Coventry City 2 Sheffield United 0: Warnock talks tough after City blunt Blades

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The Independent Football

The two lifelong Blades agreed in their assessment of Sheffield United's position as the season heads towards a conclusion of heartbreak or delight. "In any promotion race there is a period when you lose a few games and you start doubting," said one. He added: "They should look at the League table and continue to do so. They are up there because they are a good side. There will be a blip but they've enough quality and a great manager who can guide them through it." "I've never felt more positive," said the other. "We're five points clear with eight games to go. It's a fantastic position. A great opportunity."

The speakers had not, though, watched United's defeat on Saturday from among the increasingly despondent 5,000-plus Blades in the Ricoh Arena's away end, but from the dugouts.

Coventry's Micky Adams and Sheffield's Neil Warnock, both Steel City-born, respectively sought to cast a rosy red-and-white striped hue on the Blades' dwindling advantage over Leeds United. A run of one win and six points from seven matches means it is down to five - but Leeds have a game in hand and are yet to visit Bramall Lane. Both teams have it in their own hands. If either win their remaining games they will be promoted.

Not that either will. Leeds' own struggles on Saturday suggest that, as the prospect of automatic promotion hardens, their nerve softens. Sheffield themselves offered evidence of both weakness and resolve. Chris Morgan's catastrophic early error, a headed backpass which Gary McSheffrey seized upon to convert, and the reluctance of their strikers to take responsibility and shoot, did not auger well. But the second half, in which the classy Phil Jagielka drove them forward, showed the right stuff. While they never seriously tested Marton Fulop the willingness of players like Danny Webber to demand the ball and run at defenders showed courage.

"Half-time could be the turning point of our season," an ebullient Warnock said. "We were feeling sorry for ourselves but we had a good talk and took the game to them in the second half. Now it's up to us to put our house in order, to play with passion and show what a good side we are over the last eight games."

Adams was looking further ahead. City's away form suggests the play-offs will remain out of reach this season but the next has promise. "There's going to be some rebuilding over the summer," he said. "We've now got the facilities here to attract better players, but we have to show we are going places on the pitch as well, so we need to finish as high as possible."

The promise of players like Fulop, McSheffrey and Michael Doyle, and the experience of Richard Shaw, Marcus Hall and - in his 40th year - Dennis Wise, is a good platform.

First both Warnock and Adams hope City can bring up a seventh successive home victory on Saturday, when Leeds United visit. In an unfortunate irony, however, Wise, the team's conductor, and Adebola, who beautifully converted the second goal, will be absent because of bookings picked up on Saturday.

Goals: McSheffrey (4) 1-0; Adebola (31) 2-0.

Coventry City (4-4-2): Fulop; Whing, Page, Shaw, Hall; Scowcroft, Wise (Thornton, 90), Doyle, McSheffrey (Hutchison, 75); John (Morrell, 88), Adebola. Substitutes not used: Ince (gk), Williams.

Sheffield United (4-3-3): Kenny; Geary, Short, Morgan, Jagielka; Montgomery, Flitcroft (Kozluk, h-t), Armstrong; Akinbiyi (Kabba, 66), Shipperley (Horsfield, 72), Webber. Substitutes not used: Dyer, Lucketti.

Referee: K Stroud (Hampshire).

Booked: Coventry Wise, Adebola, Fulop.

Man of the match: Shaw.

Attendance: 23,506.

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