Sheffield United 1 West Bromwich 0: Beattie gives Blades edge in battle of promotion hopefuls

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The Independent Football

Bryan Robson celebrated his first League win as Sheffield United's manager last night at the expense of the club who sacked him less than 12 months ago. West Bromwich Albion, like United, are among the favourites for Championship promotion following last season's defeat in the final of the play-offs but James Beattie's header consigned them to a first defeat of the season.

United were well worth the three points but on another day they might have rued missing several chances. As it was, West Bromwich were so disappointing in attack that one goal proved sufficient. "That's the standard now," said Robson of his team's impressive display. "It's always important to win your first game of the season and we didn't want to lose any further ground on the leaders."

The United manager had chosen Beattie and Billy Sharp from a selection of strikers that must be the envy of every other manager in this League. Jon Stead and Luton Shelton were substitutes while Danny Webber, Christian Nade, Geoff Horsfield and Rob Hulse, recovering from knee ligament damage, all remain at the club.

It was another Beattie, though, West Bromwich's Craig, who should have opened the scoring only to mis-hit his volley into the ground and against the crossbar. Ten minutes before half-time, Beattie headed United into the lead. The goal owed much to Chris Armstrong, who chased a lost cause in rescuing an over-hit free-kick before returning an excellent cross that was met by a precise header.

Thereafter, Beattie proved a real handful as the striker seeks to re-establish his reputation following an unsuccessful stint on Merseyside. "I think James can score 20 or even 25 goals this season," said Robson. "And it's not just about his goals but the way he leads the line and brings others into play."

United continued to dominate and with 10 minutes left, Michael Tonge looked sure to guarantee the three points only to shoot wide. In the last minute, Beattie should have added a second, but Dean Kiely pulled off a fine save.

Ultimately, though, it mattered not. "It's just three points whether it's against West Brom or anyone else," insisted Robson.