Sheffield United 2 Bristol City 0: Blackwell buzzing at Blades win

KEVIN BLACKWELL celebrated his second anniversary at Bramall Lane yesterday but there was no rose-tinted message this Valentine's Day.

For the Blades boss has seen his squad decimated by big-money departures and injuries and went into Saturday's game with Bristol City on the back of a four-match sequence which had harvested a single point.

The natives were getting restless as Premier League promotion aspirations were downgraded from automatic to play-off potential, so three points and a much-improved display from the Blades provided a welcome tonic for Blackwell.

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But the United manager – who arrived back at the club as boss on February 14, 2008 – has warned United fans that they must accept the days of high-profile new signings and mega wages are long gone.

Highlighting the financial turmoil now facing his predecessor Neil Warnock, whose Crystal Palace outfit are in administration, and Portsmouth, Blackwell has pleaded for patience as he tries to juggle his new-look squad.

"I know it is hard for diehard fans who love their club to have to accept restraint when they see players moving out and they perhaps don't see top level replacements come in," he said.

"Of course, I would love to spend millions of pounds on bringing players in but it is not going to happen and surely we have to accept that this is the sensible thing to do.

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"To some degree we are having to mix and match with our resources at the moment but surely it is better to do that than over-extend ourselves with the result that the very existence of Sheffield United is threatened.

"This is not a lack of ambition, it is the only sensible option open to us, whether we like it or not," added Blackwell, who in the last 12 months has seen star names such as Kyle Walker, Kyle Naughton and Matthew Kilgallon leave the Lane to try to balance the books.

The players Blackwell has left at his disposal might not command huge fees, but their resilience and second-half performance on Saturday showed their play-off dreams are genuine.

United enjoyed much the better of the first half, once they got to grips with Chris Iwelumo in Bristol City's attack, the burly striker having just arrived on loan from Wolverhampton.

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And the recalled pair of Henri Camara and Darius Henderson provided goals after the interval as the Blades strolled to an ultimately comfortable victory.

Mark Bunn returned in goal for United after being out for several weeks with a hand injury, but spent the majority of the afternoon as a spectator.

The first half was full of endeavour but offered little in the way of goalmouth action.

The closest United went to threatening Dean Gerken's goal was when Henderson placed a header wide after a great cross from Derek Geary.

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The striker had another similar chance minutes later from Jamie Ward's cross but the end result was the same with the ball sailing harmlessly wide.

At the other end, on-loan Iwelumo was causing problems for the Blades' defence with his height and power.

Gerken twice came to his side's rescue in three minutes. First he parried away on-loan Kyle Bartley's deflected effort before an even better save when Mark Yeates's volley forced the goalkeeper to block at his near post.

Camara looked like putting the Blades ahead straight after the restart but Gerken thwarted him from six yards out with the goal gaping.

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But moments later the goalkeeper was helpless to deny the United striker.

He superbly controlled a high punt, with the City defence stood claiming offside, before drilling an unstoppable shot inside Gerken's left-hand post.

Camara, who has had seven clubs in seven years since arriving in England with Wolves back in 2003, will not have scored many better goals in his nomadic career.

United got the second goal their possession warranted when Ward whipped in a cross and Henderson's flick was enough to divert the ball home in front of the Kop.

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Louis Carey's header from Paul Hartley's corner struck the top of the crossbar but that was as close as City got to opening their Bramall Lane account.

Senegal international Camara was playing with renewed energy and twice went close to getting United a third goal but Gerken thwarted him on each occasion. First he tipped an effort wide after the former Premier League player had galloped down the left flank, then got in the way of Camara's volley after a neat flick from Ward.

Stephen Quinn should have made it 3-0 in stoppage time after great work from Ward and Geary again down the right, but after composing himself dragged his effort wide.

Blackwell said: "I thought everyone played really, really well.

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"We used the ball intelligently and moved well off it. When you see us go out and look like that then it makes you realise our biggest problem this season is going to be keeping everybody fit.

"If we can do that then we've got every chance.

"We are trying to build something and the boys have shown out there what they can do."


Hero: Henri Camara

The game desperately needed a goal and the Senegal striker provided a cracker to set up an entertaining second half.

Villain: Dean Gerken

In the eyes of Sheffield United fans, anyway, as the Bristol City goalkeeper showed inspired form and denied Camara a hat-trick.

Key moment: 24th minute

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Chris Iwelumo missed a sitter, kicking thin air inside the Sheffield United area. A goal then could have dented the Blades' fragile confidence.

Ref watch: Darren Deadman

Booked three players but had a very quiet afternoon, almost to the point of being anonymous. Just the way it should be.


Much-needed three points to keep Sheffield United in touching distance of the play-off positions and placate unhappy home supporters.

Quote of the day

It's not rocket science. It is about housekeeping skills that every householder in the country is familiar with, but with a heck of a lot of noughts added to the figures – Kevin Blackwell on balancing the books in football.

Next game

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Nottingham Forest v Sheffield United; Coca-Cola Championship; tomorrow, 7.45.

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