Football: Bruce feels blast of hot-seat

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The Independent Online
Sheffield United 2

Stuart 9, Borbokis 45

Swindon Town 1

Holdsworth og 60

Attendance: 15,977

STEVE BRUCE endured an uncomfortable ride in his new role in charge at Bramall Lane as his side scrambled to a 2-1 victory over Swindon yesterday.

The Sheffield United player-manager appeared to be on his way to a routine victory after his side took a half-time lead with a header from Graham Stuart and an excellent Vas Borbokis free-kick three minutes into injury-time. Even a mass brawl after Stuart's opener could not dampen the United celebrations. But in the second period, Bruce must have questioned the wisdom of following his mentor Alex Ferguson into the managerial hot- seat, as his new charges almost surrendered all their previous good work.

On the hour, the United captain David Holdsworth fired into his own net to give the previously impotent Swindon attack some hope. Four minutes later, Bruce was cautioned for a late challenge on George Ndah who had clearly sensed the United defence's unease.

Four minutes from the end, Iffy Onuora took advantage of a Roger Nilsen error before being upended in the area by the Sheffield United goalkeeper, Alan Kelly. Both men looked at the referee, Phil Richards, but he calmly waved play on.

Before that, however, United were rarely troubled by Swindon's three- pronged attack of Ndah, Onuora and Chris Hay. Indeed, only a wickedly swerving cross from Mark Walters called for the services of Kelly in the first half.

The opening 45 minutes belonged to United. Nine minutes into the game, Stuart stooped low to head home Wayne Quinn's cross from Borbokis' short corner. A minute later, Bruce's experience and calm was called upon when a foul on Dean Saunders resulted in 11 players becoming involved in an unseemly brawl. Bruce, Holdsworth and the Swindon captain Brian Borrows eventually cooled the situation.

In the aftermath, Saunders and Gareth Taylor were both denied by the Swindon goalkeeper Frank Talia but, three minutes into first-half injury- time, he could do nothing to stop the progress of Bobokis' fierce free- kick from 25 yards.

The game suffered in the heat of the second half and little troubled either goalkeeper until Holdsworth's own-goal in the 60th minute. The captain, who was impressive alongside Bruce, was attempting to clear Walters's weak cross, but toe-poked the ball beyond Kelly.

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