Sheff U 0 Doncaster 0: Bore draw increases anxiety for Blades faithful

Rob Janes beats Nick Blackman to the ball
Rob Janes beats Nick Blackman to the ball
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PENNY for the thoughts of Blades supporters. Glass half-full or half-empty after this latest draw?

A share of the spoils and haul of four points from two successive away matches would have gladly been taken by Rovers boss Dean Saunders ahead of trips to Colchester and United, and their 1,470 supporters at the Lane for that matter.

But for Saunders’s counterpart Danny Wilson and Unitedites, there was more than a tad of frustration after the Blades – while unbeaten in seven league outings so far this term – recorded their fifth draw of 2012-13 and second on the spin at home.

It’s becoming a habit. Especially having seen the hosts dominate for virtually the entire second half after a spasmodic first period.

Given United’s previous this term and the fact that this particular fixture at the Lane had ended with the points shared on the last two occasions, perhaps the result was no surprise.

Rovers, unchanged from the weekend win against the U’s, started well and dissected the Blades rearguard in just the second minute with Martin Woods, afforded plenty of space down the right, seeing his fiercely-struck shot beaten away by Mark Howard, who earned his corn again by blocking the follow-up effort from Chris Brown, ploughing a lone furrow up front with Billy Paynter again missing.

It was the visitors who settled the better, with one or two discernible signs of agitation soon prevalent among home punters.

Aside from a rising effort from Richard Cresswell, making his first start of the season after replacing John Cofie, predictable United offered little early on – and it took an unlikely attacking source, right-back Tony McMahon, to light the Blades’ attacking fires.

The summer recruit showed impressive technique on his weaker left foot to fire a goalbound curling shot after cutting inside, tipped over in the nick of time by the backtracking Gary Woods.

It failed to significantly herald better things for United amid a muted atmosphere from home fans – and to say it didn’t feel like a high-octane derby was putting it mildly.

The effort from McMahon, who looked United’s most likely offensive threat in the first period, aside, the hosts rarely stretched the visiting rearguard in the opening 45 minutes, especially down the flanks.

And while it wasn’t quite cigar time, Rovers’ back four did enjoy a modicum of comfort.

At the other end, Rovers – incisive in spells on the break – looked the more assured with ex-Blade David Cotterill and Kyle Bennett probing dangerously.

It was the former who carved out a delightful opening, dancing around Harry McGuire following Woods’ pass, only to then wastefully shoot wide after honing in on goal.

Paul Gallagher then tried an effort from distance to catch out Woods following a poor goal-kick before the half ended as it started with Rovers asking the questions.

Bennett spun away from his marker in midfield before finding Cotterill, who cut inside before unleashing a well-struck angled shot which onrushing midfielder Dave Syers just failed to divert towards goal.

Maybe cajoled by a few words from Wilson reminding them it was a derby, the Blades came out with more considerably more purpose with only a desperate last-ditch challenge from Paul Quinn denying top-scorer Nick Blackman after the striker broke into the box.

A low free-kick from Gallagher then tested Woods at his near post as the Blades took a stranglehold on proceedings.

Hemmed in for a considerable spell, Rovers struggled to get out of their own half, with boss Saunders throwing on former United player James Harper on 67 minutes to try and wrestle some control back in the midfield.

Despite monopolising possession and knocking on the visitors’ door, a home opener just would not arrive.

The gangly presence of sub Dave Kitson, berated by Rovers fans after showing his basketball skills by netting a controversial leveller for Portsmouth which helped relegate them in an eventual 4-3 loss at the Keepmoat in April, added ballast but no breakthrough for United.

The flame-haired frontman was pivotal in the hosts’ most clear-cut chance of the second-half with the substitute challenging Woods in the air following Gallagher’s high cross. Blackman fired the loose ball into the Kop with the visiting keeper grounded, to leave the match scoreless and home fans frustrated.

Sheffield United: Howard; McMahon, Collins, Maguire, Hill; Gallagher (Cofie 87), McAllister, McDonald, Williams; Blackman, Cresswell (Kitson 66). Unused substitutes: Westlake, Porter, Miller, Chapell, Long.

Doncaster Rovers: G Woods; Quinn, McCombe, Jones, Spurr; Keegan, Cotterill (Husband 86), Woods M, Syers (Harper 67), Bennett (Blake 88); Brown. Unused substitutes: Martis, Maxted, Hume.

Referee: M Haywood (West Yorks).