Firstly, the conviction of Ched Evans. Wednesday fans joke that United are a one man team, but we all know that you don’t get 89 points in a league season without key players across the pitch. That being said, to lose your talisman in those circumstances so close to the end of a season would be a blow to any team. That alone wasn’t enough to shift the balance.
Secondly, Sheffield United failed to score and suffered defeat at MK Dons in the immediate aftermath of the Ched Evans saga. Had James Beattie scored that guilt edged chance in the final moments of that game, not only would United still be in the driving seat, but it might well have given him the confidence to finish another chance he missed in the subsequent two all draw against Stevenage.
Finally, and in my opinion the most crucial aspect, was Michail Antonio’s winner against Carlisle United deep, deep into stoppage time. Even now the thought of that goal gives me goose bumps. 21 years after our most famous victory in modern history, beating Manchester United in the Rumbelows Cup final, saw a moment that could prove pivotal in another memorable season. When Carlisle equalised in the 82nd minute of that game, the atmosphere dropped, everyone was deflated. In a game which we had dominated and should have been winning comfortably, we now looked like we had blown any hope of automatic promotion. In any team that wins promotion, everybody associated with the club has a part to play, and on this occasion it was the players that lifted the fans. I’ve never known an atmosphere at Hillsborough quite like when the final whistle went for that game. In a matter of seconds it turned from agony to ecstasy. Perhaps we had a sample of what Manchester United felt like when they beat us in that famous game at Old Trafford in April 1993.
The recent hype in the country has been around Manchester and the rivalry between City and United. I’d argue with anyone that we in Sheffield are just as passionate and the rivalry is even fiercer. Granted its league one and doesn’t get a fraction of the national or global media attention, but we have a special football city that deserves to stage football at a higher level. Over 37,000 Wednesdayites will pack Hillsborough and try and push the team over the line in our biggest game since the play off final against Hartlepool in 2005.
Last week we had a hard fought and fortunate victory at Brentford. Afterwards we headed to the Euston Flyer in Kings Cross and, along with Owls fans across the capital and in Sheffield, watched in despair as United failed to complete a remarkable comeback at home to Stevenage. It is a day I will never forget, I just hope it serves a purpose. The Championship is within touching distance but it’s certainly not over yet. I am confident that we will win at home to Wycombe, but I also have a feeling that there will be twists and turns and it won’t be a comfortable afternoon. Own goals, deflections, dubious decision, I don’t care how it happens as long as we do what we need to. My tip is for Jose Semedo to finally score at Hillsborough. That could put the cherry on a very magical cake.
As fans we need to stay with the team and support them however events unfold in S6. My message to every player that pulls on the blue and white shirt on Saturday is to have no regrets; everyone will be behind you so make yourselves legends. Some of those players may never play in such a game or experience promotion in these circumstances in their career. This is what all the hard work is about, not just during a season, but to realise a dream of playing professional football. These are the stories that fans like me and everyone else in Hillsborough on Saturday will take to our graves. Whatever happens it has been a memorable season, and though it might go on beyond Saturday, we must believe we are going to finish it with a promotion party at 5pm on 5th May 2012."
Up the Owls!
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