The Blades took a short trip over the border on a warm and sticky Tuesday night, for a clash with neighbours Chesterfield at the Proact Stadium, which will also host the majority of United’s U23 fixtures next season.
It was the captain who was to take the headlines, bagging a hat trick as the Blades put five past the hosts without reply.
Wilder’s side started the game brightly and spent the opening stages on the front foot, after forcing what ended up being a fruitless corner, new signing Callum Robinson was the first to have a real effort, cutting in from the left and shooting from distance. The ex-Preston man had the keeper stretching with a dive to his right but saw the ball hit the outside of the post and harmlessly behind for a goal kick.
After repelling another couple of corners, Chesterfield had a breakaway with a long ball down field, but Jagielka was on hand to calmly make up ground and snuff out any danger as the striker looked to get an effort on goal.
Lively and looking hungry, Robinson was getting a lot of the ball and after beating his man and moving towards goal perhaps took a little longer than needed getting a shot away, giving a Evans the opportunity to block his effort with a desperate slide.
The Blades continued to win corners and pressure the hosts, but a miscued pass from Lundstram on the edge of his own box was to offer the hosts a sniff at a chance – A confident looking Kean Bryan made a great recovery tackle to save the midfielders blushes.
After a water-break on 25 minutes, Luke Freeman had an effort blocked by a body, before Robinson saw a snap shot beaten away by the Chesterfield keeper.
It was new-boy Freeman who was to provide the assist for the opening goal, putting a pin point ball to the back post where Billy Sharp rose to nod into the back of the net.
Mandeville looked to carve out a chance as he found the ball just inside the Blades penalty area, showing good footwork to try and gain a yard or two of space, the Blades backline swarmed him and cleared the ball as he protested with the referee, his request for a penalty falling on deaf ears.
The Blades continued to look to make chances and Sharp had another go from the back post, this time a great reaction save from the Chesterfield stopper kept it at one. Lundstram was next to have a go, shooting from the edge of the box, but opting for power rather than precision, he smashed his effort wide with the keeper scrambling to get across goal.
The hosts were to have a good chance to level on the stroke of half time, but two saves in the closing stages from young keeper Marcus Dewhurst ensured the Blades went into half time in front. First, he was alert to push away an effort destined to creep inside the post, before clawing away a goal-bound header from the resulting corner.
It wasn’t long into the second half when the Blades doubled their lead. Slater played the ball wide to Keiron Freeman who drilled a low ball across the edge of the six yard box… Callum Robinson turned it goalwards, leaving the keeper with no chance as he opened his Blades account.
Robinson smelt blood and within moments was looking to add to the tally, first the Chesterfield keeper somehow managed to get a touch on his effort to tip it onto the crossbar, before Callum attempted to put the rebound away with a diving header, only for a defender to manage to clear off the line!
After another Robinson effort was saved as the game turned into Attack vs Defence, the skipper managed to bag his second of the game and the Blades third. Luke Freeman the creator as he pushed forward and fed Sharp who dinked over the keeper and a defender’s desperate attempts to stop it on the line.
Chris Wilder took the opportunity to make a couple of substitutions, with George Baldock replacing Keiron Freeman and David McGoldrick coming on for the impressive Callum Robinson.
Before either substitute had settled into the game, Billy Sharp grabbed the headlines and his hat trick with a dominant back post header turning home an Enda Stevens cross.
Fleck, Stearman and Boyes replaced Stevens, Jagielka and Sharp as the hosts tired and looked every bit like they wanted to end their evening as soon as possible. On the touchline John Egan had also prepared himself for a couple of minutes, but never actually made it onto the pitch…
There was just enough time for another goal, with Jalal managing to block Didzy’s effort and simultaneously floor him, unfortunately for the keeper the loose ball dropped to Luke Freeman who finished off the body of one of three defenders looking to cover for the stranded keeper.
Nearly 3400 Blades (from a crowd of 6270) went home happy, albeit hot and bothered, looking forward to the pre-season continuing at Barnsley this weekend.
Chris Wilder confirmed after the match that he was allowing Mark Duffy to explore his options after being approached by Duffy and his agent regarding a new contract, the gaffer making it clear that he calls the shots and his priorities in terms of spending his Premier League budget.
Blades: Dewhurst, Stevens (Fleck 77), Basham, Lundstram, L. Freeman, Sharp (Boyes 79), Robinson (McGoldrick 65), Jagielka (Stearman 77), K. Freeman (Baldock 67), Bryan, Slater (Norwood 67).
Unused: Moore, O’Connell, Egan, Brunt.
Attendance: 6270 (including 3365 Blades)