For the third successive Sheffield derby, this was the 131st chapter, it was a game crying out for a bit of magic in front of goal as it petered out in a 0-0 stalemate.
But you would imagine not even revered striker Dooley – the Steel City’s greatest footballing son, who unites these two fierce rivals – would have prospered in S6 last night.
Today marks the 11th anniversary of the death of the 79-year-old striker. He netted 63 goals in 63 games for the Owls before his career was cut short after he had his leg amputated, following a broken leg.
Dooley went on to manage the Owls before crossing the city where he became a key figure in the corridor of powers at Bramall Lane.
How both of his former clubs would have craved one of Dooley’s goals at a rain-soaked Hillsborough last night.
In front of a crowd of 31,630 the entertainment was marginally better than the previous two 0-0 non-events, but it was still a result – two dropped points – with which neither club would be happy.
The impact of a Steel City derby at Hillsborough has a history of lasting far longer than 90 minutes. The last two derby games at S6 have been a catalyst for a momentous shift in the footballing landscape in the city.
When Wednesday won in 2012 – Gary Megson’s final game in charge – it kickstarted an unbeaten run under new manager Dave Jones that eventually saw the Owls reel in United to beat the neighbours to automatic promotion from League One.
It took five long years for the Blades to regain some city pride.
When United – fresh from six years languishing in League One – returned to Hillsborough last season they were severely under-estimated by a buoyant Wednesday, who in the previous two seasons had just fallen short of securing Premier League football in the play-offs.
Sunday, September 24, 2017 was a red letter day. From the moment John Fleck fired United in front, to Mark Duffy’s goal which stopped the Hillsborough bounce – after the Owls had restored parity at 2-2 – it was a changing of guard, a power shift in footballing politics. The blues had a bloody nose, the Reds had the power in the Steel City.
Eighteen months later – and two 0-0 draws at Bramall Lane, where then manager Jos Luhukay not only parked the proverbial bus, but the entire fleet – and the bitter rivals reconvened at Hillsborough last night. It’s highly unlikely this stalemate will be looked back on in the history books in years to come.
Blades striker Gary Madine was no stranger to this fixture. The 28-year-old was part of the Owls team who beat United 1-0 back in 2012 – thanks to Chris O’Grady’s goal – which sparked that promotion run.
Last night, Madine – in the red and white of United after a January loan move from Cardiff City – had the game’s best chance in the first half, but his header was blocked by Keiren Westwood. Goalmouth action was at such a premium, the half-time highlights reel on the big screen at the Leppings Lane end – housing the travelling Blades support – was a compilation of unsuccessful set-pieces.
Sam Hutchinson was thwarted by Dean Henderson from close range in the second half, but that was as close as either side came to a goal.