Blackburn Rovers 2 Sheffield United 1: Pedersen quality cuts down Blades

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Mark Hughes' transfer-window freshening-up of his squad was just enough to bring Blackburn a last-gasp victory they scarcely merited on Saturday.

The match was on its way to a draw that was the least a tenacious Sheffield United deserved when David Dunn, brought on in the second half for his second Blackburn debut, brought back memories of his first stint with the club with a bustling surge at the heart of the defence.

Michael Tonge gave his arm a little tug and that was enough for the referee, Andre Marriner. Neil Warnock, the United manager, was adamant that there should have been no free-kick; the evidence was that there should, although it was cruelly timed, two minutes into added time.

Warnock admitted to a sinking feeling when Morten Gamst Pedersen, a player with one trick too many from dead-ball situations, lined up the free-kick. Sure enough, Pedersen curled it past Paddy Kenny for his second goal.

Apart from relishing the Norwegian's formidable technique, Hughes praised Dunn's contribution, three-and-a-half years after packing his bags for Birmingham. In truth, he had understandable difficulty in getting up with the pace of the game, although the way he won the kick showed how valuable he could be.

Blackburn's other two home debutants had thoroughly interesting afternoons. Christopher Samba, a towering central defender born in France, capped by the Democratic Republic of the Congo and signed from the Bundesliga, had an uncomfortable start in a defence that looked all at sea.

They could have conceded a couple of early goals and Samba was implicated in the one they did, to the former Blackburn striker Jon Stead. After that, Samba picked up the tempo and looked capable of being a dominating presence. He should not be beaten in the air too often and showed some good touches on the ground into the bargain.

His afternoon was a quiet one, though, compared to that of Stephen Warnock, the left-back signed from Liverpool. Booked in the first half, he was shown a second yellow card two minutes from time for a late tackle on Derek Geary. Hughes called it "very harsh", but again it was hard to see that Marriner had much choice.

If anyone was hard done-by it was United, who showed determination and appetite for the fray that will probably be enough to keep them in the Premiership. Apart from breaking up Blackburn's passing game, they put together enough decent football to qualify as the better side for much of the game.

"That's football," a philosophical Warnock said. "It can be a cruel game and you sometimes don't get what you deserve, but you have to take it on the chin. There were a lot of pluses for us."

Indeed there were, not least that three sides below them all lost.

Goals: Pedersen (22) 1-0; Stead (25) 1-1; Pedersen (90) 2-1.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Friedel; Emerton, Samba, Nelsen, Warnock; Bentley, Mokoena (Dunn, 60), Tugay (Nonda, 82), Pedersen; McCarthy, Derbyshire (Roberts, 17). Substitutes not used: Brown (gk), Khizanishvili.

Sheffield United (4-4-2): Kenny; Kozluk, Lucketti, Jagielka, Armstrong; Geary, Montgomery, Tonge, S Quinn; Hulse, Stead. Substitutes not used: Bromby, Webber, A Quinn, Fathi, Kazim-Richards.

Referee: A Marriner (Warwickshire).

Booked: Blackburn Warnock. Sheffield United Stead, Tonge, Armstrong.

Sent off: Warnock.

Man of the match: Pedersen.

Attendance: 20,917.