Town 1-1 Sheffield United
Saturday, 14th Jan 2006 19:15
Danny Webber's goal 13 minutes from the end prevented the Blues from taking all three points against second-placed Sheffield United. Town had led an entertaining game through Jimmy Juan's 54th minute freekick.
New striker Alan Lee made his debut up front with Darren Currie once again taking up a role between the frontman and the midfield. Shane Supple continued in goal with Fabian Wilnis and Scott Barron keeping their places as the full-backs. In midfield, Jimmy Juan and Owen Garvan joined Gavin Williams and Ian Westlake.
Richard Naylor, a veteran of many a Town-Blades game, had the first chance, a defender blocking his header from a Darren Currie corner and keeper Paddy Kenny saving the rebound.
Sheffield United's first threat of the game came through Danny Webber, his ball from the left flying across the Town box but no one was on hand to add a final touch.
Two minutes later, Kenny rushed out of his goal to clear and was still well out of position when Ian Westlake got the ball in his hand. However, the midfielder and Scott Barron took too long over the throw and the chance of catching out the Irishman was gone.
On 14 Chris Morgan picked up the game's first yellow card after a foul on Westlake, having made a similarly poor challenge on Lee earlier in the game. Currie's freekick came through a crowd of players and was claimed by Kenny.
Kenny did well to come off his line quickly to clear ahead of Owen Garvan on 20 after the midfielder had been played in by Currie.
Lee claimed he was pulled in the area as a cross came in from the left a minute later but replacement referee Clive Penton wasn't interested. Town were gradually getting on top and playing the better football, although the Blades were looking more dangerous around the penalty area.
The visitors almost went ahead in the 25th minute when Paul Ifill was found in space on the right. The former Millwall man took the ball inside Scott Barron and beat Shane Supple but Jason De Vos was on hand to clear from inside the six-yard box.
Ifill was having a lot of luck down the Town left and saw his centre deflect dangerously across the Blues box, Gavin Williams stabbing out at the far post.
Former Town loanee David Unsworth, who would have joined the Blues permanently had the cash been available in the summer, hit a piledriver in the 34th minute which Supple tipped over.
Scott Barron crossed from the left in the 36th minute but the ball failed to fall for either Gavin Williams or Alan Lee. Fabian Wilnis eventually lashed a shot high and wide. Just before the break, Ian Westlake's overhead kick failed to trouble Kenny.
The Blues had again impressed with Lee adding more physical strength and hold-up play up front but the Blades had had the better of the opportunities in front of goal, most notably Ifill's chance which was cleared by De Vos.
Currie saw a 25-yard shot saved in the 52nd minute but two minutes later the Blues went in front. Danny Haynes replaced Ian Westlake after the youngster had been fouled five yards outside the area by Phil Jagielka. Jimmy Juan got the nod to take the freekick and got the ball up and over the wall and into the net off the underside of Paddy Kenny's cross bar. The Frenchman celebrated wildly in front of the Cobbold Stand with his team-mates all piling on top of him.
Haynes hit a shot which Kenny claimed with little trouble in the 63rd minute, then at the other end Michael Tonge's strike deflected kindly through to Supple.
The young Town striker should have out the Blues two goals ahead on 65 after being put through one-on-one with Kenny inside the penalty area by a Lee flick. Haynes sent the ball to Kenny's left but wide of the post.
The FA Youth Cup winner had another chance in the 74th minute after being played in by Jimmy Juan but David Unsworth got across to make a superb saving tackle.
On 77 the Blades got back on terms. Tonge played in Webber who was forced wide by the advancing Supple but still managed to beat a number of Town defenders inside the six-yard box with his low shot into the net.
As the game entered the final 10 minutes, Juan picked up a harsh yellow card after he and Tonge appeared to run into one another when chasing the ball. On 83 Jim Magilton replaced Owen Garvan. Three minutes later Sito took over from Scott Barron who had taken a blow to the nose.
The Spaniard was quickly involved in the action, Derek Geary receiving a booking for a foul as the ex-Racing Club de Ferrol man left him for dead on the left.
Gavin Williams thought he should have been awarded a penalty in the final minute of normal time when Jagielka caught him with a high challenge and failed to get anything of the ball. Referee Penton didn't agree.
The Blades almost stole it in injury time when Steve Kabba broke quickly after a Town corner and hit a shot across the face of goal but just wide of Supple's goal.
A draw was probably a fair result as the Blues continued the progress they have made in recent weeks. Town passed the ball around well with the midfield looking increasingly confident.
Alan Lee enjoyed a good debut, winning a lot in the air, showing awareness, making some decent runs and showing a bit of pace. A debut goal wasn't forthcoming and the £100,000 signing created more chances for others than he was presented with himself.
Town-Sheffield United games are rarely without controversy and this was no exception with Neil Warnock, the subject of chants throughout the game, approaching the North Stand at the final whistle and indicating the 1-1 scoreline. Gavin Williams and Richard Naylor made their feelings known to the impulsive Blades boss who was eventually marched away from that end of the field by two Town security staff.
Another step in the right direction for Town, if not for Warnock, and a climb up the table from the current 15th position during the second half of the season doesn't look as unlikely a proposition as it did a few weeks ago.
Town: Supple, Wilnis, Barron (Sito 86), Naylor, De Vos, Garvan (Magilton 83), Juan, Westlake (Haynes 54), Williams, Currie, Lee. Unused: Price, Richards. Att: 23,794.
Photo: Action Images
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