Football: Blades fade to grey

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The Independent Online
Sheffield United. . . .0

Coventry City . . . . .0

Attendance: 15,394

THE encounter at Bramall Lane yesterday had basement battlers against mid-table mediocrity written all over it, or might have done by a publicist determined to make it vaguely appealing.

It turned out to be worse than that, much worse. In its superior moments it was utterly undistinguished and, after losing eight of its top nine clubs from the FA Cup, was perhaps what the Premiership could ill afford. There were no obvious redeeming features, little pattern to the proceedings and only those with members of either back four in their Fantasy League teams could derive any consolation.

There were chances to score, usually created by poor defenders for forwards far too inept to take them. There were also many moments when a pass went astray, a shot went wide, or a tackle was missed, which all seemed to epitomise the afternoon. Both sides tended to gather in the centre circle when possible, especially at goal-kicks, rather like students who try to cram into a Mini during Rag Week.

Coventry had the better of the early exchanges when Peter Ndlovu looked lively on the left. But nothing came of these flurries and he swiftly receded.

Perhaps the clearest chance of the first half fell to Sheffield when Mitch Ward's shot from the right-hand side of the box was charged down by Steve Ogrizovic. Micky Quinn might have scored for Coventry before the break but Alan Kelly stood up well to the point-blank volley.

As usual the robust Quinn caught the eye throughout and, as the torpor increased, guess-Quinn's-weight competitions proved a pleasant way of filling the rare gaps between missed passes. He had other opportunities, not least in the 68th minute after Chris Kamara lost the ball and a forward of his once voracious appetite should have been on target.

The one moment of ingenuity came 10 minutes from time from John Williams, but when he glided through two defenders, Kelly saved by diving sharply to his right.

Neither side was blameless but it was United's seventh goalless draw of the season. Their recent break in Dubai clearly did nothing to enhance any attractive qualities they may possess and there will be more 0-0 scorelines and, mercifully, relegation to follow.