Black and Blake block Tranmere

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The Independent Online
BY GUY HODGSON

Sheffield United 2

Tranmere Rovers 0

Tranmere Rovers' attempt to gain the one automatic promotion place in the First Division this season faltered last night. They have never scored at Bramall Lane and frankly, in this match, they did not look likely to break their duck, rather tamely surrendering an unbeaten run that had stood at seven games.

At the same time, Sheffield United moved to within five points of the leaders and now have genuine hopes of returning to the Premiership they vacated last season. Kingsley Black and Nathan Blake got their goals either side of half-time and they were even allowed the luxury of missing a penalty.

Tranmere had reason to have mixed feelings at the interval, aggrieved to be behind after dominating the first 45 minutes but relieved that the damage had not been made worse.

The goal came from a corner on the right after three minutes that Paul Rogers had two bites at, first with his head and then with his foot. Neither was conclusive but the second screwed across the area, and while the Tranmere defence looked and failed to move, Black appeared at the far post beating Eric Nixon from eight yards.

The League leaders almost contrived an instant riposte but Liam O'Brien sliced a volley wide after Brian Gayle's mistake had given him an opportunity. John Aldridge was also close with a curling shot in the 20th minute after Pat Nevin had dribbled 50 yards to earn him space on the left.

Just before half-time, however, United should have gone further ahead after Blake was tripped by John McGreal in the area. But Dane Whitehouse, who has been successful with three penalties this season, struck the kick wide with his left foot.

Tranmere had another let-off immediately after half-time when Jostein Flo headed over from Blake's cross from inside the six-yard box. The combination proved more effective in reverse after 57 minutes, however, when Flo became the provider rather than finisher.

The Norwegian striker headed on Kevin Gage's free-kick and Blake thumped a volley past Nixon.

Two minutes later, it was almost 3-0 when Flo and Mitch Ward both had fierce shots from promising positions, only to be thwarted by excellent saves from Nixon.

Sheffield United (4-4-2): Kelly; Gage, Gayle, Beesley, Whitehouse; Ward, Rogers, Hartfield, Black; Flo, Blake. Substitutes not used: Veart, Blount, Mercer (gk).

Tranmere Rovers (4-4-2): Nixon; Stevens, McGreal, Garnett, Brannan; Nevin (Jones, 75), Irons, O'Brien, Morrissey; Aldridge, Muir (Malkin, 66). Substitute not used: Coyne (gk).

Referee: T Wolstenholme (Blackburn).

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