Warnock left fuming after Taylor penalty frustrates Blades

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If Neil Warnock is proved correct in his assumption that either Norwich or West Bromwich Albion will be caught, it is unlikely to be by his own team.

If Neil Warnock is proved correct in his assumption that either Norwich or West Bromwich Albion will be caught, it is unlikely to be by his own team.

Derby, a club who have spent most of the season travelling around the country distributing points, simply had to be beaten and after an entertaining, bizarrely refereed encounter they were not. Nothing better summed up the frustrations enveloping Bramall Lane than the sight of the substitute Dries Boussatta being hauled off after a few ineffectual minutes, although the vision of Warnock gesticulating at the officials after the final whistle came close.

"I will quote Bill Shankly, the referees know the rules but they don't know the game," the Blades manager said. "I felt sorry for Dries and had I been in his boots I would have used a few more adjectives than he did when he walked off. But I didn't see how else I could bring on Wayne Allison."

The whole complexion of the game altered the moment the referee, Lee Mason, ruled that Leon Osman had been bundled over in the area. Sheffield United were then one goal up and, against a team that had not won away in the First Division since September, were looking reasonably confident.

It looked a weak decision and once Ian Taylor had clipped home the penalty, there were scuffles, bookings every few minutes during the first half and waves of incident that consumed the respective goalmouths. Rob Kozluk cleared off the United line before Adam Bolder did the same for Derby. Manel was clean through but shot against Paddy Kenny. Had Warnock not forbidden the participation of Paul Peschisolido, who has scored four times in three games since his move from Bramall Lane to Pride Park, Derby might have taken the match by the throat.

Through much of the first half the grip had been United's. Derby looked uneasy when the ball crossed their own halfway line. Rob Edwards, a Premiership defender and a Wales international, was robbed by Peter Ndlovu, who allowed Andy Gray to drive home his fourth goal in half-a-dozen appearances since his transfer from Bradford.

The anger may have drained from the encounter during the second half but both teams continued to manufacture chances. Derby, however, seemed the more composed side, while Sheffield United appeared agitated. At the start of the campaign they looked a fair bet for automatic promotion; now it appears they will have to endure the unique agonies of play-off football once more.

Sheffield United (4-1-3-2): Kenny; Jagielka, Morgan, Page, Kozluk; McCall (Forte, 67); Ndlovu (Boussatta, 67; Allison, 81), Montgomery, Tonge; Lester, Gray. Substitutes not used: Shaw, Francis.

Derby County (4-4-2): Grant; Edwards, Johnson (Walton, 8), Mawane, Boertien; Bolder, Taylor, Huddlestone, Osman; Tudgay (Whelan, 90), Manel (Costa, 79). Substitutes not used: Oakes (gk), Tome.

Referee: L Mason (Lancashire).