Football: Palmer performs his levelling best

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Sheffield United . . . .1

Sheffield Wednesday. . .1

TWO goals in five minutes briefly enlivened this Sheffield derby, which then sank back into the sort of torpid encounter that explains why neighbours who met in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley last season are now sharing a struggle against relegation.

United, of course, are on familiar territory, but it is one of the season's mysteries why Wednesday are down there with them near the foot of the table, unable to rediscover the form that took them to two Cup finals last season.

There was little evidence of their old flowing, passing game here. And there is a creative vacuum in midfield that used to be occupied by Chris Waddle. With Paul Warhurst departed and David Hirst injured, he has been thrust up front alongside Mark Bright, where he is forced to fetch and carry for himself.

One little burst into the box which brought a brave, blocking dive from Simon Tracey revived memories of last season's Footballer of the Year, but it was United's unsung midfielder, Mitch Ward, who caught the eye, albeit intermittently, in an uninspiring game.

He was allowed too much space on the right flank and sent over a sequence of crosses, one of which, from Carl Bradshaw's short free-kick, created the opening goal. Kevin Pressman, preferred in the Wednesday goal to Chris Woods, punched clear and Glyn Hodges, on the edge of the area, spotted that the goalkeeper was off his line and knocked the ball straight back into the open goal with his favourite left boot.

It was another piece of slack defending that allowed Wednesday their quick equaliser. Bright made ground down the inside-left channel, and nobody picked up Carlton Palmer as he stole into the box and stooped to head past Tracey from two yards. Only 12 minutes had elapsed, but there was to be precious little else to rouse the capacity crowd, though Jostein Flo's header from Ward's cross brought a fine one-handed save from Pressman, and a long range effort from Ryan Jones forced Tracey into similar acrobatics in the final minute.