Appetite of Blades sharpened by Asaba

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The Independent Online

A last-minute goal by the Sheffield United striker Carl Asaba, diving to head in the rebound after Paul Peschi-solido's chip came back off the bar, gave the Blades an unexpected 1-0 win at promotion hopefuls West Bromwich Albion.

The Albion manager, Gary Megson, had been hoping to build on their 1-0 win at Wolves last Sunday, and after a tight first half the pendulum seemed to swing decisively the Baggies' way when, in the 80th minute, Shane Nicholson collected his second booking and was sent off.

But the 10-man Blades had other ideas. Still, Megson thinks the division will remain tight. "I won't be surprised at all if there are five clubs competing for the top two places on the last day of the season."

After a week of gloomy predictions about the future of Nottingham Forest because of the club's dire financial position, the young team gave the fans something to cheer about when they forced a draw against an awkward Gillingham side at the City Ground.

A Paul Shaw header gave the Gills the lead with just five minutes gone, but when David Johnson crossed from the left Stern John scored from close in to make it 1-1 after 21 minutes. He made it 2-1 just past the hour but Shaw salvaged a point for the Gills with 20 minutes left. "Our youngsters are getting better all the time," Paul Hart, the Forest manager, said. "Despite our financial problems, there will be no easy pickings here."

Sheffield Wednesday, with Middlesbrough's Dean Windass and Manchester United's Bojan Djordjic on loan, seemed to have won three points when Efan Ekoku put them 1-0 up against Millwall. But, not for the first time this season, a late Richard Sadlier goal earned a 1-1 draw.

Crewe inflicted a humiliating 4-2 home defeat on Portsmouth at Fratton Park. They went ahead after nine minutes when Rob Hulse headed in a free-kick, his first goal in 10 games. A similar ploy saw Efe Sodje double the lead. A minute before the break, Steve Lovell's shot brought Pompey back into it but goals by Phil Charnock and Kenny Lunt sank them.

In the Yorkshire derby, Bradford City's Robbie Blake scored twice in the Bantams' 3-1 defeat of Rotherham United, who had dominated the first half at Valley Parade. "When it was a battle Rotherham were the better team," Jim Jefferies, the Bradford manager, said, "but when it was a football match we were the better team and the better football team won the match."

The effect of Barnsley's new manager, Steve Parkin, was plain to see at Oakwell, where Mike Sheron scored twice in a 4-1 demolition of Walsall, an encouraging follow-up to last Sunday's 3-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday.

Another new manager, Carlton Palmer, has as yet been unable to exert his magic powers on bottom-of-the-table Stockport County. They lost 2-1 at home to a Wimbledon side that had managed just one win in the previous nine matches. Palmer, poised to sign a player, possibly Mansfield's Chris Greenacre, was very upbeat. "I cannot pick out a bad performer today. We were quicker to the ball and sharper in the tackle and if we'd been a top-four team we could have won that game 3-0 or 4-0."

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