Gray day for Blades, black for woeful Watford

Watford 0 Sheffield United 2

Sheffield United were jaded, Watford were awful and the home fans, already concerned at their team's declining situation, were poorly rewarded for their dedication. This was a match that made it all too easy to believe that standards in the First Division, from almost at the top to near the bottom, are commonly poor. United will not be concerned about that, since this victory significantly added to their promotion hopes.

Although United set out 15 points ahead of Watford, and well placed for a play-off place, this was not an easy game to call. The Blades had put enormous effort into the previous weekend's FA Cup quarter-final game against Sunderland before losing by one goal. Bouncing back is easier said than done. In the meantime, Watford had been beaten by Stoke and Bradford and clearly needed to do something about their dangerous position, and fast.

A spate of injuries had further burdened them, particularly in defence. Not that they were unduly tested in that department in the early stages, when United found themselves staring in relieved disbelief when first a Neal Ardley free header stole past a post, then Heidar Helguson dissected their midfield to allow Scott Fitzgerald clear passage to goal, only to slide his shot woefully wide.

United are not averse to allowing the home side to have plenty of early possession in the hope of frustrating them, then catching them too committed upfield. Here, Watford had by far the greater first-half control and were a shade unfortunate that a cannon of a long shot from new signing from Lincoln, Paul Mayo, beat everyone but Paddy Kenny.

Having covered all of United's breakaways moderately well, Watford must have been livid to go a goal down two minutes before half-time, when a corner from Dries Boussatta ended with the ball bouncing knee-high for Jack Lester, who nevertheless got over it to drive his shot past Lenny Pidgeley from a yard.

Watford made strenuous efforts to recover but their organisation was, frankly, dreadful. Not that United were much better, and they may well have lost their advantage when Watford's substitute, Lee Cook, launched a long cross into the penalty area and United's former Watford defender Robert Page headed on to his own crossbar.

United played out the match relieved they could perform so haphazardly yet pick up valuable points. Their second goal, in time added, was barely merited but Izale McLeod pushed the ball across Watford's goalmouth and Andy Gray slipped it in.

Overall, it was hard to disagree with Watford's manager, Ray Lewington, who said later: "I don't think we are any worse than a lot of others near the bottom.'' Or, come to that, a lot much higher up.

Watford 0 Sheffield United 2
Lester 42, Gray 90

Half-time: 0-1 Attendance: 13,861

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
techApp to start sending headlines, TV clips and ads to your phone
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan in What If
filmReview: Actor swaps Harry Potter for Cary Grant in What If
News
Our resilience to stress is to a large extent determined by our genes
science
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment