Last Time We Met...Sheffield United
Who can forget the last time we played Sheffield United? You only have to mention Wembley and our promotion season. As far as the Blades were concerned they must have been sick & tired of playing us in 2008-9. The Wembley victory in the play-offs final aside we also got the double over them in the Championship even getting a rare victory at Bramall Lane, until then a terrible taboo ground with our last victory there in the 70s!
Clarets fans had been going to Bramall Lane since the 25th August 1973 hoping to come away with three points but failing miserably. That fateful day back in 1973 saw the Clarets come away with a 2-0 victory and it was the opening match of the1973-74 season in the old first division with the Clarets having been promoted as Champions the previous season. Doug Collins got the opener after 22 minutes and Martin Dobson made it 2-0 with three minutes of the first half remaining. The match though was soured after Michael Docherty had to be stretchered off but little did we realise it would take another 36 years before we tasted victory at Bramall Lane again. In the return game at Turf Moor on the 19th January 1974, the Blades would get revenge. An equalising goal by Ray Hankin on 52 minutes would cancel out United`s 3rd minute opener but it would not be enough and we would eventually lose 2-1 thanks to their winning goal after 73 minutes. We would finish the season in a commendable sixth place with the Blades in mid-table (13th).
So what happened at Bramall Lane 36 years later then? The match was played on Saturday 6th December 2008 and in an amazing, exciting game for the neutral the Clarets would come out eventual winners 3-2. The omens were not good for the Clarets before this match. Owen Coyle had a defensive nightmare to sort out. Michael Duff had injured himself in the pre-match warm up. With no Clarke Carlisle available thanks to a one match suspension following his fifth yellow card and with Kalvenes still injured, this caused major headaches for Owen Coyle in the back four.
Chris McCann had also picked up an illness and had not travelled across the Pennines with the lads, so he was not available as a makeshift central defender and would miss his first game of the season.
Coyle decided to play Wade Elliott at right back, move Jordan into the central defence with Caldwell and give Alexander the unfamiliar role of left back. Thompson who would have been on the bench suddenly found himself in the starting eleven partnering Paterson upfront as the Clarets adopted a true 4-4-2 with a strike pair as targets rather than Blake playing behind a lone striker. Because the Duff injury happened before the start of the game, we were allowed to name another substitute and that place was taken by Van der Schaaf. This was the first time since October and the Reading game at Turf Moor that he was named in the sixteen. He had suffered in recent times with an illness but at least seems to have now fully recovered from the virus.
Young Alex MacDonald was also named on the bench for his first League match of the season and his namesake Kevin also made the starting eleven after shaking off a minor knock picked up in the midweek Arsenal game.
We therefore lined up as follows:
Jensen, Elliott, Jordan, Caldwell, Alexander, Gudjonsson, McDonald, Blake, Eagles, Paterson, Thompson
Subs: Penny, Van der Schaaf, Mahon, Akinbiyi, MacDonald
The opening goal by Paterson after 19 minutes was wiped out by a Blades penalty nine minutes before the end of the first half. However it was the Clarets who would go in at the break in the lead after another penalty, this time at the other end was slotted home by Alexander after 42 minutes of play.
A superb solo effort by Eagles after 79 minutes put the Clarets 3-1 up before the Blades got a goal back with just three minutes remaining. The Clarets held on though for a well-earned and long-awaited victory on this ground.
The return match at Turf Moor took place on the night of Monday 20th April and what a nerve- wrecking tense game this would be for both Clarets and Blades fans. It was a vital six-pointer with both sides pushing for a top six finish and thankfully it would be the Clarets would come away victorious narrowly beating the Blades 1-0. In fact Sheffield United at the time stood a realistic chance of automatic promotion before this match so a Clarets victory further puts things into perspective! Sheffield United had not lost away since October having set up a club record of 15 consecutive away games without a loss and even worse the Blades had not conceded a goal in 4 of their last 5 games. They were indeed pressing for an automatic promotion spot being only 4 points behind second place Birmingham with a game in hand until this match at Turf Moor. As far as the Clarets were concerned, Swansea and Preston had somehow reduced our seven point cushion to a mere one point and with Burnley sitting in 6th place, the last play-offs spot was still up for grabs with the Swans now breathing down our neck in 7th with local rivals Preston in 8th place.
You could see therefore how tense this match promised to be and so it proved.
The Clarets lined up as follows:
Jensen, Williams, Caldwell, Carlisle, Kalvenes, Alexander, Eagles, McCann, Elliott, Blake, Paterson
Subs: Penny, Duff, Gudjonsson, McDonald, Rodriguez.
The Clarets were the first to impress in front of the cameras after just three minutes of play when Elliott weaved through the Blades defence to shoot left-footed on target only to see the ball hit the crossbar.
Sheffield United responded a minute later and Jensen had to tip the ball over the bar. The Beast then turned a free kick from Greg Halford round the post on 14 minutes in a short spell of pressure from the Blades.
On 23 minutes though, it was the Clarets who got that vitally important breakthrough after Rhys Williams put over a sweet cross to find Paterson who got in a perfect header to beat Kenny.
We held on to our lead at half-time and the tenseness continued into the second half. Clarets fans were now getting more and more nervy as the Blades seemed to be getting more and more possession towards the end of this clash although to be honest the attacks seemed to be more 'hoof and hope` long balls into the penalty area ably covered by the back four, most notably Carlisle.
It was a relief though to hear the final whistle and at long last Clarets fans could relax, happy in the knowledge they were now well on their way to a play-offs spot.
Sheffield United though would not succeed in their attempt to get automatic promotion and they would eventually finish in 3rd spot, 4 points ahead of 5th placed Burnley. What followed next of course is engrained on every Clarets fans hearts. Sheffield United first did us the honour of beating 6th placed local rivals, Preston North End in the play-offs semi whilst we disposed of 4th placed Reading setting up a Wars of the Roses Play-Offs final at Wembley to be played on Monday 25th May 2009.
I am now going to take the easy way out and simply put up a link to our Match Report of that fantastic day at Wembley. We can all relive the game in full based on that report but I think we all know what happened thanks to our 1-0 victory with Wade Elliott`s stunning goal being enough to promote the Clarets back to the top flight for the first time in 33 years! Just such a shame, we could only spend one season up there.
Here is our Wembley Match report from the archive:
We Are Premier League, Burnley Are Premier League!
You can also read more about the other games we played against the Blades that season by clicking these links:
No Longer Damn All at Bramall
Super Clarets Blunt Blades in Crucial Win