Football: Littlejohn lifts Blades

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The Independent Online
Sheffield United. .1

Everton. . . . . . 0

IF EVERTON had shown the conviction their victory over Liverpool should have given them, they could have picked up another three points, but faint hearts ne'er won relegation battles and their caution dumped them deeper into the mire.

Sheffield United are no Liverpool, but Everton treated them as though they were Inter Milan, stringing five men across the back to contain a side which has produced only three goals in the last five games and whose chief threat, Brian Deane, has not scored at Bramall Lane since the opening game of the season.

It was a policy that allowed the Blades to play the sort of close- passing football that will get them a good name if they are not careful, and they penned Everton into their own half for the first half-hour.

Kevin Gage twice opened them up with crosses, Dave Watson clearing off Mitch Ward's toe and Neville Southall juggling with Adrian Littlejohn's header. On Everton's rare excursions it was the Yugoslav Predrag Radosavljevic who looked most dangerous, bursting into the box and shooting across the face of goal, and then putting a snap shot narrowly wide.

United duly went ahead from a corner. Deane met Ward's kick firmly with his head and Littlejohn poked it over the line. Everton should have restored parity when Garry Ablett's through-ball sent Stuart Barlow clear of the offside trap. Alan Kelly narrowed the angle and Barlow chose to present the tap-in to his better-placed striking partner, Mo Johnston - better-placed, that is, if he had not been five yards offside.

But falling behind did persuade Everton to slacken the belt-and- braces a little, and with more men in midfield they began to threaten. Peter Beardsley came into the game for the first time and, when Peter Beagrie and Paul Rideout came on to give them width and pace, they took control. Rideout's header from Barry Horne's cross forced Kelly into his first save of the match - a reflex tip over the bar on the hour.

United reverted to Route One and went close to increasing their lead when Ablett gave the ball to Jamie Hoyland, but Southall touched his angled shot round the post.

Sheffield United: A Kelly; K Gage, D Barnes, J Gannon, J Pemberton, P Beesley, M Ward (A Cork, 70 min), P Rogers, A Littlejohn, B Deane, G Hodges (J Hoyland, 83 min). Sub not used: K Veysey (gk). Manager: D Bassett.

Everton: N Southall; M Jackson (P Beagrie, 58 min), G Ablett, I Snodin, D Watson, M Keown, B Horne, P Beardsley, S Barlow, M Johnston (P Rideout, 58 min), P Radosavljevic. Sub not used: J Kearton (gk). Manager: H Kendall.

Referee: K Morton (Bury St Edmunds).

Goal: Littlejohn (1-0, 34 min).

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