The bad blood between these South Yorkshire adversaries was never far from the surface last night, but Sheffield United, cast as the villains of the piece, left with their first point in five Championship games after Darius Henderson twice responded to Barnsley goals by converting a penalty. The Blades' captain had already nullified Anderson De Silva's opener for Barnsley early in the second half before he was presented with a second opportunity to ease the pressure on manager Kevin Blackwell in the 83rd minute. Nine minutes earlier, the impressive Daniel Bogdanovic had headed Barnsley back in front, but again Mark Robins' side could not hold out.
The Barnsley manager felt that referee Mark Clattenburg gifted United a draw with the two penalty decisions, saying: "He was a bit quick with the whistle but I thought we played really well and controlled large parts of the game." Bogdanovic, a Libyan-born striker who plays for Malta and came to Oakwell from Lokomotiv Sofia, put it more poetically. "We had the bird in our hands," he said, "but we let it fly away."
Blackwell was relieved to break a losing run, but bemoaned a further two casualties. Ian Bennett sustained a broken thumb, while Matt Kilgallon damaged ankle ligaments. "I'm proud of the lads because we're in an unprecedented situation with injuries," he said. "That's eight games and nine injuries. We only had two players out there tonight from the play-off final at Wembley last season."
Memories of last season's meeting, in which Barnsley's Iain Hume suffered a fractured skull after being struck by the arm of United's ex-Oakwell defender Chris Morgan, were evidently still raw. Morgan was suspended, while Hume appeared only in the closing stages, but the chants of the rival fans showed that the mutual ill will runs deep.
In the circumstances the game was both entertaining and relatively malice-free. Barnsley had the majority of the chances. After only eight minutes, United's Kyle Walker turned the ball against his own bar, while Bennett made agile saves to deny Bogdanovic and Hugo Colace. United had finished the first half strongly, but Henderson's failure to connect with Keith Treacy's cross looked all the more costly when De Silva, the Brazilian, powered a curling drive beyond Bennett's replacement, Mark Bunn, from 18 yards.
Almost immediately, Treacy fired against Luke Steele's near post. Yet when United pressed again near the hour mark, Steele upended Ched Evans, giving Henderson the opportunity to bludgeon the equaliser from the spot. Bogdanovic stooped to head in Jon Macken's cross with 16 minutes left before Robins suprisingly replaced him. The spoils looked to belong to Barnsley, but when Adam Hammill was adjudged to have fouled Walker, Henderson's accuracy from 12 yards earned United a point.
Barnsley (4-4-2): Steele; Kozluk, Shotton, Moore, Dickinson; De Silva, Colace, Doyle, Hammill; Macken (Hume, 75) Bogdanovic (Gray, 75). Substitutes not used: Preece (gk), Campbell-Ryce, Hassell, Hallfredsson, Thompson.
Sheffield United (4-4-2): Bennett (Bunn h-t); Walker, Fortune, Davies, Kilgallon (Geary, 45); Ward, Quinn, Harper, Treacy (Camara, 79); Henderson, Evans. Substitutes not used: France, Cotterill, Williamson, Little.
Referee: M Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear).