AS England’s cricketers were pulling off arguably the most thrilling Test victory of all time, Chris Wilder was watching the drama from his sofa at home despite having a ticket for Headingley.
A belief Joe Root and co had little chance of fighting their way back into an Ashes clash being dominated by Australia was behind the Sheffield United manager’s no-show on Sunday.
Typically, Wilder could see the funny side as the ribbing from his pals at the famous old ground grew the closer Ben Stokes got to the victory target.
Half-an-hour into last night’s Carabao Cup tie against Blackburn Rovers, however, that air of affability had clearly evaporated.
His back ram-rod straight and with hands buried deep in pockets, Wilder cut a frustrated figure on the touchline as United toiled against the Championship side.
The scores were still level at that stage but only thanks to the agility of Simon Moore in the home goal. United’s back-up goalkeeper had not only saved an early penalty from Adam Armstrong but also kept out Richie Smallwood’s follow-up.
There had also been another brave save at the feet of Armstrong as the out-of-sorts Premier League side struggled to contain the lively visitors.
It was no wonder Wilder looked so annoyed watching from the technical area. Then, though, came two goals in 15 first-half minutes that ultimately took the Blades through to the third round.
Richard Stearman netted the opener with a bullet header, paving the way for Oliver Norwood to double the advantage on the stroke of half-time.
Rovers, the better side over the 90 minutes, did pull one goal back through Sam Gallagher but United saw out the closing stages to book their place in tonight’s draw.
It meant a positive end to a night that had brought more questions than answers for Wilder as many of his second string were given a run-out.
Only Norwood from the starting XI in Saturday’s home defeat to Leicester City was in the line-up to face Tony Mowbray’s Rovers. Of those who came in, few advanced their case to be involved when Yorkshire’s sole top flight representative head to Chelsea this weekend.
Ravel Morrison did produce a couple of neat flicks and then create what proved to be the winner for Norwood with some lovely play wide on the left.
But, really, only Moore can claim to have had anything like a good night and he is unlikely to dislodge Dean Henderson any time soon with the Manchester United loanee understood to be close to a call-up to the England senior squad.
Just seven minutes had elapsed when Moore rescued his side for the first time. A mistake by Phil Jagielka was compounded by Stearman getting the wrong side of Bradley Dack before clattering into the Rovers playmaker.
Referee Geoff Eltringham rightly pointed to the spot but Moore spared Stearman’s blushes by pulling off a save low to his left from Armstrong. United’s back-up goalkeeper then immediately jumped to his feet to ensure Smallwood’s follow-up was diverted behind for a corner.
It was a let-off for the hosts who continued to live dangerously thanks to a tendency to be unable to fulfil even the most basic of tasks.
Few in red and white were blameless and it was against the run of play that United went ahead in the 31st minute.
Rovers goalkeeper Jayson Leutwiler misjudging a Norwood corner that sailed over his head allowed Stearman to power a header into the unguarded net.
But for Moore, Blackburn would have been level almost straight away. Again, the Blades goalkeeper was offered little protection by his defence as Dack found Armstrong as he darted into the area. Moore, quick as a flash, raced from his line and smothered the shot.
Norwood doubled United’s advantage with a precise finish from the edge of the area following impressive approach play from Morrison. Gallagher, the Rovers substitute, ensured there were a few nervy moments late on by nodding in Armstrong’s floated cross.
The Blades, however, held on as Tony Mowbray’s frustration boiled over after a poor tackle by Morrison on Lewis Travis in stoppage time.
It means the Rovers chief was down the tunnel as the final whistle blew to signal Wilder had at least witnessed one hard-fought home victory after earlier missing out on England’s Headingley heroics.
Sheffield United: Moore; Jagielka, Stearman, Bryan (Stevens 24); K Freeman, Morrison, Norwood (Mousset 66), Besic, Osborn; Sharp, McBurnie (L Freeman 46). Unused substitutes: Stevens, Basham, Lundstram, McGoldrick, Verrips.
Blackburn Rovers: Leutwiler; Nyambe, Lenihan, Williams, Cunningham; Evans, Smallwood (Travis 65); Buckley, Dack (Gallagher 60), Rothwell (Rankin-Costello 71); Armstrong. Unused substitutes: Walton, Graham, Chapman, Grayson.
Referee: G Eltringham (County Durham).