Dark clouds gathered over Bramall Lane on Saturday afternoon but the future definitely looks bright for Nigel Adkins’s Sheffield United.
A torrential thunderstorm hit the 20,000 Blades fans as they ventured home after seeing goals from Billy Sharp – his first since he returned to the club this summer – and substitute Marc McNulty eventually break down a stubborn Blackpool side.
As they chase promotion back to the Championship, the Blades are already starting to look like real contenders.
Since the opening-day shock of that 4-0 thrashing at Gillingham, the Blades have won four successive games, conceding just once in 360 minutes.
That has been enough to lift Adkins’s side into the play-off positions, and with the goal threat United possess, they must harbour ambitions of a top-two tilt this season.
In Conor Sammon and Sharp, they have two strikers of Championship quality, who should not be playing in the third tier of English football.
Sammon netted twice in the midweek win over Peterborough, along with Jose Baxter, while Che Adams bagged a brace in the previous weekend’s victory over Chesterfield.
On Saturday, Sammon was the main culprit on why the game was scoreless until Sharp broke the deadlock on the hour-mark.
The on-loan Derby County forward had a few half-chances in a poor opening 45 minutes, but was guilty of an amazing miss in front of the Kop after the break.
Winger Jamal Campbell-Ryce, a constant threat down the flanks, whipped in a teasing cross which Sammon met at the back post.
With the goal gaping, he somehow contrived to tap it wide.
If United has failed to win this game, that miss would have haunted Sammon.
But a move straight from the training ground finally unlocked Blackpool’s defence.
Jay McEveley’s corner from the right was drilled low towards the edge of the area, and Sharp met it with force to score his first goal since joining from Leeds United.
It is Sharp’s third stint with his boyhood club, and the self-confessed Blades fan was delighted to get off the mark, unashamedly kissing the club badge in front of the Kop
Adkins said: “Since we brought Billy in, he’s been dying to score at that end. He’s done that now.
“To be fair, he’s had some great chances but there’s been some super saves or it’s been blocked. He’s up and running now.
“But we have goals throughout the team and that’s been demonstrated again.
“We are not just reliant on one person, and have goals throughout the squad.
“Billy wants to score, and he wants to be here, because he loves this football club.
“He is a goalscorer, and put him in the right areas and nine times out of 10 he will score.”
McNulty came off the bench and settled the match with a fierce strike, assisted by Sharp, to end Blackpool’s resistance.
Their defensive approach at Bramall Lane is something United will encounter several times this season, according to Adkins.
“It was job done,” he said. “It was the first time we have experienced this year where the opposition have come in and sat in.
“We have got to expect that this season. We need to move the ball quicker, find the spaces quicker, and that will happen.
“The lads have worked really hard. A couple of substitutions, Sparky comes off the bench – a great lay-off from Billy Sharp –and it’s a super finish.
“The first goal was one off the training ground. Andy Crosby works really hard with the guys on set-plays, and that was one from the training ground.
“It’s always nice when something you work on comes off.
“We had a lot of possession in the first half, we just needed to move the ball quicker.”
Adkins was quick to excuse Sammon after his miss, pointing to his match-winning display at Peterborough in midweek.
“It was a great cross from Jamal Campbell-Ryce and Conor has just missed out,” he said. “Both Che and Conor worked extremely hard in midweek, and it’s been a challenging week. But for me it’s about having a squad and being able to change it around.
“Marc McNulty has been working really hard in training and I thought the spaces would be a little bit more convenient for him to get into.
“Today we scored two great goals, kept a clean sheet, and Mark Howard made a good long-range save towards the end.”
With a week remaining of the transfer window, which closes on September 1, Adkins is still looking to strengthen.
“It’s going to be an interesting few days up until the transfer window. We are being active, busy, but I am sure everyone is.”
Blackpool manager Neil McDonald claimed: “They got a lot of luck from the first goal which is a free-kick against Emmerson Boyce, he’s been barged off the ball and Sharp’s put it in the back of the net.
“That was the difference between the two teams, one goal that shouldn’t have been allowed and one quality finish.”
Sheffield United: Howard, Freeman, Edgar, McEveley, K Wallace, Campbell-Ryce (J Wallace 70), Baxter, Basham, Adams (Woolford 56), Sharp, Sammon (McNulty 56). Unused substitutes: Reed, Higdon, Long, McFadzean.
Blackpool: Lutheran, Boyce, Aldred, Robertson, Ferguson, McAllister, Oliver (Cubero Loria 79), Potts, Cameron (Redshaw 68), Cullen (Thomas 79), Osayi-Samuel. Unused substitutes: Jones, Boney, Dunne, Higham.
Referee: D Deadman (Cambs).