Sheffield Utd 3 Southampton 0: Tonge settles United's jitters

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The Independent Football

Neil Warnock said that anyone watching his team lose at Norwich in their previous outing could only have concluded that the Sheffield United team bus had run over a cat on the way to Carrow Road.

And after watching his team win for only the second time in nine games, amazingly the only team in the top half to do so yesterday, Warnock could hardly believe his luck again. "We've tried to make it a good league by letting teams catch up with us - now we've started winning again," he beamed. "I thought we looked such a good side at Norwich and I wanted them to play with the same swagger today, which we did."

United now hold a commanding six-point advantage over Watford and Leeds, their nearest challengers. This was a predictably tense affair until two goals just before half-time gave the home team a flattering and decisive advantage.

Phil Jagielka, recently voted Championship Player of the Year, opened the scoring and Paul Ifill added a second. In both cases, the source was Michael Tonge. It was his inch-perfect pass that set up Chris Armstrong to cross for Jagielka, and his shot, palmed away by Paul Smith, that set up Ifill. United hardly needed the third goal cushion, but it arrived when Neil Shipperley took advantage of some dreadful defending.

Southampton posed a real threat on the break early on but faded badly. With four of the five sides below them winning yesterday, a second successive relegation could become a reality.

"After the first goal there was only one winner," their manager, George Burley, said . "We're in a relegation fight and I'm disappointed that we took a step back rather than forward once we conceded."

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