Blades raise their game as Yorkshire derby goes global

Sheffield United 1 Hull City 1
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The Independent Online

The Tannoy announcer at Bramall Lane could scarcely contain his pride. "This game is being covered by the Fox Sports Network and we are being beamed live across America," he said. You did wonder that if David Beckham had been unable to convert the United States to football then Sheffield United and Hull stood no chance.

Whether Fox stayed for the post-match interviews was not immediately clear but, had they done so, they would have heard both managers claim a moral victory in this Yorkshire derby.

Phil Brown because, especially in the second half, Hull had the clearer chances and were probably the better team. Kevin Blackwell because injuries and suspensions meant he barely had a team to put out and drawing an FA Cup fifth-round tie was a better feeling than becoming the first Sheffield United manager in 95 years to lose twice to arch-rivals Wednesday in the same season.

He described that as probably the worst experience of his career and this time his team was applauded, rather than howled off.

The decisive early moments centred on the team selections from the two managers. Because of his injury crisis that would worsen considerably in the course of the afternoon, Blackwell was unable to name a full substitutes bench and compromised by employing full-back Greg Halford as a centre-forward. Halford was also the nominated reserve goalkeeper if anything happened to Paddy Kenny.

Brown, who has seen Hull's Premier League fortunes revive on the back of Matt Duke's displays, rested the goalkeeper who began his career at Sheffield United in favour of his one-time first choice, Boaz Myhill.

Myhill had lost his place after picking the ball out of the back of Hull's net 30 times in 13 matches. Within eight minutes the statistic had become 31 in 14 – and the goalscorer was Blackwell's gamble.

It was a relentlessly simple move. David Cotterill outflanked his marker on the right wing and sent over a dipping cross that Halford reached first, although Hull were convinced he impeded Sam Ricketts as he did so. The ball seemed to float from Halford's head and nestled in the corner of Myhill's net.

Had his captain, Chris Morgan, been on the pitch a part of Blackwell would have felt Hull's equaliser could have been prevented, although the centre-half would have needed to put in an exceptional challenge to deny Kamil Zayatte's header.

But Morgan, one of the toughest characters ever to play at Bramall Lane, was sitting on a stretcher, applauded as he was wheeled round the edge of the pitch, as Andy Dawson prepared to take what turned out to be afateful free-kick.

Having already received an accidental elbow in the face from Michael Turner, Morgan's knee appeared to give way and he had just reached the tunnel when Zayatte stooped to head home his second goal for Hull and his first since his loan deal with Young Boys of Berne was made permanent.

Blackwell redeployed some painfully thin resources by bringing on a specialist striker in the shape of Danny Webber.

Halford, on a season-long loan from Sunderland where he had fallen out catastrophically with Roy Keane, was pushed back to the centre of defence where he made a superb tackle to dispossess Caleb Folan as the striker ran clear on goal. He ended the afternoon cut above his eye and, with a bandage around his head, looked something of a hero.

Nevertheless, with every second-half minute, Hull's dominance increased. Paddy Kenny's reactions denied Richard Garcia's low header, his feet blocked Bernard Mendy's shot and America, from sea to shining sea, awaits the replay.

Attendance: 22,283

Referee: Andre Marriner

Man of the match: Halford

Match rating: 6/10

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