BILLY SHARP’S second-half penalty condemned Paul Heckingbottom to defeat in his first game as Leeds United head coach as Sheffield United edged a hard-fought derby at Bramall Lane.
Sharp made no mistake from the spot on 74 minutes after Eunan O’Kane brought down John Fleck as both sides fought for a winning goal.
Leeds had earlier recovered from a stunning Sharp volley to level through Pierre-Michel Lasogga’s 47th-minute header.
Sharp gave Heckingbottom the worst possible start to his reign with a deadly effort in the second minute, striking at the end of Sheffield United’s first attack.
Leeds, whose run of six league games without a win cost Thomas Christiansen his job at Elland Road last weekend, were exposed at the back again early on but Lasogga’s clinical goal looked set to earn a point for a side who are still searching for a first victory since Boxing Day.
Sharp, though, took advantage after O’Kane felled Fleck, further weakening Leeds' bid to make the Championship play-offs.
Sharp stunned Heckingbottom and lit up Bramall Lane with his goal, beating Felix Wiedwald after Eunan O’Kane’s attempt to head Mark Duffy’s cross clear dropped to him inside the box. Sharp’s first-time hit crashed beneath Wiedwald’s crossbar.
Leeds, whose run of six league games without a win cost Thomas Christiansen his job at Elland Road last weekend, were exposed at the back again early on but Lasogga’s clinical goal looked set to earn a point for a side who are still searching for a first victory since Boxing Day.Phil Hay
The forward had scored at exactly the same stage of Sheffield United’s 2-1 win at Elland Road in October, drawing first blood on that occasion too, and Sharp might have struck again on 10 minutes when he nodded a free header over the crossbar from point-blank range.
Leeds struggled to muster any response and two speculative efforts from Gjanni Alioski, both from a hopeful range, failed to trouble Sheffield United goalkeeper Jamal Blackman.
Heckingbottom’s line-up showed three changes, with O’Kane and Kalvin Phillips drafted in after returning from suspension, but it took until the 24th minute for his side to threaten as Lasogga drove a good effort from 25 yards just wide.
Sheffield United, however, continued to press and Leon Clarke narrowly failed to turn home a low centre from Sharp on 28 minutes. Duffy then whipped a long range effort a fraction beyond Wiedwald’s goal as Leeds fought to avoid a second concession before the break.
Heckingbottom was forced to alter his side shortly before the break after Kemar Roofe went off with concussion and Blades midfielder Lee Evans was lucky to escape with a booking for a studs-up foul on Alioski but Leeds should have levelled in injury-time when Pontus Jansson’s close-range header drew a superb one-handed stop from Blackman.
Lasogga promptly found a way through in the second minute of the second half, steering home a header after Pablo Hernandez, Roofe’s replacement, floated an inviting cross into the box. The German’s downward finish crept inside Blackman’s post as the keeper tried desperately to claw it wide.
Hernandez almost turned the game on his head when his 58th-minute shot deflected just beyond the far post but Duffy came within inches of finding Wiedwald’s net with a rising hit six minutes later.
Both sides pressed for a winner and Sheffield United claimed it 17 minutes from time amid mounting pressure after O’Kane ran in and tripped Fleck in the box as Fleck chased a quick free-kick. Sharp blasted a low finish beyond Wiedwald and the Blades held on as a late penalty claim for handball against Enda Stevens was waved away.
Sheffield United: Blackman, Basham, Stearman, O'Connell, Baldock, Evans (Lundstram 88), Fleck, Stevens, Duffy (Leonard 77), Clarke, Sharp (Holmes 90). Subs: Donaldson, Wilson, Lafferty, Eastwood.
Leeds United: Wiedwald, Dallas, Jansson, Pennington, De Bock, Forshaw, Phillips (Ekuban 78), O’Kane, Alioski (Sacko 75), Lasogga, Roofe (Hernandez 45). Subs: Lonergan, Anita, Cibicki, Vieira.
Referee: Andrew Madley (West Yorkshire)