Sheffield Utd 3 City 0

IT IS 29 years since City last tasted league success at Bramall Lane. The question now is how long they will have to wait for another crack at ending that grim run.

Stuart McCall was in the team that triumphed on Easter Monday in 1988 thanks to goals from John Hendrie and Ian Ormondroyd.

The following 13 visits have reaped just one success – a low-key penalties win in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy. Yesterday, unfortunately, followed an all-too-familiar path of despair.

Whether the Bantams get another chance next season will depend on shaking their heads, flushing this drubbing quickly out of the system and restoring proper service in time for the play-offs.

Forget Bolton's weekend wobble. Second place is out of the question – any progress to the Championship will have to come via the play-offs and Wembley.

Worryingly on that front, City have still won only once against another team in the top six, and that was back in September when Fleetwood were mid-table.

That record was never under threat once the Championship-bound Blades struck early. From then on, it soon descended into a tale of damage limitation to the goal difference.

On the back of three straight wins and clean sheets, few had seen this coming.

McCall had gone back to his old club with a similar formation to City's previous television appearance at Scunthorpe last month.

He matched up to the Blades with three centre halves and Josh Cullen sat behind the midfield four, Mark Marshall partnering Charlie Wyke up front – but that plan had been ditched before the game was even a quarter old.

Nobody could accuse Sheffield United of under-playing their achievement as "We are the Champions" blasted across Bramall Lane before kick-off.

City sportingly lined up in a guard of honour to welcome the home side on to the pitch. After six years trying to get out of League One, the party mood around the place was understandable.

But any thoughts that the home side's heads might be in the clouds were soon dispelled as Colin Doyle was forced into a near-post save to keep out John Fleck.

The Blades, missing James Hanson with a tight calf, clearly meant business as boss Chris Wilder targeted a 100-point finish – and struck 13 minutes in as a slick passing move down their left involving Jack O'Connell and Mark Duffy was dispatched by Leon Clarke for his fourth goal in as many games.

City were clinging on as the swaggering newly-crowned title winners pounded away at the penalty area. A second goal was inevitable – the source even more so.

Billy Sharp loves playing – and scoring – against City and did it again to end a seven-game wait for his 27th goal of the campaign.

His smart finish was also his fifth in the last four games against the Bantams. No wonder he had been bragging to Hanson in training last week about doing it again.

City had struggled to get out of first gear and McCall reacted to falling further behind with a switch of personnel and formation.

Timothee Dieng had looked like a rabbit in the headlights on his recall and was hooked after just 22 minutes for Alex Jones. It was a chastening moment for the Frenchman and an admission from his manager that replicating systems had not worked.

Romain Vincelot was restored to a midfield that had failed to track their runners at all during that opening blitz and City switched to four-man defence.

They needed a response and nearly got it from Wyke with a header across goal from Marshall's cross that dropped the wrong side of the post. At least it gave the travelling army brief hope to cling to.

Marshall had shown the odd moment of inspiration for the visitors in a one-sided opening half hour. Any comeback relied, not for the first time, on his shoulders.

He bamboozled Jake Wright with a quick shuffle of the feet to earn the Wilsden-born defender a yellow card. Then another teasing cross was flicked on by Wyke but nobody could reach.

There were flickers of resistance, with City looking marginally better since the change of shape, but you still sensed that the Blades could up it again at any moment should they need to.

The atmosphere had predictably died off with the home side comfortably in front but the volume cranked up again with a third goal just before the break.

City were leaving themselves open to the counter-attack as they pushed more men forward – and were ruthlessly picked open after 42 minutes.

Duffy led the Blades' charge as the visitors, with six black shirts in the home penalty area, were exposed. He fed Sharp in the City box and he helped it on to Clarke to slam his second of the afternoon. It also took Wilder's side to three figures for goals this season.

Half-time could not come quick enough for the beaten Bantams, who had been reduced to the role of stooges for the home side's promotion bash.

City had not conceded three in a first half since November 2013 against Coventry. Ironically, Clarke had been on the scoresheet against them then as well – but there was no Nahki Wells to respond with three of his own this time.

The second half had to get better and Tony McMahon warmed Simon Moore's hands with an early cross-shot.

The fans behind that goal offered their encouragement with a chorus of "We're on our way" – but this was hardly a convincing dress rehearsal for a side with pretensions of playing in the second tier next season.

City at least saw more of the ball and former Blade Nicky Law should have done better with a volley when McMahon's free-kick dropped to him 15 yards out.

But only a desperate intervention from Cullen prevented a fourth goal, blocking off Sharp's attempts to find an unguarded net after Doyle was drawn out of position by Kieron Freeman's cut-back.

Sharp conjured another good opening but headed Fleck's cross straight at Doyle. Then the pair were in again, Sharp's shot cannoning up off the keeper, who recovered in time to catch Fleck's follow-up header.

It did not matter because the game had been over as a contest long before half-time.

Attendance: 26,838