Jagielka intensifies bitter rivalry to raise pressure on Pardew

West Ham United 1 - Sheffield United 1
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The Independent Online

On balance, Sheffield United should get through at the second time of asking. But who's asking? It would have been better had this surly, skill-deprived tie been finished off at Upton Park rather than see the irritability of players and managers carried over.

On balance, Sheffield United should get through at the second time of asking. But who's asking? It would have been better had this surly, skill-deprived tie been finished off at Upton Park rather than see the irritability of players and managers carried over.

The underlying tetchiness had come about because the game was seen as a chance for West Ham to get revenge for an embarrassing 2-0 home defeat by Sheffield United less than a month before. That setback had been the first of three in the Championship. If the fans were already cool about Alan Pardew, who talks of injury problems while those he does have available look leaderless, they are now hotly offended.

Neither side had much individualism but two players did have worthwhile matches. The rest laboured, got careless or, particularly in the case of West Ham's Teddy Sheringham, who had come back after a five-match absence, became tired or tired of getting knocked around (he came off with a patchwork of bruises, though he gave as good as he took). In a midfield area greatly lacking imagination, Sheffield United's Phil Jagielka did at least get a grip while Marlon Harewood did an enormous amount of work alongside Sheringham. Too often, though, he saw his own chances frustrated or was himself frustrated by the poor finishing of those he set up.

Harewood's goal late in a first half was a reasonable reflection of the pattern. West Ham had given the impression of keeping Sheffield United pegged back, though that could equally have been a matter of their visitors drawing the strength out of them before putting in more effort themselves.

Harewood changed all that with his well-conjured goal. A ball through from Sheringham came high and Harewood knocked it up even higher before turning and sweeping in a wonderful volley as he was falling. Nothing else in the match came close in terms of skill and it challenged Sheffield United to become a more positive force.

The West Ham fans are now all too familiar with seeing their team squander advantages. Here it was essential to build on Harewood's goal. Instead, the side fell back under Sheffield United's predictable increase in pace and commitment. Almost inevitably they were caught stumbling around in their own penalty area when Andy Liddell put the ball across and the excellent Jagielka moved in to head firmly towards the goal. The ball had crossed the line before the goalkeeper Stephen Bywater began to drag it back.

The Sheffield United manager, Neil Warnock, added fuel to the flames of bitterness between the clubs when claiming that a heavy challenge by 17-year-old Mark Noble on Nick Montgomery was a possible bone-breaker. Pardew suggested it was nothing more than youthful commitment. The disagreements continue.

Goals: Harewood (39) 1-0; Jagielka (57) 1-1.

West Ham United (4-4-2): Bywater; Ferdinand, Repka, Mackay, Powell; Noble, Mullins (Rebrov, 84), Fletcher, Chadwick (Reo-Coker, 77); Harewood, Sheringham. Substitutes not used: Walker (gk), Brevett, Zamora.

Sheffield United (3-5-2): Kenny; Bromby, Cullip, Morgan; Geary, Jagielka, Montgomery, Tonge, Harley; Gray, Liddell (Forte, 79). Substitutes not used: Ward, Cadamarteri, Thirwell, Francis.

Referee: D Gallagher (Oxfordshire).

Booked: West Ham United Fletcher, Repka, Noble, Rebrov.

Man of the match: Jagielka.

Attendance: 19,444.

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