BILLY SHARP took his goal tally against Bradford City to seven in his last seven games but it wasn’t enough to send Sheffield United into the automatic promotion places.
Instead, the Blades had to settle for a point from a pulsating derby that kept League One’s biggest crowd of the season on the edge of their seats until the final whistle.
After Sharp had twice given the visitors the lead, United needed a Chris Basham equaliser to rescue a point after City had netted through Billy Clarke, Jordy Hiwula and Timothee Dieng.
Defeat would have been harsh on either side after such entertaining fare and, on this evidence, both Bradford and the Blades are going to feature heavily in the promotion race. City remained second after this point with Chris Wilder’s side in third place.
United had gone ahead on 17 minutes courtesy of a clinical headed finish from Sharp after the striker had been picked out by a wonderfully flighted cross from Mark Duffy.
The Blades playmaker also presented Matt Done with a gilt-edged opportunity on the half-hour but Colin Doyle saved the close range effort.
That vital block made up for the earlier mistake by the City goalkeeper that saw him miss Paul Coutts’ corner only for his blushes to be saved by Daniel Lafferty firing wide.
City’s leveller came ten minutes before the interval through Billy Clarke, who tapped in at the back post after the visitors had been unable to deal with a drilled low cross from Matthew Kilgallon.
United regained the lead six minutes after the restart and again it was the Duffy-Sharp combination that undid the hosts.
A quickly taken free-kick by Duffy created the chance but it was Sharp’s equally quick reactions that meant he was in the right place to fire in as the Bradford defence were caught flat-footed.
Josh Cullen came close with a drilled shot across the face of goal before two goals in eight minutes transformed the game.
First, Jordy Hiwula fired in from close range on the hour after Cullen’s cross had been knocked back across goal by James Hanson.
Then, following neat play down the left by Kilgallon, Timothee Dieng volleyed past Simon Moore tp put the hosts ahead.
Back came the Blades, however, and Chris Basham levelled matters after the home defence had failed to deal with a John Fleck corner.
That set up a frantic finale that saw Sharp denied by Doyle at one end and then Hiwula’s effort from close range crash against the crossbar at the other.
It meant honours ended even in a derby clash that will live long in the memory.
Blades boss Chris Wilder said: “The captaincy is perfect for him (Sharp) - off the pitch he is superb, on the pitch he is outstanding.
“I thought both teams had some really good players today, but he was the outstanding player on the pitch.
“His desire and his work rate was outstanding and if we keep him fit that makes him a better player and us a better football club.
“We didn’t play as well as we can whether that was the quality of the opposition or the frantic nature of the game I don’t know, but it was important that we kept the momentum of the run going.
“At the death I thought we looked more likely to score a winner, but their manager will say Bradford hit the crossbar.
“The players deserved the reception given to them by both sets of supporters and from my point of view our players have given everything for the shirt.”
Bantams boss Stuart McCall said: “It was great entertainment and a great advert for this division, two proper football clubs with fantastic support and atmosphere.
“It was a great game with end-to-end stuff and I thoroughly enjoyed being involved in it.
“Our lads will not play against a better striker than Billy Sharp and anyone who finishes above Sheffield United will get promoted.
“They will go the distance - they have got fire power and goals in the team.
“We haven’t conceded more than one goal in any of our other matches this season and we were disappointed with their second and third goals.
“We showed our lads that they took quick free-kicks and we switched off for their second goal while the third goal was from a corner that we should have cleared, but give me 3-3 rather 0-0 any day.”
Bradford v Sheff Utd Bradford: Doyle, McArdle, Vincelot, Knight-Percival, Kilgallon, Dieng, Cullen, Law, Billy Clarke, Hanson, Hiwula. Subs: Darby, Nathan Clarke, Marshall, Sattelmaier, Vuckic, Morais, Devine.
Sheff Utd: Moore, Basham, Ebanks-Landell, Wright, Freeman, Coutts, Duffy, Fleck, Lafferty, Sharp, Done. Subs: Hussey, O’Connell, Scougall, Lavery, Ramsdale, Brown, Chapman. Referee: Jon Moss (W Yorkshire)
Get the latest news from The Yorkshire Post on social media.
Follow @YPSport on Twitter
See our snaps at @YPSport on Instagram.