Sheffield United v Rotherham United: Who will emerge as the working-class heroes?

Derby duel: Blades star John is pulled back by Owls' Sam Hutchinson.
Derby duel: Blades star John is pulled back by Owls' Sam Hutchinson.
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Sheffield United midfielder John Fleck needs no reminders of the dangers posed by Championship strugglers Rotherham United.

Promotion-chasing Blades were fortunate to escape with a point from a 2-2 draw the last time these two South Yorkshire rivals met in November at the New York Stadium.

The Millers had 26 shots compared to the Blades’ six that afternoon and Jamie Proctor’s stoppage-time equaliser only brought scant reward for a Rotherham side who had been far the better team.

Nearly four months later and the neighbouring clubs meet at Bramall Lane this lunchtime with both desperate for points for different reasons.

The Blades are chasing a top-two finish, and a coveted place in the Premier League, while third-from-bottom Rotherham are just desperate to stay in the Championship.

“We were quite lucky to get a point in that game,” said Fleck. “They are a dangerous team for us to play against.

“The last time we played them they probably deserved to win the game.

“It was one of those games where we were quite lucky to get something out of it. Looking back now it was a good point.”

Twice the Blades had nudged ahead, with goals from Mark Duffy and Chris Basham, only for Jon Taylor and Proctor to earn the Millers a deserved point.

Fleck continued: “They work hard – pretty similar to us – and have a decent squad of players.

“We know it will be a tough match. They are fighting for their lives at the bottom of the table and we are fighting near the top.

“It should be a good encounter, they have some very good players. It will be another battle and, hopefully, one we can come out on top of.”

Today’s game is the second of three Yorkshire derbies for the Blades in four games.

They will travel to automatic promotion rivals Leeds United next weekend – after Tuesday’s visit of Brentford – after being held to a 0-0 draw against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough in Monday night’s Steel City derby.

“Overall there wasn’t much between the teams on the night,” reflected Fleck. “It was probably a decent point for both of us.

“Both teams just didn’t want to lose, there wasn’t much quality in the game, from both teams. We were pleased with a point.”

Each team had one clear-cut chance. Owls goalkeeper Keiren Westwood blocked Gary Madine’s header and Fleck played an unwitting role in Sam Hutchinson’s second-half chance.

A cross from Rolando Aarons looked set to be cut out by Fleck as he raced towards his goal, until the 27-year-old got a shout to leave the ball.

“It was a bit of cheekiness that got them their big chance,” revealed Blades manager Chris Wilder. “Sam Hutchinson shouted ‘goalkeeper’s’ and Flecky left it.

“I quite like that, to be honest. I wouldn’t have liked it if he’d have bloody scored.

“But I quite like that because it was sharp and bright. I thought it was brilliant.”

As it was Hutchinson pounced on the ball, but fired straight at United goalkeeper Dean Henderson from eight yards out.

Fleck added: “My heart was in my mouth. I should have cleared the ball. It was Hendo who said ‘clear it’ and I thought he said ‘keeper’s’. I just left it, but thankfully (the shot) went straight down the middle.

“I spoke to Hendo after the game to see what happened. It was obviously my fault, but he was quite happy I actually left it so he could make a save.”

With just 11 games remaining Fleck knows points, not performances, are key between now and May.

“Usually throughout the season you want to perform; now it’s about results,” said the Scottish playmaker.

“Against Sheffield Wednesday it wasn’t a great spectacle, but overall it’s another point and we need to try and keep winning – especially our home games.

“We have played very good football to get ourselves in the position we have. Obviously we want to keep playing well, but at this stage the most important thing is getting results.”

The trip to Elland Road could be pivotal, but Blades know their focus must be on back-to-back home games before the trip up the M1.

“You can understand why the fans are thinking about it (the Leeds game), but for us we have got two massive games before that,” said Fleck. “We need to try and win them at home.”

United and the Millers are two teams not afraid to acknowledge they base their team around a huge work ethic.

Fleck – who lives on the outskirts of Rotherham – has been impressed with the job Millers’ Paul Warne has done in his first managerial job.

“The way the manager has them playing, especially the hard work, is pretty similar to ourselves,” said Fleck.

“It’s huge for teams like us, who have not been in the division very long, that’s probably the biggest part of our game.

“We play some good football at times, have some good players, but the biggest aspect of it is working hard for each other.

“It’s a working man’s city, and we just try to bring that to the club, for the fans, to work hard.

“We are not a club full of stars and, as a group, we need to try and work as hard as possible.

“The connection with the fans is massive, it’s helped us along the way. The fans appreciate it. Even in games we have’t won they can see we are trying our best. That’s the most important thing they want to see. The pressure on us as a group is to give our all, that’s the only pressure we are under. If we do that we have always got a chance of winning games.”

Statistics point to a Blades win. Wilder’s team have not conceded a Championship goal at Bramall Lane since Boxing Day, while Rotherham have yet to win on their travels all season.

With six home games remaining – against the Millers, Brentford, Bristol City, Millwall, Nottingham Forest and Ipswich – Wilder hopes United fans can help fuel their promotion push.

“We have a fantastic home record,” he said. “I’d like to think the support will start to crank it up now. Historically, we have had decent attendances, but I would like to think that we can really crank up the intensity. Get right behind our players and drive them forwards.”