HAVING marked his Steel City derby bow with a stunning late save to rescue a point for Sheffield United, Simon Moore admits the wait to take part was worth it.
Now, though, the 27-year-old hopes the 125-year rivalry can take a break next season as the Blades, instead, tackle the giants of English football in the Premier League.
“Nights like Friday are the ones you want to be involved in,” Moore told The Yorkshire Post. “I had been looking forward to the derby for the entire week.
“There were 31,000 there, Bramall Lane packed out under the lights. I had been disappointed to miss out on the last one (United’s 4-2 win at Hillsborough in September) by being on the bench.
“So, to play in a Steel City derby and keep a clean sheet, that was something to be really proud about.
“Having said that, we don’t want one next season. We want to be fighting against teams at the top, in the best division in the country. There is a long way to go, of course. We need to nail a few things down. If we do that, we give ourselves a chance.”
Moore’s big moment came in stoppage time. Having come to punch a cross only to be beaten to the ball by Richard Stearman, the United goalkeeper was left winded by the collision with his team-mate that followed a split-second later.
At first, Moore was bent double. But then, as the ball reached Adam Reach, he was suddenly alert again. It meant, as the ball arrowed towards the top corner via Reach’s left boot, Moore was able to pull off a fantastic one-handed save.
Following on from an equally impressive stop by Joe Wildsmith to deny Clayton Donaldson earlier in the second half, it ensured honours ended even in the derby.
For Wednesday, this felt like a moral victory after a tough couple of weeks that had seen Carlos Carvalhal depart and his former side start the New Year with a 3-0 home thumping by Burton Albion.
“We don’t want one (Steel City derby) next season. We want to be fighting against teams at the top, in the best division in the country. There is a long way to go, of course.Sheffield United’s Simon Moore
Jos Luhukay’s arrival a week ago looked a huge gamble by the Owls hierarchy but first impressions have been positive for fans and players alike.
“There has been a few changes,” said Daniel Pudil, who produced a sterling display against the Blades as Luhukay switched to a three-man defence. “There have been the double (training) sessions and a few meetings. We had also been watching a few videos of our set-pieces.
“We prepared well for the game, showing we are the same Sheffield Wednesday of last year or the year before.
“He only came in at the start of the week and he had to get to know everyone.
“That is why we had double sessions but that is normal for a new manager. It was not a big deal for us to have those sessions.
“The second session was not that hard. Just about set-pieces and how we should work in the new system of 3-5-2. A little bit of running but a short session. So, the double sessions were not a problem. The changes have been absolutely right.”
As for the Blades, Friday’s point brought a return to the top six. Leeds United’s defeat at Ipswich Town the following afternoon means Chris Wilder’s men remain in the play-off places.
For Moore, this represented an important step towards what he hopes can be back-to-back promotions for the south Yorkshire club.
“I felt we deserved the three points but it wasn’t to be,” added the United goalkeeper. “There was disappointment in the dressing room but we have to remain positive. There are three months left in the season.
“The gaffer drives us on, wanting us to be the best. He wants this club to be in the Premier League. He sets high standards and the fans can see that. We don’t settle for mediocrity here.
“People might have looked at us in August and thought: ‘They’ll just be happy to be in the league’. But we are not. We want to compete in the top six.
“At the start of the season, we came up against teams and thought: ‘That could be tough’. Or: ‘They are a good team, big payers who are established in the Championship’.
“We maybe under-estimated ourselves. We are a good team but maybe didn’t realise just how good we are.
“The big thing is there is room for improvement. It is not like we are the finished article. Wolves are top and doing really well but that is where we want to be. We have to keep working hard and stick to our principles. To make sure we are not disappointed come the end of the season.”