Football: No response from Saints

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Sheffield United. . .2

Southampton . . . . .0

IF SOUTHAMPTON are undergoing a refit in the wake of the departure of Shearer, Ruddock and co., they are still several rivets short of seaworthy. Sharper finishing by the Blades in general, and Brian Deane in particular, would have tripled the margin of victory.

United's goalkeeping problems were such that Alan Kelly was their fourth choice, and he was nursing a thigh injury, but they could have roped in someone from a local steelworks for all the trouble Southampton caused him. Steel was precisely what the Saints lacked. Their frail defence had forfeited the match before the half-hour, and Le Tissier, Groves and Dowie never looked like welding themselves into an effective attacking unit.

In front after only four minutes, United should have put the game beyond recall before half-time. Tim Flowers allowed John Gannon's corner kick to slip through his fingers and Dane Whitehouse was waiting at the far post to volley home. The goalkeeper got down bravely to deny an unmarked Deane, but was soon at fault again. He picked up Jason Dodd's back-pass, though the full- back made amends by involuntarily and painfully blocking Deane's free-kick, driven in from six yards, on the goal-line.

Adrian Littlejohn, whose speed and mobility made him Sheffield's most dangerous attacker, increased United's lead after Kevin Moore delayed his clearance long enough for Carl Bradshaw to charge it down. The ball ran kindly for Littlejohn, who calmly slid it beneath Flowers' dive.

Deane, who has now gone nine games without scoring, struck the inside of a post with a left-foot drive, and a few minutes later hit the crossbar when the ball spun off his thigh from another Gannon corner, but this was not to be his day. Southampton rallied briefly in the second half, but United finished as they had begun, with Littlejohn and Deane each squandering a couple more chances.

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

Southampton: T Flowers; J Dodd, F Benali, D Speedie, K Monkou (N Banger, 64 min), K Moore, M Le Tissier, G Cockerill, I Dowie, P Groves, M Adams. Subs not used: N Maddison, I Andrews (gk). Manager: I Branfoot.

Referee: K Redfern (Whitley Bay).

Goals: Whitehouse (1-0, 4 min); Littlejohn (2-0, 27 min).