, Collins, Maguire, Montgomerry (Flynn ’79), Doyle, Williamson, Quinn (Beattie ’86), Evans, Cresswell (Hoskins ’84)
Heading to Hillsborough for the Steel City derby
Sheffield United Academy sign near Hillsborough
Wednesday fans make their way to the ground
Terraced houses surround the stadium
Fans queue at a burger van outside the ground
It's derby day
I buy the matchday programme
The Owls Megastore
Outside Hillsborough ahead of my 4th match at the stadium
Fans make their way through the turnstiles and in to the ground
Home fans head through the turnstiles
Owls fans outside Hillsborough
Outside the main reception at Hillsborough
with Oldham Athletic manager Paul Dickov
Owls supporters head to the South Stand
Wednesday supporter Matt and his daughter Sophie
Next match at Hillsborough sign on the Leppings Lane End
The away end
A Blades supporter outside Hillsborough
A van parked outside the ground!
The Leppings Lane End
The North Stand
Inside Hillsborough, sat with home supporters for the first time
The United players walk to the dressing rooms after a pre-match warm up
Looking towards the Kop from the South Stand
United and Wednesday Academy's on the pitch prior to kick off
Reading about Chesterfield's victory over Wednesday last week!
United supporters on the away end
Blades await the kick off
Counting down the minutes until 1 o'clock
Welcome to Hillsborough
Two of the best nicknames in the football league!
The mascots and the cameras await the players
A cuddly toy pig dressed in the Sheffield United strip sits on top of the Owls flag!
The Sheffield Wednesday flag travels up the Kop
A United supporter shows off his own flag
The two sets off players make their way on to the pitch
The teams line up
The opposition players shake hands
Nick Montgomery applauds the away supporters while some Dutch Owls unveil their flag
A final warm up before the game
The Blades are ready for kick off
The home side make final preparations
The two captains and the referee
Both sets of supporters await the kick off
Sheffield Wednesday get the derby underway
Our view of the action
Tango and his fellow Wednesday supporters watch the early stages
A cameraman films from the empty corner
United attack early on
The United players are put under pressure
Gary Megson and Danny Wilson on the touchline
Sheffield United manager Danny Wilson, who was previously in charge of Wednesday, watches the game
Gary Megson shouts orders to his players
A header for Wednesday flies over the crossbar
Ryan Lowe has a word with the referee after being awarded a free kick
Stephen Quinn is fouled
The referee pulls the wall back
The ball hits the underside of the bar and falls to the goalkeeper
Quinn beats the Wednesday defender
United and Wednesday players argue
Players from both sides warm up
Stephen Bywater takes a goal kick
Wednesday fans watching the action
Lescinel Jean-Francois takes a throw in
Another first half attack comes to nothing
Megson and Wilson become frustrated at their sides lack of chances
Owls players stand over another free kick
A simple save for Simonsen
The referee keeps an eye on Chris O'Grady
Almost half time and neither side have found the net
Wednesday fans watch the match intentley
Blades fans aim their chants towards Gary Megson
Megson sends a message to the away fans in reply
The Wednesday players have a drink during a break in play
Stephen Quinn on the ball
New Wednesday signing Michail Antonio stands next to Richard Cresswell
Former Premiership referee Uriah Rennie at half time
Jack Charlton presents an award
Jack smiles for the cameras
My Dad and his friend Ben have a photo with Barney the Owl!
United get the second half underway
Wednesday players warming up
The club photographer looks on as United try to attack
Gary Madine replaces Ryan Lowe
The Owls push forward
Chris O'Grady's header puts the home side ahead in the derby
The players celebrate with their manager
Chris O'Grady is the goalscorer
Wednesday lead with 17 minutes to go
Owls fans in the Kop celebrate taking the lead
Danny Wilson attempts to change things around
Megson looks to hold on to the 1-0 lead
Only seconds left and the Owls still lead
The final whistle blows and Sheffield Wednesday have won
Wednesday and United players shake hands at full time
The players applaud their fans
Gary Megson celebrates his first Steel City derby win
Disappointed United supporters head home
Tango enjoys his teams victory
The fans eventually disperse after watching their side win 1-0
Two Wednesday fans from Malta savour the moment
The supporters set off home
with Tango after the match!
Marcus Williams and Lescinel Jean-Francois
Doncaster Rovers player Kyle Bennett who was in attendance today
A final photo of Hillsborough
The United team coach heads back to Bramall Lane