Football: Deane's dry spell causes concern

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The Independent Online
Sheffield United. . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

Liverpool . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

THERE was never any danger of this third-round Coca-Cola Cup tie overflowing with goals, but at least there are signs to be read in the tea leaves. Liverpool's returning confidence will have been boosted further by the way they weathered last night's early battering from a lively United attack, despite familiar flashes of eccentricity from Bruce Grobbelaar and another hesitant display from Mark Wright at the heart of the defence.

But the confidence of United's strike force must now be in decline as they failed for the second successive match to convert a steady stream of chances. Brian Deane has now scored only once in his last 13 games and his striking partner, Adrian Littlejohn, whose pace regularly took him into scoring positions, has still to learn to control his impetuosity in front of goal.

For all his attributes, Jamie Redknapp is still no substitute for Jan Molby in the Liverpool midfield, and it was their inability to control events from the centre that allowed United to dominate much of the game with their more direct approach. But their crosses were rarely accurate enough and their best efforts were an Ian Bryson drive that grazed a post and a Littlejohn shot that cannoned off Grobbelaar's chest.

But if Grobbelaar again failed to inspire confidence, his opposite number, Simon Tracey, did. He scooped a Mark Walters cross off the toes of Ian Rush and made a vital catch as Don Hutchison bore down on Steve McManaman's pass.

Rush might have snatched the winner in the dying seconds, but it would have been an injustice to the Blades, whose manager, Dave Bassett, said: 'We just can't find our touch in front of goal.'

The Liverpool manager, Graeme Souness, said: 'It was a better result for us than for them, but the tie is not over yet.'

Sheffield United: Tracey; Gage, Cowan, Gannon, Gayle, Beesley, Bradshaw (Cork, 85), Rogers, Littlejohn, Deane, Bryson (Hodges, 65).

Liverpool: Grobbelaar; Marsh, Burrows, Piechnik (Tanner, 49), Wright, Hutchison, McManaman, Walters, Rush, Redknapp, Thomas. Substitute not used: Stewart.

Referee: A Ward (London).

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