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Rovers 2 Sheffield Utd 1


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Match Report by Scotty

The first home game in what seemed like ages saw a radically different Rovers team than the one that played last time. Both Warnock and Samba made their home debuts, Nelsen played his first game at Ewood this season, and both Dunn and Roberts were named on the bench. Mokoena also came in for Gallagher.

We started off sloppily. Sheffield United were clearly up for it straight away and they were sharper and more competitive than us early on. They created a couple of great chances, hit the post, and should have been a goal up at least before we scored. But score we did.

Emerton made a great run from his full-back position up to the edge of the United area. Bentley took a couple of defenders with him as he made an overlap, leaving Emerton with all the time and space in the world to place an inch-perfect back post cross onto Pedersen's head. I can give Pedersen's header no higher praise than to say it was Sheareresque. 1-0 up against the run of play.

Sheffield responded well though and equalised shortly after. It was a horrible goal to concede - not for the first, or last, time in the match our defence lost the initial challenge and Stead ran onto the flick-on, controlled the ball well, and smashed it into the net. His reaction (or lack of) to the goal showed real class.

The game became scrappy after that. United were very physical, the ref let them get away with it most of the time, and we didn't really stand up to it. For example, they regularly hacked Bentley down whenever he got the ball. We did, however, look dangerous out wide where both Pedersen and Bentley (in conjunction with our full-backs) caused problems and were influential throughout the first half, but we didn't create too much in terms of real chances. Neither did United, but they did retain possession better than us and they were the team pressing as the half ended.

So, 1-1 at half-time and we could probably consider ourselves a bit fortunate to not be behind. I should also mention that Derbyshire went off injured early on to be replaced by Roberts.

The second half was pretty abject in terms of quality and entertainment. United had reorganised at half-time and were out much quicker to close down our full-backs and wingers than they were in the first half. This had a detremental effect on their own attacking ambitions though and the game settled into a pretty turgid midfield battle. The only real chance we created was when Bentley controlled a high ball majestically, cut inside his full-back, and hit an angled shot across goal that Paddy Kenny did well to save. United always looked dangerous on the counter-attack, especially at set-pieces, but the game had draw written all over it until the last minute.

Before then though Warnock got himself sent off after making a daft challange on the Riverside touchline. He should have stopped the winger much earlier and paid for his mistake.

Dunn, who'd replaced Mokoena with about 25 minutes to go and received a fantastic reception, had looked a bit off the pace for the most part. However, deep into injury time, he was the first player throughout the whole second half to drive at the United defence and commit their defenders. He was pulled back and won a free-kick centrally about 25 yards out. Kenny could only stand and watch as Pedersen stroked the ball into the top corner of the net. A true gem that lit up a very ordinary half of football.

There was just time to see Samba commit one of the best tackles I've seen in years before the ref blowed for full-time and Ewood went spare.

Friedel didn't have too much to do and didn't have any chance with the goal.

Our defence was poor in the first half but improved as the game wore on - which I guess is understandable given the lack of time they've had together. Nelsen looks a shadow of the player he was last season at the moment. He was hesitant, he lost a lot of headers, and his clearances were often mis-kicked into touch. Samba started off shakily but improved dramatically as the game wore on. He was fantastic in the second half. Warnock looked good going forward but got caught out occasionally at the back, in the first half especially. His sending off was deserved (although you could argue about his first booking). Emerton linked up well with Bentley in the first half, created Pedersen's first goal with a great cross, but was closed down quicker in the second and wasn't as effective.

We were poor in central midfield today and got out-battled for the most part. Tugay had a bit of a shocker and probably should have been replaced long before the end. As usual Mokoena wasn't as bad as some on here would have you believe, but he did give the ball away occasionally and, in the first half especially, didn't give the back four the protection he should. Dunn came on for him in the second half and looked like he hadn't played football for a few months. However, his driving run won us the free-kick that Pedersen stuck away so that'll do for now.

Out wide we were brilliant in the first half. Bentley was superb, often drifting into central positions and acting as a playmaker as well as playing a number of top crosses into the box from out wide. He was our man of the match by a mile and is probably our player of the season so far. He was less effective in the second half as United re-adjusted but still showed the odd flash of insperation here and there. Pedersen's in a rich vein of form at the moment. He's probably played better than he ever has for us in the last few games and, as well as scoring two cracking goals, his all round game was excellent. Long may it continue.

Derbyshire's injury is a blow - let's hope it's not too serious. However, I can't help thinking that this was never going to be his type of game anyway. Roberts is much more suited to the physical battle that United put up and he led the line well considering he'd been out for so long. His touch was lacking on occasions, that will improve over time, but his strength and work-rate showed us what we'd been missing over the last few months. McCarthy on the other hand didn't really show anything. He was very poor and looked almost disinterested at times.

You can argue that we were lucky to win today given the chances United missed in the first half and the overall balance of play. However, if you look at the players we had on the pitch at the end, you can see that there are match winners all over the park. McCarthy, Roberts, Tugay, Bentley, Dunn, Pedersen, even Emerton are all capable of producing that bit of magic that can win a game at this level. Pedersen did it today with a wonderful free-kick. Sheffield United just don't have those sort of players and, however much they may battle and fight, it is always a possibility that they may lose out to quality in the end.

For us though it was an important win that takes us back into the top half of the table. Lets hope all our internationals retun home safely this week and we can go into the match at Everton with as strong a team as possible. European qualification through the league is still a possibility.

Mark Hughes post match comments.

"The technique Morten has in that sort of situation is as good as anybody I have seen.

"In the end we possibly got a little bit more out of it than we deserved and in fairness that is credit to Sheffield United who worked extremely.

"It is not often we are able to win Premiership games without playing to our maximum but we did here."

Rovers: Friedel, Emerton, Samba, Nelsen, Warnock, Bentley, Mokoena (Dunn 60), Tugay (Nonda 87), Pedersen, Derbyshire (Roberts 17), McCarthy.

Subs Not Used: Brown, Khizanishvili.

Sent Off: Warnock (88).

Booked: Warnock.

Goals: Pedersen 22, 90.

Sheff Utd: Kenny, Geary, Jagielka, Lucketti, Kozluk, Tonge, Montgomery, Armstrong, Stephen Quinn, Stead, Hulse.

Subs Not Used: Bromby, Webber, Alan Quinn, Fathi, Kazim-Richards.

Booked: Armstrong, Geary, Tonge, Stead.

Goals: Stead 25.

Att: 20,917

Ref: A Marriner

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