Kabba drives Blades back into play-off contention

Sheffield United 4 - Crewe Alexandra 0
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The Independent Online

Neil Warnock, the Sheffield United manager, reacted to Saturday's defeat at Cardiff City by arranging a meeting with players and staff on Sunday morning to discuss their prospects for the remainder of the season.

Neil Warnock, the Sheffield United manager, reacted to Saturday's defeat at Cardiff City by arranging a meeting with players and staff the next day to discuss their prospects for the remainder of the season.

Last night they responded in style by brushing aside a feeble Crewe Alexandra, a result that takes them level on points with Reading, who occupy the final play-off spot. Inspired by the returning Steve Kabba, who was by some distance the outstanding player on view, United made sure ofthree points by the time Andy Gray converted their second just before the interval.

Kabba was making his first start since the First Division play-off final in May 2003. The 24-year-old initially suffered a ruptured Achilles and has since been out with a broken ankle and tendonitis. However, it took him only 15 minutes to mark his comeback with a goal. Gray's pass found him inside the area and Kabba, facing away from goal, spun round Colin Murdock and curled a low shot beyond Ben Williams.

In the second half Kabba began to enjoy himself, dancing past Crewe defenders almost at will, and he scored a glorious second with 24 minutes left. Flicking the ball to Liddell, Kabba continued his run and volleyed his team-mate's back-heel into the bottom corner. With that, the former Crystal Palace forward retired to the bench amid a standing ovation, leaving Gray to complete the scoring 15 minutes from time.

"He's given everyone here a massive lift," Warnock said. "We've got to look after him because he's had a horrific run of injuries and worked so hard to get back. His goals were real quality."

For Crewe, these are worrying times. With teams below them beginning to pick up points, coming home games with Nottingham Forest and Cardiff City promise to be tense affairs. "Confidence isn't great, but you wouldn't expect it to be because we keep losing," said Crewe's manager Dario Gradi.

Sheffield United (4-4-2): Kenny; Bromby, Harley, Morgan, Cullip (Geary, 71); Jagielka, Thirlwell, Liddell, Quinn; Gray (Beckett, 81), Kabba (Cadamarteri, 68). Substitutes not used: Montgomery, Forte.

Crewe Alexandra (4-4-2): Williams; Murdock, Moss, Tonkin, Foster; Lunt, Sorvel, Vaughan, Roberts (Bell, 77); Higdon (White, 82), Rivers. Substitutes not used: Wills (gk), McCready, Jones.

Referee: D Drysdale (Lincolnshire).

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