BILLY SHARP continued his goalscoring streak against former club Leeds United to boost Sheffield United’s play-off hopes.
The Blades captain netted twice to take his tally against the Elland Road club to seven in his last six starts. His double also took Sharp to 201 league goals, trailing only Rickie Lambert and Wayne Rooney in English football since the turn of the Millennium.
More importantly for Paul Heckingbottom, Sharp’s two goals were enough to condemn the 40-year-old to defeat on his first outing since succeeding Thomas Christiansen.
The new Leeds chief needed just 71 seconds to discover how tough a gig steering the club can be. Mark Duffy did well on the right to swing over a cross that Eunan O’Kane could only get the slightest of touches on.
Sharp, unmarked near the penalty spot, needed no second invitation as he unleashed a first time volley that flew into the top corner.
The United captain should have added a second just nine minutes later when picked out by Lee Evans from a free-kick but he headed over.
Leon Clarke was also unable to connect with a drilled cross from Sharp during a one-sided first half and Leeds capitalised on this profligacy within three minutes of the restart.
Pierre-Michel Lasogga was the man who nodded the visitors level after being picked out by Pablo Hernandez, whose arrival as a substitute shortly before the interval transformed the visitors.
Both sides then had chances to take the lead but it was the Blades, who prevailed thanks to a Sharp penalty after O’Kane had needlessly fouled John Fleck.
Leeds had late chances but Stuart Dallas and Lasogga were unable to capitalise on decent openings to ensure the Blades held out.
Considering the manner in which Leeds United comprehensively beat his Barnsley side in November, Paul Heckingbottom may not have realised on leaving Oakwell just what a big job he has taken on.
After the first half at Bramall Lane, however, the new Elland Road chief should have been in no doubt.
As well as the Blades played, Leeds were awful. Lacking leadership and so intent on trying the spectacular when a simple pass was a better option - such as when Kemar Roofe and Ezgjan Alioski had two attempts on goal from overhead kicks outside the penalty area - the visitors were fortunate not to be further behind at the interval.
There was a good response after the break but the failings that have let Leeds down this season are now apparent to Heckingbottom.