Sheffield United v Doncaster Rovers: A South Yorkshire derby clash that almost had it all

Steve Davies and  Jamie McCombe challenge for the ball in a Bramall Lane thriller
Steve Davies and Jamie McCombe challenge for the ball in a Bramall Lane thriller

Two South Yorkshire derbies, four world-class goals but, unfortunately for Doncaster Rovers, one result; a Sheffield United victory.

This game at Bramall Lane had everything; plenty of thrills, as Rovers’ Kyle Bennett netted with two stunning strikes. Spills, too; both sides refused to give an inch as James Coppinger and Paul Coutts, in particular, exchanging some meaty challenges in midfield.

Indeed, for the neutral at least, the only tragedy was that Bennett’s stunning brace of strikes, which momentarily hushed the home crowd and sent 1,439 Rovers fans into raptures, ultimately counted for nothing.

United, who tasted victory in the corresponding fixture at the Keepmoat when Jamie Murphy smashed home a wonderstrike from distance, began nervously and Mark Howard was forced to repel Curtis Main’s header at full stretch after a good cross from Bennett.

But Howard was powerless to stop Bennett’s next intervention as he curled Rovers in front on the angle. ‘We are staying up’, sang the jubilant Rovers fans.

They were a little quieter when Matt Done went down, fairly, under the clumsy challenge of Jamie McCombe five minutes later. Done, chasing the ball away from Stephen Bywater’s goal, needed no second invitation to go down and Jose Baxter netted emphatically from the spot to level.

The first half ended with a flurry of industrial challenges and Richie Wellens was booked for one of a few late, meaty tackles. United, for the first time in weeks, left the field to rumbles of applause from their supporters and began the second half on the front foot again. The home crowd returned to its vociferous best soon after when Bywater - who hardly endeared himself to the Lane faithful by playing for Wednesday - appeared to handle outside the area, under little pressure.

The assistant referee refused to budge; so did United goalkeeper Mark Howard soon after, as Coppinger’s scuffed effort lurched towards his crossbar and bounced back off it. Coppinger had earlier seen a first-time curling effort land agonisingly on the roof of Howard’s goal - many of the travelling a Rovers thought it was in - and Andy Butler, who left United in acrimonious circumstances earlier this term, somehow contrived to miss an easy chance to gain revenge when he misjudged an effort at the far post.

Done then edged United ahead with a real poacher’s goal from Davies’ curling centre but back came Rovers and if Bennett’s earlier effort was a goal of the season contender, then his second was an absolute certainty as he smashed home past Howard from all of 30 yards.

Steven Davies, on loan from relegated Blackpool, scored his first goal in United colours at the weekend in the win over Barnsley and he continued his good run of derby form with another decisive strike. The big hitman recently said he was looking forward to scoring in front of the Kop - and what a memorable effort it was as he curled home on his left foot, leaving Bywater with no chance.

Rovers continued to press forward in search of an equaliser and Butler, somehow in acres of space at the back post, couldn’t direct home. Howard then had to be alert to hold onto Reece Wabara’s effort from range as United held on to claim a most welcome of three points.

If all local derby days are this good; roll on Chesterfield.