Hyde strikes promising new start for Cotterill

Burnley 1 - Sheffield United 1
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The Independent Online

If Steve Cotterill were to write a list of Things I Wish I Hadn't Done, quitting Stoke for Sunderland two years ago would almost certainly be at the top. Granted, it was a chance to coach in the Premier League but by then the club was already in such a steep decline that neither he nor Howard Wilkinson could do anything to arrest it.

If Steve Cotterill were to write a list of Things I Wish I Hadn't Done, quitting Stoke for Sunderland two years ago would almost certainly be at the top. Granted, it was a chance to coach in the Premier League but by then the club was already in such a steep decline that neither he nor Howard Wilkinson could do anything to arrest it.

The move cost Cotterill on two fronts. In charge at the Britannia Stadium for only four months, he can no longer claim loyalty among his qualities. And while he is still regarded as a manager of some promise after taking Cheltenham from the Dr Martens to level two of the Football League, his time on Wearside has left his reputation if not in tatters then in need of restoration.

More than 18 months on, where better to start that process than at Turf Moor? With no money and a place among the new Championship's relegation favourites, it might not seem the most appealing job, but at least he can be sure that any success achieved will be down to his coaching talents.

And for a while on Saturday, it appeared he could be off to a perfect start, after Micah Hyde had given his side the lead after 16 minutes. But the win was denied by Andy Gray's equaliser early in the second half.

Strong and streetwise, Sheffield United should have beaten Burnley, but Cotterill can still afford to smile. A tactical plan in which only Robbie Blake operated as a striker worked so ineffectively as to turn the game into attack against defence, with his side cast in the latter role - but no matter.

"I had hoped the two wide men, Ian Moore and Graham Branch, would have got forward and made it more of a 4-3-3," he said. "It meant we did not give the crowd as much to shout about as I would have liked and it was a fantastic turnout."

He has some work to do, then, if Burnley are not to spend the next nine months around the bottom. More than Neil Warnock, whose side fell away last season but again have the look of contenders, even though Ashley Ward, a striker whose goals return never seems to match his effort, has already staked his claim for miss of the season.

Had Ward not somehow managed to turn Jonathan Forte's cross over the bar from two yards in stoppage time, United would have left with a win they probably deserved. "It looked a bad one, but to be fair to the lad, the ball bobbled horribly up his shin just as he struck it," Warnock said, generously.

Goals: Hyde (16) 1-0; Gray 52 (1-1).

Burnley (4-1-4-1): Coyne; Duff, Sinclair, McGreal, Camara; Grant (Roche, 83); Moore, Hyde, Chaplow, Branch; Blake. Substitutes not used: Jensen (gk), O'Neill, Pilkington, Townsend.

Sheffield United (4-4-2): Kenny; Bromby, Morgan, Jagielka, Wright; Liddell (Forte, 78), Montgomery, Tonge, Harley; Gray, Hayles (Ward 67). Substitutes not used: Quinn, McCall, Ross.

Referee: P Joslin (Nottinghamshire).

Booked: Burnley: Moore.

Man of the match: Coyne.

Attendance: 16,956.

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