Loughborough Foxes were last season's divisional runners-up and with no team having dropped down into the FA Premier Women's Midlands One, they are probably the pre-season favourites to hit top spot this time. Timely then that United were able to recall three of last season's regulars to the starting line-up to meet the challenge.
Despite the muggy conditions, both sides, to their credit, put on a very entertaining and well-fought game. United looked a lot more stable at the back than the previous week, sometimes having to defend deep but with discipline and protected 'keeper Jess Houldsworth well. The Foxes were also defending well and the United strike partnership of Tania Marsden and Nat Shaw had little sight of goal in the first half.
United's best chance of the first half came when a short goal kick out was closed down and Jen Pearson was set up for the shot which first rattled the Foxes crossbar and then the rebound was hit just over. At the other end United's defending was almost perfect against a Foxes side that had hit 111 league goals last season but the visitors took the lead after 22 minutes when the ball was flicked from the United goalkeeper's grasp and Eve Rogers nodded in the lose ball from close range. Despite a lot of hard work United went in to the break a goal down but still in the game.
Four minutes after the restart United were awarded a penalty for a challenge on Marsden right in the corner of the box. Sophie Bell stepped up for the spot kick but her placed shot towards the top corner went wide and United were still a goal behind.
The second half recovered from going a little flat in the early part to become an entertaining end-to-end game and a great advert for the league as a whole. United kept battling away, adding three substitutes to keep things fresh on an energy sapping afternoon.
The effort was rewarded after 73 minutes when Shaw broke to the Foxes byline and pulled the ball back into the six yard box, behind strike partner Marsden, but following in at the back was substitiute Millie Kenyon to slot the ball home to equalise.
Both teams continued to give everything in search of the winner. The Foxes had a goal ruled out for offside and United had to put in some timely defensive interceptions at times but also pressed in search of their own winner. An honourable draw in the end and United happy with a well-earned point against the benchmark team of the league.
United Manager Dan O'Hearne reflected: "I would have taken a point before the game against last year's runners up but in the end I felt we deserved maximum points. After the penalty miss I thought the football Gods were against us but we dug in and got a deserved equaliser. We had the better chances late in the game but it wasn't to be so it's not a bad point. Now we have a full squad to chose from I expect to start climbing the league table in the coming weeks but we have a league cup next at home v Birmingham and West Midlands Ladies."
Blades: Houldsworth, Cawthorn, Froggatt, Neary, Bell (Kenyon), Hartley, Ruddach (Beanland), Pearson (Brown), Robinson, Marsden, Shaw.