Megson puts faith in hard work to gain promotion

Sheffield United 1 West Bromwich Albion 2
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The Independent Football

As with any traumatic event, an anniversary has to be observed before life can return to normal. The Battle of Bramall Lane was two seasons ago, but West Bromwich's year in the Premiership meant this was the first time they had been back since that notorious match was abandoned with Albion three-up, the Blades down to seven men, and much bad blood on both sides.

"It was very difficult for us coming back here," Albion's manager, Gary Megson, said. "We spoke about a few issues before the game, about keeping our heads and not getting involved." It certainly worked. Two years on from the battle, and with both sides again pushing for promotion, this wasn't even a scrap: it was just plain scrappy.

Indeed, a first half characterised by misplaced passes and wayward shooting, in which neither side looked like Premiership material, had some of us wishing this game would end prematurely too.

The goals all came after the break and even they were unsatisfactory. United were rewarded for a spell of dominance when Nick Montgomery was gifted the ball on the right. His cross evaded several players on the goal-line, struck the Albion central defender Darren Moore on the chest and trickled over the line. The Blades should have increased their lead before three substitutions by Megson disrupted their rhythm and allowed West Brom back in the game.

Moore made amends for his own-goal when Jason Koumas picked him out with a corner-kick, though inevitably his header took a deflection on its way in.

The winner was no less untidy. A free-kick led to the goalkeeper Paddy Kenny making a reflex save from substitute Sean Gregan, but after a short game of ping-pong in the penalty area, Delroy Facey headed the ball down and Thomas Gaardsoe slid it in from close range.

United, who have now lost four League games on the trot - scoring only once in the process - never looked like salvaging a point.

Victory gave Albion breathing space in the automatic promotion race, but Megson is taking nothing for granted. "We went up two years ago after a late run, and someone else could do that this season," he said. "The difference between those who go up and those who make the play-offs will be work-rate and heart, and we must keep the desire we showed when we went behind here."

The Blades manager, Neil Warnock, blamed defeat on his side's failure to defend set-pieces. "We have got to toughen up and be stronger physically to compete," he said.

But despite losing ground, he has not given up on promotion and another battle with the Baggies. "It will be nice to get in the play-offs and possibly play West Brom again," he said.

Goals: Moore og (57) 1-0; Moore (70) 1-1; Gaardsoe (85) 1-2.

Sheffield United (4-4-2): Kenny; Jagielka, Page, Whitlow, Kozluk (Allison, 87); Ndlovu (Robinson, 76), Montgomery, McCall (Shaw, 83), Tonge; Ward, Peschisolido. Substitutes not used: Parkinson, Boussatta.

West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Murphy; N'Dour (Gregan, 66), Gaardsoe, Moore, Haas; Koumas, Johnson, Kinsella (Volmer, 66), Clement; Hughes (Facey, 68), Horsfield. Substitutes not used: Pressman (gk), Dyer.

Referee: M Jones (Cheshire).

Bookings: Sheffield United: Peschisolido, Page, Montgomery, Whitlow. West Bromwich Albion: Haas.

Man of the match: Koumas.

Attendance: 24,805.

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