Football: Bassett again falls foul of critics

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The Independent Online
Sheffield United. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

Blackburn Rovers. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

DAVE BASSETT was angry. 'They scarcely had anything good to say about us over 90 minutes,' he fumed. And that was before the media had got their teeth into this match.

The Sheffield United manager had laid into the BBC in the programme for the 'one-sided views' about his club's performance in the FA Cup tie against Manchester United the previous weekend and a good case he had made, pointing out his side were not all foul but had a fair measure of footballing ability, too. Then two of his players got sent off.

More than that, this match took on the character of tag wrestling as mean and unnecessary bouts of late tackling and petulant retaliation became established enough to be almost de rigueur. Alan Cork and Carl Bradshaw were dismissed for two bookable offences but others could have gone.

It was Bradshaw's dismissal in the 89th minute that threatened to take the proceedings on to a new plane of violence, however. The United full-back abandoned all pretensions of going for the ball and bowled Alan Shearer over, a foul that looked the more alarming because the England striker had taken evasive action. 'If I hadn't jumped out of the way the top half of my leg would have been pointing in one direction and the bottom in another,' Shearer said. 'Some of their players accused me of cheating but he deserved to be sent off and he deserves to be suspended.'

Bassett saw things differently and a frank exchange of views followed as Shearer left the pitch to the point where the home manager had to be restrained by his coaching staff. He refused to comment afterwards.

The defence case came instead from Blackburn's Kenny Dalglish. 'It was a hard match but it wasn't dirty. Sheffield United are fighting for their Premiership survival, you can't expect them to sit back and let us play.'

The home side did anything but in the first half, going ahead through Andy Scott after 18 minutes and, but for their own defensive blunders, might have dented Blackburn's championship ambitions. Shearer, almost inevitably, delivered the rich man's rebuff, scoring twice to take his tally to 23.

Goals: Scott (18) 1-0; Shearer (38) 1-1; Shearer (64) 1-2.

Sheffield United (4-4-2): Kelly; Bradshaw, Tuttle, Beesley (Gage, 74 min), Hoyland; Ward (Littlejohn, 74), Kamara, Hodges, Whitehouse; Cork Scott. Substitute not used: Mimms (gk).

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Flowers; May, Hendry, Moran, Le Saux; Ripley, Batty, Sherwood, Wilcox; Shearer, Gallacher (Pearce, 85). Substitutes not used: Marker, Mimms (gk).

Referee: P Foakes (Clacton-on-Sea).