Striker netted twice with goals from John Fleck and Mark Duffy secured the valuable three points for the Blades
SHEFFIELD UNITED gave their boss Chris Wilder the perfect 50th birthday present as they emphatically dismissed rivals Sheffield Wednesday 4-2 at Hillsborough.
Wilder, a lifelong Blade, reached his notable landmark on Saturday and it is a weekend he will remember forever as United won the first Steel City derby since 2012 in style.
They were 2-0 up inside 15 minutes through John Fleck and Leon Clarke before Wednesday rallied to level thanks to Gary Hooper and Lucas Joao.
But the Blades were not going to be denied a deserved three points and Mark Duffy’s fine effort and Clarke’s second – against his former club – gave the red half of Sheffield a first win at Hillsborough since 2006.
When Wilder was blowing the candles out on his cake on Saturday night he could not have even wished for a start as good as his side enjoyed.
With the clock barely past the three-minute mark, Fleck wrote himself into Blades folklore with a brilliant piece of quality, as he curled a 25-yard free-kick into the corner to give United the lead.
Things got even better for the visitors 11 minutes later as Clarke silenced three sides of Hillsborough by beating the offside trap from Enda Stevens’ long ball and coolly slotting home.
Wednesday were complete no-shows in the first half and United could have been further in front but Clarke could not connect properly with his 16-yard shot and then Chris Basham fired just over.
Just as the Owls were facing a half-time rollicking from boss Carlos Carvalhal, they changed the complexion of the game as some late pressure resulted in Hooper turning in Ross Wallace’s cross in first-half injury time, though it was barely deserved.
United had to weather a hefty Wednesday storm shortly after the restart, but once they did that they carved a brilliant chance to restore their two-goal advantage.
The industrious David Brooks skinned Jack Hunt and fed Clarke at the far post but this time the striker fluffed his lines and shot high and wide.
That looked like proving costly as just moments later, midway through the second half, Wednesday drew level.
Barry Bannan opened up United down the left, feeding Adam Reach, who played in Joao to slam home from 10 yards out.
Hillsborough was bouncing but the home joy was short-lived as less than two minutes later, United dramatically regained the lead.
Substitute Duffy wriggled free in the Wednesday box and silenced the home crowd with a fine finish into the far corner which beat Wednesday goalkeeper Keiren Westwood at his near post.
Then 10 minutes later Clarke wrapped up the points in a red and white bow for Wilder when he took advantage of some slack defending to lift the ball over Westwood.
The jubilant United fans serenaded their manager with a rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ and this would undoubtedly have been his best present.