Blades Pay The Penalty

Last updated : 12 September 2006 By @blades_mad1889

Sheffield United's Kenny stepped into the spotlight first, saving from Lucas Neill, before Friedel outperformed his opposite number by denying both David Unsworth and Rob Hulse from the spot.

The remarkable storyline means both clubs are still searching for their first Premiership win of the season.

With the duo starting and ending the day in occupation of the bottom two places, it was perhaps unsurprising a scrappy affair ensued.

Many critics firmly believe United are in their rightful place, but not Blackburn, who last season played industrious, inventive football to clinch sixth place and with it a UEFA Cup spot.

But with a first round first-leg tie looming against Salzburg of Austria on Thursday, Rovers appear alarmingly short on confidence.

Hughes was without two of his workhorses in Steven Reid and Jason Roberts due to back and groin injuries respectively.

But even in their absence, on paper the Blackburn line-up appeared far superior to that of United's, yet Rovers struggled in a way that underlined their surprisingly poor start to the campaign.

There was little fluidity in their movement, stifled by a United side also desperate to pick up maximum points for the first time.

After carving out the opening chance after just 25 seconds thanks to a poor clearance from Kenny, just one other opportunity followed in the first half.

Kenny's gaffe allowed David Bentley to deliver a right-wing cross into the area for Francis Jeffers, starting his first game of the season following his free transfer summer move from Charlton.

The chance was an awkward one, with Jeffers stooping to meet the ball and ultimately planting his header wide of the angle of bar and post.

Rovers' other opportunity came seven minutes from the break, with captain Neill playing himself in courtesy of touches off Benni McCarthy and Jeffers, but curling his right-foot shot wide.

At least United conjured something for their fans to get excited about after the zero chances mustered in defeats at Tottenham and Fulham.

Hulse, scorer of the Blades' only goal this season in the 1-1 opening-day draw at home to Liverpool, should have netted a second in the 16th minute.

Chris Armstrong's deep, penetrating, curling cross from the left wing split centre-backs Andre Ooijer and Zurab Khizanishvili.

Waiting for the bounce, the ball sat up kindly for £2.2million Hulse to strike on the volley from 16 yards, but his right-foot finish flashed a yard wide of Friedel's left-hand post.

Warnock then lost one of his main threats in Danny Webber to a groin injury two minutes later before Michael Tonge forced Friedel into an awkward save at his near post from an acutely-angled free- kick.

A penalty appeal followed, with Hulse challenged in the area by Robbie Savage, and although Warnock and all Blades fans were left fuming at referee Mike Dean for waving them away, replays showed his judgment was correct.

The frenetic pace continued after the break as both sides tried desperately to secure an advantage which failed to materialise even after three penalties.

There were chances for McCarthy and Tonge before the first of the penalty awards in the 70th minute, dubiously for an Unsworth shove on McCarthy.

Justice was perhaps served as Kenny pushed away Neill's spot-kick to his left, to the acclaim of a near 30,000 crowd.

Then after Friedel had made crucial saves from Mikele Leigertwood and Tonge as a newly-inspired United side pushed for a winner after Kenny's heroics, the American came into his own.

Dean evened up the penalty score when he adjudged Hulse had had his shirt tugged by Zurab Khizanishvili in the 77th minute, only for Friedel to deny Unsworth by saving to his right.

Even then there was still time for more drama to follow as one of Dean's assistants ruled Neill handled four minutes from time.

The protests were long and hard, but ultimately to no avail, and although Hulse stepped forward after Unsworth's miss, Friedel was not to be beaten as he dived to his left on this occasion.