Norwich City 2 Sheffield Utd 1: Warnock in quandary as slump continues

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The Independent Online

A 3-1 defeat by Norwich at Bramall Lane on Boxing Day triggered a slump by Neil Warnock's previously rampant Sheffield United and it has continued stubbornly until this return fixture, which saw the Canaries complete the double. The second-placed Blades have won only once in eight Championship matches, a fair distance from promotion form.

The Canaries, who had hoped to mount a more convincing campaign for a swift returned to the Premiership, might now sense a genuine chance for a late run into the play-offs. Warnock had recalled David Unsworth to the Blades' defence but it was the reappearance of midfielder Michael Tonge, after a ban, that proved crucial as, in the 17th minute, he broke on the left, slipped the ball to Danny Webber. The striker was tackled but the ball broke to Chris Armstrong and he charged into the box to finish emphatically. The Blades, playing confidently, were on top but a lapse of concentration in defence let the Canaries back into the match. An Adam Drury free-kick was was headed on by Jason Shackell and Leon McKenzie stole in to equalise with Norwich's first meaningful chance.

A Neil Shipperley shot hit the bar as the Blades resumed domination but a second defensive error let in Robert Earnshaw on the stroke of half time as the former West Brom striker capitalised on Craig Fleming's cross and United's costly hesitancy.

Warnock remained upbeat despite the defeat. "How we have lost today I will never know. It was an excellent performance from the lads, we played football the right way, the Norwich way, we just didn't have the luck on the day. The fact that we hit the bar through Neil Shipperley and they went down the other end and scored their second just about sums it up. A lot of questions have been asked of the players in recent weeks and I thought they answered them out there."