Football: Blades fail to cut loose

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The Independent Online
Ipswich Town. . . . . .0

Sheffield United. . . .0

IPSWICH have been beaten only once in the Premier League but have almost as little experience of winning. Yesterday they drew for the seventh time in 10 matches as Sheffield United gained their first away point.

In the circumstances, however, the East Anglian side were not dismayed at the result, the circumstances including the dismissal of their Canadian goalkeeper Craig Forrest after only two minutes in an incident that owed much to the new back-pass rule.

Certainly, it would not have occurred had the option of propelling the ball safely into the goalkeeper's hands been available to John Wark when he found Adrian Littlejohn snapping eagerly at his heels five yards outside the Ipswich penalty area. Wark is 35, Littlejohn was 22 yesterday and the Ipswich veteran's legs were no match for those of his opponent. Wark dithered, waiting for Forrest to come to his aid, allowing Littlejohn to seize possession, and Forrest's solution was to take the man rather than the ball. The production of a red card from referee Ron Groves's pocket was inevitable.

Clive Baker, the 33-year-old former Barnsley goalkeeper freed by Coventry in the summer, pulled on the gloves for his Ipswich debut as the winger Eddie Youds found his match abruptly terminated. Ipswich made sure that the running of Littlejohn and the aerial threat posed by Brian Deane were well covered but this left them short of attacking options.

Dave Bassett, the Sheffield manager, was furious that his side failed to make the numbers work in their favour. 'It was an abysmal performance. Ipswich were there for the taking but it was a hot day and my players looked as if they would rather have spent it on the beach,' he said.

Nevertheless, it took a superb save from Baker 10 minutes from the end to prevent substitute Alan Cork winning the game.

Ipswich Town: C Forrest; P Whelan, N Thompson, M Stockwell, J Wark, D Linighan, E Youds (C Baker, 3 mins), G Williams, G Johnson, J Dozzell, C Kiwomya. Subs not used: P Goddard, G Pennyfather. Team manager: M McGiven.

Sheffield United: A Kelly; K Gage, T Cowan, J Gannon, B Gayle, P Beesley, C Bradshaw (C Hartfield, 86 min), P Rogers, A Littlejohn, B Deane, D Whitehouse (A Cork, 67 min). Subs not used: P Kite (gk). Manager: D Bassett.

Referee: Mr R Groves (Weston-Super-Mare).