Sheffield United. .0
SHEFFIELD UNITED scrapped and scraped for the point they wanted at Ewood Park last night, frustrating Blackburn Rovers' attempts to join those clubs in the ever lengthening shadow of Manchester United's Premiership domination.
Dave Bassett's side built a five- man brick wall at the back and invited Blackburn to bang their heads against it. That they did with momentous regularity yet scant success through a tawdry first half. Blackburn, on the face of it, were well equipped to dismantle the barrier, with Stuart Ripley and Kevin Gallacher wide on the flanks, and Alan Shearer and Mike Newell down the middle. However, Shearer's first significant impact, after 32 minutes, left United's goalkeeper, Simon Tracey, prostrate, clutching his ribs, and earned the England striker a lengthy lecture.
That flashpoint excited reaction among the other players and more animated protests were soon to follow. United's right-back, Carl Bradshaw, fell flat on his face as Gallacher challenged, much to the Scot's obvious disgust. His verbal accusations brought Bradshaw to his feet, foreheads touched yet no more, and Gallacher collapsed. Enter irate team-mates, scuffling and shoving.
The referee, Terry Holbrook, who might have booked Shearer for the earlier incident, again opted for the spoken word. The two players were persuaded to shake hands.
The fracas at least served to enliven a sterile encounter and Blackburn, in particular, were stirred into more penetrative endeavours. Twice Tim Sherwood backed up his front men to fire in shots, and twice he was disappointed.
United caught everyone unawares with an incisive move from the restart. Glyn Hodges fed Willie Falconer, who brought Bobby Mimms to a save. Shearer instigated retaliatory action. Ripley crossed and Newell was a whisker from turning the ball in. Ripley tried to make his own luck and Tracey saved. Newell was off target with a header, Shearer with a shot and then a header when he ought to have done better. United were now under siege and yet, against the run of play, Jostein Flo almost plundered a goal for United following Bradshaw's throw-in.
Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Mimms; Berg, May, Hendry, Le Saux; Ripley, Sherwood, Marker, Gallacher; Shearer, Newell. Substitutes: Andersson, Pearce, Talia (gk).
Sheffield United (5-3-2): Tracey; Bradshaw, Wirmola, Hoyland, Beesley, Whitehouse (Hartfield, h-t); Rogers, Falconer, Hodges; Davison (Cork, 80), Flo. Substitutes: Kelly (gk).
Referee: T Holbrook (Walsall).