Football: Points for Bruce but Blades struggle

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Sheffield United 3

Crewe Alexandra 1

OTHERS MIGHT plead a big club is a better place than many to start, but it could be that Steve Bruce has filled one of the less enviable managerial posts. It is going to take something remarkable to make this season anything but an anti-climax for Sheffield United.

A place in the First Division play-offs and the FA Cup semi-finals is some act to follow and even with this win you could not make a compelling case that Bruce will match it. Goals from Jonathan Hunt, Ian Hamilton and Curtis Woodhouse gained them their second League success of the season, but it was a less compelling performance than the scoreline suggests.

Crewe, who scored first through Rodney Jack, have to sell players at regular intervals but the character, neat and precise, remains the same. The production line is so fruitful you suspect Dario Gradi plucks talented youngsters from the trees at Gresty Road and Seth Johnson may be the latest.

The 18-year-old midfield player, who has the powerful look of a young Bryan Robson about him, had a commanding match that was truncated by a sending off 18 minutes from time for a second bookable offence.

Supporters of United would have experienced a familiar queasiness on Friday when Bruce agreed terms with Everton for Carl Tiler and then found the coffers empty. All shades of Nigel Spackman, who found financial promises were just as false before he resigned, and Bramall Lane prospects looked bleak as the visitors took the lead after five minutes.

Jack did to Lee Sandford what a sprinter does from his blocks, charging in from the right. Simon Tracey obligingly dived over what might have been an attempted cross and converted it into a shot into the far corner.

Hunt got the equaliser amid a United barrage just before the interval and when Dean Saunders bewitched Matthew Wicks to provide Hamilton with a free header at the far post the momentum was with United even before Johnson was sent off.

Down to 10 men, Crewe had little chance and Woodhouse flattered United by getting the third five minutes from time.

Sheffield United (4-4-2): Tracey; Borbokis, Holdsworth, Sandford, Quinn; Stuart, Hamilton, Ford, Hunt (Woodhouse, 75); Taylor, Saunders (Devlin, 80). Substitute not used: Marcelo.

Crewe Alexandra (4-4-2): Kearton; D Wright, Walton (Unsworth, 45), Wicks, Smith; Lunt, J Wright, Johnson, Collins (Charnock, 73); Jack, Anthrobus (Rivers, 55).

Referee: E Wolstenholme (Blackburn).