Warnock delight at 'massive' victory

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The Sheffield United manager, Neil Warnock, believes Tuesday night's 1-0 win at Watford was crucial to his team's chances of survival in the Premiership.

Danny Webber stepped off the bench to score against his former club two minutes from time to hand United their second away win of the season and put them four points clear of 19th-placed Watford. And Warnock revealed the importance he had attached to claiming maximum points.

"This was massive," he said. "People say it is just another game, but that was not the case tonight. If we want to stay in the Premiership this season, this was a game we had to win - and how we did not score before Danny got his goal, I will never know."

Watford believed Webber was offside for the goal, but Warnock said: "I hope it was 20 yards offside. We have had about nine major decisions go against us this year, so I make no apology if one has gone for us."

Warnock was also furious with the home side's ball-boys, whom he accused of failing to dry the ball with their towels when his team won throw-ins. The Blades manager said he had complained to the fourth official Steve Bennett about the situation during half-time.

"The ball-boys sat on the towels when we had a throw-in, but used them to dry the ball when Watford had one," he said. "We made a complaint to Steve Bennett at half-time. It is ridiculous - we are in the Premiership and we are talking about towels."

But his Watford counterpart, Adrian Boothroyd, maintained that the ball-boys had not been told to treat the teams differently.

Boothroyd admitted United had deserved to win the game and accepted that his players had under-performed. He believed Webber had been in an offside position during the build-up to the goal, but did not try to use that as an excuse for the defeat.

"Sheffield United were the better side," Boothroyd said. "I asked the crowd to perform today, and they did - but we did not. Everything that we normally do well, we failed to do. We did not put enough crosses in and we did not get enough people into dangerous areas.

"The goal was a mile offside, but those things seem to be happening to us at the moment. If we had played fantastically well it would have been a huge blow, but, as it is, we have to hold our hands up. I am disappointed, but not devastated."

The Hornets were missing a number of regulars, with the goalkeeper Ben Foster, who has a knee injury, and forwards Hameur Bouazza (ankle) and Ashley Young (flu) out of action along with the long-term injury victims Marlon King and Clarke Carlisle.

Young's creativity was missed by the home team and Boothroyd accepted that his absence had weakened Watford.

"We did miss Ashley a lot tonight, because he is a key player for us," Boothroyd said. "But we cannot use that as an excuse. We had to try to adjust and adapt without him. We have a lot of injuries, and that can cripple a small squad. But everybody has to deal with these situations."

The Watford captain, Gavin Mahon, said: "I thought the better side won tonight. We didn't play high tempo, the Watford way. I thought they looked dangerous. Every time they came forward they looked like they were going to hurt us. We knew it was going to be a scrappy game. It couldn't have been one for the neutrals to watch but we knew we had to win that battle and I don't think we did. I think it is individual battles you have to win as well and we didn't do that either."

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