Football: Parker picks the meat from the bone

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The Independent Online
Sheffield United. . .0

Aston Villa . . . . .2

GARRY PARKER doubled his scoring tally for the whole of the last League season to bring Villa their first victory of this campaign. He struck with devastating effect and perfect symmetry four minutes from the start and four minutes from the end of a largely uninspiring contest between sides which had begun the season in less than sparkling form.

Parker's first goal was manufactured from the most innocuous raw materials. A throw-in from Steve Staunton reached him 25 yards out, at an angle to United's goal. Even with a little oasis of space amid the early activity, Parker seemed to present little threat, but his right-foot volley gave Tracey no chance. The ball swung and dipped so much, it might have been tampered with by Test cricketers all summer.

Encouraged by that early breakthrough, Villa looked considerably better than their dismal start suggested. Parker and Ray Houghton were the most constructive figures in midfield and the visitors made the better chances in the first half, Tracey just beating Houghton to Cyrille Regis's through ball, and Dalian Atkinson heading narrowly wide.

Sheffield's best work came from an enterprising pair of wing men, Mitch Ward and Glyn Hodges, but Brian Deane - as sharp as anyone in the early weeks of the season - and Alan Cork got no change out of a Villa defence in which Paul McGrath was outstanding.

They looked more dangerous after the break, when the introduction of two lively substitutes, Adrian Littlejohn and Carl Bradshaw, perked up their attack, but still could not break Villa's grip at the back.

Their two closest efforts came in quick succession midway through the half. Nigel Spink did well to palm Deane's back-header over the bar, then Paul Beesley put the ball just wide of the far post with Deane sliding in menacingly. The increasingly frustrating search for an equaliser left United exposed in defence and, as time ran out, it took a lunging tackle from Beesley to deny Staunton after Parker and Atkinson had engineered a breakaway.

The relief was temporary. Staunton's centre eluded Tracey, Atkinson played the ball back and Parker fired home gleefully from the edge of the area. No great swing this time, but a suspicion of movement off the seam as the ball nestled in the back of the net.

Sheffield United: S Tracey; K Gage, T Cowan, J Gannon, B Gayle, P Beesley, M Ward, M Lake (A Littlejohn, h/t), A Cork (C Bradshaw, 57 min), B Deane, G Hodges. Sub not used: A Kelly (gk). Manager: D Bassett.

Aston Villa: N Spink; E Barrett, S Staunton, S Teale, P McGrath, K Richardson, R Houghton, G Parker, C Regis (U Ehiogu, 72 min), D Atkinson, S Froggatt. Subs not used: L Sealey (gk), F McAvennie. Manager: R Atkinson.

Referee: R Milford (Bristol).

Goals: Parker (0-1, 4 min); Parker (0-2, 86 min).

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