Plymouth Argyle 0 Sheffield United 1: Speed shines through twilight to give Blades the edge

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The Independent Football

The ageing legs may mean surging runs are a thing of the past but for Gary Speed, 38 years young, there is time yet to show Sheffield United's fans a little more of what made him a Premier League success with Leeds United, Everton, Newcastle United and Bolton Wanderers, following his move to Bramall Lane in the January transfer window.

Last week, Teddy Sheringham announced this season would be his last. But Speed, who will be 40 when his contract with the Blades ends in the summer of 2009, three years the junior of Sheringham when he gives up the professional game in May, has no thoughts about giving up the game in which he made his debut in 1988.

"When you get to my age, you have to put all your efforts into playing," said Speed, who played a part in James Beattie's solitary goal that gave the Sheffield United manager, Kevin Blackwell, his first win. "If you start thinking about other stuff, it will take your mind off playing. I have to look after myself at my age and all I want to do is carry on playing because I am enjoying it so much.

"I have played five games in under two weeks. I have to maintain my fitness in my legs and the moment that they go then I will have to pack it in. It is not a struggle at the moment."

Both teams were evenly matched in a quiet opening to the game, with neither being able to forge clear goalscoring opportunities. The best chance of the first half came a minute from the interval through the Hungarian winger Peter Halmosi, whose driven shot was cleared off the goal-line by the United captain, Chris Morgan.

The Wales international striker Jermaine Easter should have equalised for Plymouth on 56 minutes when he found himself charging down on Paddy Kenny after being played through with a clever through-ball by the Frenchman Lilian Nalis. Easter, however, slammed his shot at the goalkeeper.

Plymouth were made to pay for their profligacy when, on 63 minutes, the visitors took the lead. The winger David Cotterill collected a ball from Speed before embarking on a run past the defender Gary Sawyer and crossing for Beattie, who headed home his 15th goal of the season.

It was Kenny who kept his side in the game with some stunning saves, the best of which came on 76 minutes when he acrobatically launched himself down to his left to palm away a deflected shot from Russell Anderson.

Plymouth's aspirations may have been dented a little by this loss, but their manager, Paul Sturrock, remained upbeat. "We shot ourselves in the foot but we cannot feel sorry for ourselves. We must roll our sleeves up."

Goal: Beattie (63) 1-0.

Plymouth Argyle (4-4-2): McCormick; Connolly, Timar, Anderson, Sawyer; Teale (Clark, 68), Nalis (Fallon, 74), Abdou, Halmosi; Easter (Mackie, 65), MacLean. Substitutes not used: Wotton, Seip.

Sheffield United (4-4-2): Kenny; Geary, Morgan, Kilgallon, Naysmith; Cotterill, Tonge, Speed, Carney (Gillespie, 71); Beattie (Hulse, 82), Sharp (Ehiogu, 90). Substitutes not used: Bennett (gk), Stead.

Referee: A Hall (West Midlands).

Booked: Plymouth Sawyer, Abdou; Sheffield United Naysmith, Morgan, Hulse.

Man of the match: Kenny.

Attendance: 13,669.

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