Sheffield United 2 Derby County 1
Bright Blades keep on running
Sunday 25 September 2005
United's best ever start to the season has them four points clear of Reading in second and an astonishing nine points clear of Watford in third; even better for Blades fans, their city rivals Wednesday languish at the bottom of the table.
It could have been better still had Derby not mounted a second-half fightback that changed the tenor of the game from potential rout into a nailbiter. "That's our best result of the season," said Warnock. "Even though we went AWOL for about 20 minutes, it's nice to know we've got that bit of resolve. For the last 20 minutes we were very disciplined."
Nice in retrospect perhaps, but most at Bramall Lane would presumably have taken the one-way procession yesterday's game looked like being when United took a freakish lead in the seventh minute. As David Unsworth sent in a corner from the right, Morten Bisgaard, perhaps dazzled by the low sun, fluffed his clearance and the ball snuck in at the far post.
An Unsworth corner also was the source of the second half an hour later, although in far more conventional circumstances. Neil Shipperley headed back into the centre, where Paul Ifill drove his third of the season in-off the post. It wasn't just the sun causing problems, though, and Chris Morgan headed a fraction over after being left wholly unmarked from a left-wing corner.
"We know the way they play, that they put the ball into the box early and set pieces are very important to them," said the Derby manager, Phil Brown. "I'm bitterly disappointed we didn't deal with that, but I'm delighted at the way we came back."
The 4-1-4-1 formation with which he had begun the game was abandoned for a 4-4-2, and with Paul Peschisolido buzzing behind Mounir El Hamdaoui, they looked far more potent.
The change brought a goal after eight minutes, as Peschisolido, a former United favourite, flicked in Peter Whittingham's low cross at the near post. Pressure and the odd flutter of panic in the United defence, though, did not translate into clear-cut chances. Although it took a sharp low save from Paddy Kenny to turn away an El Hamdaoui shot on the turn with 12 minutes remaining.
"I love Peschi," said Warnock, with a mellowness that is becoming increasingly characteristic. "For us to win and him to score is ideal. We defended 20 yards too deep, but after all the shouting I had to say it was a fantastic result." He may no longer rage with the intensity of old, but there are no signs of him retreating to the holiday cottage just yet.
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