Blades Get Helping Hand
Rangers surrendered a one-goal lead at Bramall Lane, as Sheffield United took 3 points from the evenly contested encounter.
It started so well for the R`s as debutante Patrick Agyemang slammed the ball home from close range to give Rangers a first half lead. This was cancelled out by a fortuitous Damion Stewart own goal after a scramble in the box. United then took the win after Lee Hendrie put his first goal for the Blades away from an acute angle after some poor defending.
Rangers left ruing the decision or indeed indecision of Mr Miller, when Akos Buzsaky`s goalbound effort was stopped by the hand Matthew Killgallon, a save that was worthy of Gordon Banks himself. Rangers` players surrounded the referee but no decision was forthcoming and Killgallon scurried away with a rye grin, to send Rangers home from the steel city without a point.
Luigi De Canio handed full debuts to Patrick Agyemang and Kieran Lee, whilst recent signing Rowan Vine was handed a place on the bench. The back four remained unchanged from the personnel that performed admirably at Stamford Bridge. Akos Buzsaky recovered from a sprained ankle in time to compete, but the game came too soon for defender Michael Mancienne who is still recovering from a hamstring injury.
Bryan Robson handed a debut, and furthermore the captain`s armband to experienced midfielder Gary Speed. Robson included Michael Tonge, Billy Sharp and Rob Hulse to create some firepower in the absence of Blades top scorer James Beattie.
The Blades created the first chance of the game when Leigh Bromby stooped to head an effort over the bar from Lee Hendrie`s corner. The versatile defender got a yard on his marker, but his header was never close to the target.
It was Rangers however who made a brighter start to the game, with Akos Buzsaky testing Paddy Kenny from 25 yards. The Irish keeper saved the shot comfortably low and to his right. A shot that seemed worth the effort on an uneven surface at Bramall Lane. Rangers continued to push, it was that man again Buzsaky who raced clear of his marker to send him to the edge of the area, but a heavy touch on that particular surface gave the aforementioned Bromby enough time for a last ditch challenge.
Rangers continued to apply the pressure, and an 18th minute free kick from Buzsaky produced an outstanding save from Kenny. The set piece hit with dip and venom, but Kenny stood firm to tip the ball over the bar.
Sheffield United proceeded to create their first real chance of the game when Australian midfielder David Carney struck a powerful left footed drive towards the left hand upright, dealt with comfortably by R`s stopper Camp. The Blades finally started to assert themselves, and tested Camp once more as Hulse`s ball into the box caused problems in the Rangers backline, who had to be on their toes to clear from Lee Hendrie. Two successive free-kicks from the Blades followed, Captain Speed effort was deflected wide, and moments later Carney let fly from the left hand side of the area narrowly over the bar.
Buzsaky, confident from his last effort, let fly again from another free-kick. This time The Magical Magyar wasn`t so fortunate as his shot flew into the stand. Within moments the ball was back down the other end and good control from Lee Hendrie led to Billy Sharp being one on one with Camp. The striker slotted home, but to his despair the referee`s assistant deemed the striker was in an offside position.
Finally though Rangers broke the deadlock on 43 minutes, an expansive pass by Gavin Mahon found Matthew Connolly down the right, his testing ball in the box wasn`t cleared by defender Bromby, and as the ball broke free it was debutante Patrick Agyemang, who rocketed the ball home from close range. A shot that nearly took the goal with it.
There was still time for one more chance, the impressive Sharp managed to wriggle free from his marker to send a shot past Lee Camp and goalbound, a goaline clearance from Fitz Hall connected with the head of Rob Hulse and flew just wide.
Rangers also started brightly in the second period, with some neat pass and move play, the players looked to alleviate the noise of the home crowd, as a crowd over 27,000 strong cheered their team on.
But it was The Blades who drew first blood in the second half. A corner was given in somewhat controversial circumstances, the corner was swung in which led to a goal-mouth scramble in which Rowlands blasted the ball against defender Damion Stewart in comical fashion for the equaliser. It was a harsh on the R`s who felt a decision to give a corner was incorrect and a previous offside wasn`t given.
Rangers attempts to retaliate were once again thwarted by Kenny when he saved a Stewart header from a well-placed corner. Things though went from bad to worse to Rangers as the Blades took the lead.
Akos Buzsaky was denied a clear foul near the area as Rangers attacked, United though counter attacked as Billy Sharp once again broke free into the Rangers box, after good work from Hulse. Failure to clear from Matthew Connolly sent Lee Camp into action, the keeper couldn`t get hold of the ball that broke free to midfielder Hendrie. The ex-Aston Villa player struck the ball home of the near post from an acute angle, a goal that was ultimately his final contribution as he was substituted for Jon Stead.
De Canio responded by throwing on Dexter Blackstock in place of left back Chris Barker, who had been run ragged by Derek Geary, a player who was substituted later to a standing ovation from the home faithful.
After several home deliveries into the box, Rangers were living on edge as Rob Hulse`s header hit the bar when it appeared he fouled keeper Camp. Rangers created a chance, their last chance. Good work down the right from Rowan Vine as the ball was eventually swung over, Blackstock missed the ball at the near post and as Kenny was floundering the ball broke to Buzsaky. The midfielder let fly only to be denied by the fist of Killgallon. The Rangers players surrounded the referee and Vine was asking questions of the lineman in what was a disappointing decision that left the Rangers team pointless, and the Rangers fans were sent home ruing missed chances and tales of refereeing woe.
The midfielder constantly tested the hands of Paddy Kenny with the scintillating strikes and wizardry in the middle of the park. A player whose creativity and drives from distance didn`t deserve to be on the losing team.