Not vintage, but it will do

IT is common practice for managers to share a drink together after a game and as something of a wine connoisseur Joe Royle will be the first to tell you that you don't always need a vintage wine - sometimes a passable house red will suffice.

IT is common practice for managers to share a drink together after a game and as something of a wine connoisseur Joe Royle will be the first to tell you that you don't always need a vintage wine - sometimes a passable house red will suffice.

The analogy could be used to describe his team's performance at Bramall Lane where the Blues gave a full-bodied showing while the Blades' offering had plenty of content but left an unsatisfying after-taste.

While Ipswich were far from their best at Bramall Lane, they sit five points clear at the top of the table this morning.

In truth they won ugly.


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Kelvin Davis' outstanding goalkeeping played a big part; Jason de Vos and Richard Naylor heading away an aerial bombardment was another massive factor.

Much was owed to good old-fashioned defending; sticking in whatever part of the anatomy was required to prevent a goal.

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Ian Westlake put his backside in the way of a powerful Michael Tonge free kick and was left rubbing the pained area as the ball deflected away for a corner.

Shefki Kuqi epitomised the Town spirit by continuing to battle away despite taking a battering, particularly from Danny Cullip, and he was rewarded with a goal, while the Blues picked up the points on the way to a bigger prize.

New boy David Unsworth had given the Blues a surprise cushion with a superbly-taken debut goal, as is his habit.

The 31-year-old netted on his Everton bow in 1992 against Spurs, he did it again when making his first Portsmouth appearance on the opening day of this season and made it a hat-trick at Bramall Lane for Town.

Although renowned for his spot kicks, not many knew he had this sort of finish in his locker after Kuqi played him in with a masterly ball slipped in between two defenders. As Derek Geary trailed in his wake, Unsworth strode

purposefully into the area before slamming a left-footed, near-post shot past Paddy Kenny from the tightest of angles.

The goal sprang from nowhere as Town had struggled to contain a bright Blades side.

Danny Cadamarteri, back in favour after a spell on the bench, beat the offside trap but chose to shoot instead of pass to a well-positioned Andy Gray and Jason De Vos blocked on the edge of the area.

That was after just eight minutes and immediately the United fans started to get on the former Everton striker's back. Gray then had an effort well saved by Davis and from Harley's corner Phil Jagielka headed over.

Davis was in the sort of mood that no-one could beat him and the Blues keeper went on to make even better saves from Gray and Michael Tonge.

The Town keeper set the tone as Naylor stepped in front of Gray to take a through-ball off his feet, and Fabian Wilnis was not going to be beaten on his flank.

The Blades, it seems, are never really happy unless they have something to moan about and when the linesman and referee waved away Nick Montgomery's appeal for a penalty the fans were in their element. The officials incurred further wrath from everyone in red when Kuqi tucked away his 14th goal of the season.

A Jim Magilton corner had been cheekily flicked in by a De Vos back-heel and cleared only as far as Ian Westlake. His shot took a deflection and landed at an unmarked Kuqi, who poked in from six yards.

Furious Sheffield players and fans were convinced it was offside, but they had ignored the defender who was slow getting out as Westlake hit his shot, and as the ball went to Kuqi off a Blades player, he wasn't offside.

That didn't stop Gray protesting for a further five minutes and he was eventually booked for berating the assistant.

A fortunate goal, perhaps, and not the first slice of luck Town have had this season, which adds credence to the argument that this is their year.

Paddy Kenny was rarely troubled by the Blues attack. A subdued Darren Currie hit a dipping shot on the volley from the angle of the 18-yard box and Tonge did well to get back and block a Kuqi effort as he countered sharply. But on the whole it was mainly United.

Straight from the second half kick-off Gray surged into the box and Davis made a brilliant one-handed save. He produced another top-drawer save to push away a 25-yard curling Tonge shot that seemed heading for the top corner

During the six minutes of time added on, substitute Alan Quinn volleyed a Tonge corner from the edge of the area, but Davis was behind it.

Then Ward tried a looping header from a Leigh Bromby long throw but nothing was going to get past Davis and the Blues' dominant defence.

While the United crowd vented their frustration on the officials, the Blues players went to the 3,000 travelling Town supporters to celebrate and Kuqi treated them to one of his famous swallow dives.

Kuqi had spilled claret for the cause but the Blues following will drink to another victory and another three points closer to the Championship, when no doubt the champagne will flow.

derek.davis@eadt.co.uk

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