Mark Perrow reports from Bramall LaneNostalgia was all the rage at Bramall Lane as City marked their return to purple and lime with a first victory at Bramall Lane since 1957.
A debut goal from Aaron Wilbraham, his first in the league for any club since March 2012, set Steve Cotterill’s side on their way only for Michael Higdon to head Sheffield United level 12 minutes later.
Having finished the first half on the back foot, City controlled the second period throughout, with Wade Elliott finishing off a fine team move with the winner 18 minutes from time to bring to an end the 57-year wait for maximum points in the red half of the Steel City.
Manager Cotterill handed starts to all six of his summer signings, meaning debuts for Luke Ayling, Mark Little, Korey Smith, Luke Freeman and Wilbraham, with fellow new recruit Elliott also included.
The brightly coloured visitors started confidently enough in possession, with one possible penalty shout turned down when Ayling looked to be pushed, but the Blades warmed to their task.
Derrick Williams needed to be alert to head behind Higdon’s cross before Ryan Flynn’s daisy-cutter was comfortably dealt with by Frank Fielding.
The City keeper was as relieved as anyone when United left-back Bob Harris let fly from the edge of the box with a rasping drive that only just veered away from goal.
At the other end some sharp link-up play between Wilbraham and former MK Dons strike partner Sam Baldock helped win a free kick from which Aden Flint should have met Elliott’s delivery with more conviction.
City were growing in confidence and duly took the lead through Wilbraham’s first league goal in over two years.
An energetic burst down the right from Little carried him all the way to the byeline to stand up an inviting cross for the towering figure of Wilbraham
to convert with a powerful header. United keeper Mark Howard got one hand to the ball but was beaten by the pace of it.
It was a setback for the title contenders, who looked more like justifying their billing with a lively response which saw them have two shots cleared off the line and draw level within 12 minutes.
First Stefan Scougall’s goalbound effort was hacked away by Flint after Fielding struggled to deal with a hanging cross, before Jamie Murphy charged in at the back post only to see his shot half blocked by Ayling and cleared by Flint.
But on 32 minutes the Blades capitalised on their best spell of the half as Ben Davies’ free kick was gleefully headed home by Higdon
from on the six-yard line.
The momentum was with the home team and Scougall should have turned the game on its head with a header of his own from Ryan Flynn’s cross but saw the chance float agonisingly wide.
Already unpopular for his role in City’s opener, Little did not do much to endear himself to the natives when a stray arm inadvertently caught Harris in the face, prompting five added minutes to extend a frantic first period.
Having been happy enough to hear the half-time whistle, City started the second 45 with a spring in their step.
The Baldock and Wilbraham duo combined again when the skipper’s pullback found his partner unmarked on the penalty spot only for his first touch to let him down as the ball bounced up front of him.
Then Baldock beat the offside trap to latch on to Smith’s pass and hit a fierce shot from a tight angle parried to safety by Howard.
Last season’s leading marksman was having far more joy since the interval, next setting up Freeman who forced Howard into a plunging save before a clearance hit Baldock and flew only just wide.
There was no question City had been far superior in the second half, and the Robins deservedly retook the lead 18 minutes from time as Elliott
finished off an exceptional team move.
Derrick Williams’ raking diagonal ball from the left-back position was headed on by Little for Wilbraham, whose improvised backheel in the air outfoxed everyone but the scorer, who charged into the box and finished first time with a low shot across Howard – a stunning goal worthy of the occasion in front of the Sky Sports cameras.
It took until the final ten minutes for the Blades to throw caution to the wind in search of an equaliser and Flint completed a hat-trick of clearances after Murphy’s shot was tipped on to the inside of the post by Fielding, but City held firm.