THE green, green grass of home – but for how much longer will that be the case for Charlie Wyke?

The striker played only eight minutes in last night’s unveiling of the revamped Valley Parade playing surface.

By that point he had headed over the bar and then hobbled off with what looked a recurrence of the knee problem that had ruled him out over the weekend.

The cynics inevitably smelt a rat with Sunderland’s growing interest as he trailed towards the dressing room - an accusation immediately shot down post-match by both Michael Collins and Wyke himself.

But if that does turn out to be the last the home fans see of him in a City shirt, it was a very frustrating way to end.

The Black Cats have made two bids for Wyke already and remain in pole position as Bolton, rivals for the target man, possibly switch their attention towards Charlton’s Josh Magennis instead.

Yet while the potential loss of Wyke remained a major talking point around the stands for the only home friendly, there was fresh transfer excitement to consider.

The pre-season barometer has inched back into the positive with this week’s flurry of recruitment action.

News of winger Sean Scannell’s imminent arrival from Huddersfield on the back of the capture of George Miller and Jack Payne 24 hours earlier has given the squad a more robust appearance.

Payne certainly wasted no time in making his mark with a goal and a starring role that whets the appetite for the season ahead.

But the glimpse of life without Wyke underlined how important it is for City to get their attacking ducks in a row before they even consider letting him go.

Michael Collins, who received a standing ovation on his first walk to the home dug-out, will not need telling.

He named eight of his summer signings in a much stronger starting line-up than at York on Saturday and saw Wyke nod over the bar from Payne’s free-kick.

But Sheffield United countered with Championship class to take a sixth-minute lead, Ryan Leonard and George Baldock at the heart of a sweeping move that was finished first time by John Fleck.

Wyke’s game was done before the Bantams even kicked off in response.

Sherwin Seedorf blasted a free-kick into the empty TL Dallas Stand but Sheffield United, prompted by the busy Fleck, showed they are a good passing team.

After two knockabouts with National League North opposition, this was a major step-up in class against a side fresh from a week in the Algarve.

And it was no surprise Sheffield United doubled the lead on 34 minutes as City were carved open again.

This time it was a one-two between David McGoldrick, hoping to win a Blades deal after being released by Ipswich, and Daniel Lafferty.

The wing-back picked out Leon Clarke, whose shot from 12 yards beat the best efforts of Joe Riley to find the corner of the net.

Clarke fired into the side-netting from a tight angle as the Blades continued to create space as the hosts struggled to keep them in check. Payne was the only real bright spark of a one-sided first half.

The playmaking midfielder comes to Valley Parade with a reputation for scoring and creating goals – and he demonstrated that ability eight minutes after the restart with a blast past Dean Henderson from outside the box.

It was a cracking start that bodes well, although McGoldrick almost restored Sheffield United’s two-goal advantage instantly but saw his shot come back off the post.

But having been overrun for the first 45 minutes, the switch in shape since the break to shut down the areas out wide where the visitors had found so much joy resulted in a far more even contest.

Tyrell Robinson’s first appearance of pre-season lifted the crowd – and the winger was straight into the action as Josh Wright teed him up to force a save from Henderson.

The second half was a far more encouraging watch and the applause when Payne left the pitch was well deserved. A lack of goals from midfield has proved an Achilles heel for too long for City – in the diminutive figure of the 5ft 5in Huddersfield man maybe they have found that hoped-for solution.

City’s improvement was rewarded nine minutes from the end as Kai Bruenker brought down a cross and Jordan Gibson bustled his way through to beat Henderson at the near post.

But they were level for only three minutes as Billy Sharp, who always seems to score against the Bantams, did it once more thanks to a deflection.

CITY: O’Donnell (Trialist 46), O’Connor (Isherwood 74), Kilgallon (Knight-Percival 66), Chicksen (Hudson 81), Riley (Colville 77), Wright (Peters 81), Akpan (Devine 69), Wood (Gibson 46), Payne (Patrick 69), Wyke (Miller 8, Bruenker 70), Seedorf (Robinson 61).

SHEFF UTD: Henderson, Leonard, O’Connell, Stearman, Baldock, Fleck, Evans, Lafferty, Duffy, McGoldrick, Clarke. Subs: Stevens, Basham, Sharp, Lavery, Freeman, Holmes, Eastwood, Slater, Norrington-Davis, Steele.