Division One ? It's been Sheffield United's week

Last updated : 20 January 2003 By Tony Scholes

Sheffield United v Sheffield Wednesday
The Blades started the week with a 2-1 win at Portsmouth last Monday, only Pompey’s third defeat of the season and then won the Steel City Derby 3-1 on Friday night against struggling neighbours Wednesday to put the top two under pressure.

They scored a late goal to win it at Fratton Park and came from behind to beat Wednesday at Bramall Lane. They have also been boosted with the return of Dean Windass from Middlesbrough and the loan signing of Birmingham’s Tommy Mooney. The latter was an unused sub on Friday.

As they get ever closer to the top two neither of them had a good day on Saturday. Portsmouth won just a point in a 1-1 draw at Brighton, they had to come back from behind, and they have now won just one of their last eight league games. Besides dropping more points they also lost Steve Stone with a torn hamstring.

Needless to say Cockney Spiv Redknapp will move into the transfer market and will probably replace Stone with three or four new players. Tottenham’s Tim Sherwood is expected to be the first.

Gillingham v Leicester
It was worse for Leicester who were beaten 3-2 at Gillingham with a late goal from Mamady Sidibe. Like Portsmouth they also lost a player through injury and the influential Brian Deane will be out for about eight weeks having fractured his cheek bone.

Sheffield United, in third place, are now eight points clear of fourth and it wasn’t a brilliant weekend for the others in the top six.

Two of them, Forest and Coventry, fought out a 1-1 draw at the City Ground but it should surely have gone Forest's way. They dominated the game but Coventry got a late equaliser through Juan Sara to take a point. Forest were without the division’s leading scorer David Johnson but he is going through a somewhat lean spell for him just at the moment with just one goal in his last seven appearances.

Norwich are still in fifth place but were beaten 2-1 at Watford with goals in stoppage time of each half. It was a lackadaisical effort from the Canaries who were outfought by a Watford side determined to get back to winning ways. Since beating the Clarets at Vicarage Road they had won just once in seven games.

Ipswich continued their recent good run and were comfortable winners in what was always going to be the home banker of the day against Craig Brown’s struggling Preston. There was only ever one team in it and the two Bents, Marcus and Darren, who didn’t look capable of scoring at Burnley got all three goals.

Brighton v Portsmouth
Brown remains under pressure and the dwindling Deepdale support are far from happy with a sixth consecutive defeat. The Preston boss is the 1st division’s number one excuse man. This time he thought they had done well, ruled out the second Ipswich goal because it was dubious and suggested the third was incidental. Still looks like a defeat to me though Craig.

There were strange happenings at Millmoor, Rotherham won, beating Bradford City 3-2. They have been invincible away from home recently but this was their first home win since early November and just about keeps them in the top half of the division. It was a close run thing though against crisis club Bradford who have picked up recently with a couple of wins.

Reading are one of the weariest sides in the league and their manager Alan Pardew had the nerve to criticise Colin Lee and Walsall for their negative tactics in the less than exciting 0-0 draw at the Madejski Stadium.

Pardew needs to take note that the game attracted the lowest attendance of the season and it was his own side who were booed off at the end.

In other games Wolves and Franchise drew 1-1, Derby won 3-1 at Stoke, Millwall won 2-0 at Grimsby and of course the Clarets picked up a point in a 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace.

The top three have pulled away buy incredibly the Clarets in 16th place are only six points behind Nottingham Forest in 4th place. Franchise are three points and one place below us and quite simply any club down to 17th can make the play offs. The points required this season will certainly be less than we collected last season.

The bottom seven are the only clubs who can be ruled out of a possible play off place and I would suspect the three relegated clubs will be from these seven – Preston, Walsall, Bradford, Grimsby, Stoke, Sheffield Wednesday and Brighton. I do suspect they will come from the bottom four though.

It’s FA Cup week this week and fourteen First Division clubs will be involved in 4th Round ties. Two league games have been re-arranged though between teams who went out of the FA Cup in the last round. Both games kick off at 3:00 p.m.

Saturday 25th January

Grimsby Town v Bradford City
Preston North End v Nottingham Forest

Leading Goalscorers (League Only)

19: David Johnson (Nottm. Forest)
14: David Connolly (Franchise)
13: Svetoslav Todorov (Portsmouth)
11: Darren Byfield (Rotherham)
12: Alan Lee (Rotherham)
11: Richard Cresswell (Preston)
11: Paul McVeigh (Norwich)
11: Neil Shipperley (Franchise)
10: Pablo Counago (Ipswich)
10: Andy Gray (Bradford)
9: Nathan Blake (Wolves)
9: Steve Claridge (Millwall)
9: Brian Deane (Leicester)
9: Paul Dickov (Leicester)
9: Ricardo Fuller (Preston)
9: Steve Kabba (Sheffield United incl 6 for Grimsby and 1 for Palace)
9: Gareth Taylor (Burnley)
8: Carl Asaba (Sheffield United)
8: Robbie Blake (Burnley)
8: Jay Bothroyd (Coventry)
8: Malcolm Christie (Derby)
8: Heidar Helguson (Watford)
8: Andy Johnson (Crystal Palace)
8: Junior (Walsall)
8: Gary McAllister (Coventry)