Football: Rogers rescues worried Blades

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The Independent Online
Sheffield United. . .3

West Ham United . . .2

SHEFFIELD UNITED, grand masters in the art of escapology, extricated themselves from one of their more perilous positions last night to restore hope that they may again avoid relegation this season.

Two goals down after half an hour, they clawed themselves back to secure their first Premiership victory since New Year's Day and move above Oldham Athletic to third from bottom. At the same time they reinforced fears in east London that West Ham could become embroiled in the battle at the foot of the table.

It was an unhappy night for the Hammers whose FA Cup run to the quarter-finals camouflaged a dismal League performance in 1994. They were outplayed last night but should have ridden their luck when Ian Bishop and Matt Holmes gave them a substantial lead.

But they were overrun by a Franz Carr-inspired Sheffield United in the second half and succumbed 18 minutes from time when Ludek Miklosko dropped Glyn Hodges' cross. Paul Rogers hooked the ball in from six yards.

The ending could hardly have contrasted more with the beginning. After eight minutes Bishop received the ball 30 yards out and, while the Sheffield United players seemed preoccupied about where he was going to pass it, he thumped a shot for his first League goal of the season. Alan Kelly got a hand to the shot but could only turn it into the corner of the net.

That had been against the run of play and the second, 22 minutes later, was even more so. Marsh took a corner on the left, interchanged with Matt Holmes twice and for some reason the Sheffield United defence disintegrated. Holmes, from 12 yards, beat Kelly from an acute angle.

At that moment the home team's chances of points from this match seemed remote, but they gave themselves hope six minutes from half-time with a thunderous drive from Dane Whitehouse from 25 yards that flew into the top of the West Ham net. That hope became even more tangible in the 48th minute when Brian Gayle headed in John Gannon's corner to make the score 2-2.

The knots had been loosened, all it required was the final bound and the victim was free. Rogers provided it with a flourish.

Sheffield United (4-4-2): A Kelly (Tracey, 85); Bradshaw, Gayle, Tuttle, Nilsen; Carr, Rogers, Gannon (Hodges, 67) Whitehouse; Flo, Littlejohn. Substitute not used: Cork.

West Ham United (4-4-2): Miklosko; Breacker, Gale, Potts, Rowland; Marsh (Brown, 75), Bishop, Butler, Holmes (Allen, 75); Chapman, Morley. Substitute not used: G Kelly (gk).

Referee: P Durkin (Portland, Dorset).