Football / Premier League: Blackburn on course

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The Independent Online
Sheffield United. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

Blackburn Rovers. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3

KENNY DALGLISH'S side returned to the city where they were removed from two Cup competitions in three days last month and emerged, 90 pulsating minutes later, with three points and their hopes intact of qualifying for a UEFA cup place by finishing third in the Premier League.

But Sheffield will again spoil the party if Wednesday win today's Coca Cola Cup final.

Sheffield United started as a team threatened by relegation should - hustling Blackburn off the ball, throwing men forward and raining crosses down on a defence in a permanent state of panic.

They took the lead after eight minutes when Glyn Hodges ended a goalmouth scramble with an angled left foot shot.

The panic continued: Brian Deane and Kevin Gage both had shots blocked; Bobby Mimms saved one-handed from Deane's header and twice from his own full back Graeme Le Saux, the referee turning down appeals that the back pass rule had been infringed.

But when Blackburn finally found their composure and began to knock the ball around, the Blades lost their edge. Kevin Gallacher lifted two good chances over the crossbar before a stroke of luck redeemed him. Le Saux's free-kick from deep in his own half brought the usual reflex action from the United back four, but the offside trap failed to close. Alan Kelly blocked his shot with his body, but the ball bounced off the striker's legs and into the net.

His striking partner Mike Newell contrived to miss with the goal at his mercy, but the sigh of relief had scarcely died away before he had made amends. A long kick from Mimms, a flick on by Gallacher, and Newell's volley flew past Kelly from 18 yards.

The third was a gift from Hodges to Gallacher. Tim Sherwood emerged from a forest of players to bundle in the resulting cross. As United's manager Dave Bassett said 'It went away from us. We started brightly, but we didn't score a second and I knew the second half would be testing.'

Sheffield United: A Kelly; K Gage, P Beesley, J Hoyland, B Gayle, J Pemberton, C Bradshaw (I Bryson, 62 min), P Rogers, G Hodges, B Deane, D Whitehouse (M Ward, 62 Min). Sub not used: J Leighton (gk). Manager: D Bassett.

Blackburn Rovers: B Mimms; D May, G Le Saux, T Sherwood, N Marker, K Moran, S Ripley, G Cowans (M Atkins, 80 min), K Gallacher, M Newell, J Wilcox. Subs not used: T Dobson, F Talia (gk). Manager: K Dalglish.

Referee: D Allison (Lancaster).

Goals: Hodges (1-0, 8 min), Gallacher (1-1, 39 min), Newell (1-2, 54 min), Sherwood (1-3, 68 min).