JAMMY JAMAL LEAVES IT LATE
JAMAL Campbell-Ryce’s twinkling feet eventually brought a smile to Blades fans’ faces but Rochdale boss Keith Hill still found little to moan about.
The quick-thinking Jamaican winger, now with his 12th Football League club, was the home side’s chief threat throughout as United chased shadows.
But his 84th minute winner – a swirling cross, rather than a shot – was “jammy”, rather than “classic Jamal”, as Hill’s men were left cursing their luck.
But to run the Blades close at a brimming-full Brammall Lane was adequate consolation for the Dale manager.
“I’m really pleased – we were superb,” he said. “We’ve bossed possession and territory for large periods of the game and it was only in the last five minutes that you heard the home fans roar.
“It was electric when they scored, showing what a place this is to come and play.
“We have acquitted ourselves really well and it fills me with enthusiasm for the games ahead. We showed what we are trying to achieve here but we have to pick up points at hard places like this.”
Hill’s side had their own magician in skipper Ian Henderson, who led a front line that often had the Blades at full stretch without making enough clear openings.
Henderson himself had Dale’s best effort, a rasping 20-yard drive that rattled Mark Howard’s bar in the 71st minute after a typically stylish turn.
The fact though that Howard’s best – and only testing save – was reserved for Peter Vincenti’s injury time header also told a story.
Blades, for all their shortcomings on the ball, defended capably enough to keep themselves in the game.
For too long, Nigel Clough’s lack of an out-and-out striker meant all Campbell-Ryce’s skilful efforts amounted to little to worry Conrad Logan. Even in the second half their best on-target efforts came from the defensively- minded Chris Basham and Michael Doyle.
That was until Campbell-Ryce twisted past substitute Tom Kennedy inside the area in the 84th minute before aiming a cross to the far post.
Logan was blameless as the ball curled cruelly beyond him as the Jamaican soaked up his deserved applause at the cost of bearing his chest for a yellow card.
Only in the closing minutes did United show some swagger and they will have to improve on this showing to turn last season’s near play-off miss into glory come May.
Clough reflected: “It was a very good game and credit to Rochdale who have scored a lot of goals away from home.
“I’ve told the lads that could prove to be one of our toughest games at Bramall Lane. Like Crawley, they have raised their game and made it difficult for us.
“The key was keeping our concentration and not conceding when Rochdale were on top in the second half.
“Jamal was our main threat – his goal was a cross to the far post but nothing else dropped for us.
“We need more quality and better decisions in the final third.”
Sheffield United: (4-1-4-1): Howard 6, Alcock 6, Doyle 6, Collins 6, McEveley 7, Campbell-Ryce 9, McGahey 6, Basham 6 (Wallace 74, 6), Davies 4 (McNulty 63 ,6), Baxter 6, Murphy 6 (Flynn 65, 5)
Subs not used: Harris, Higdon, Reed, Turner Rochdale: (4-4-2): Logan 6, Rafferty 5 (Kennedy 44, 7), Eastham 7, O’Connell 7, Tanser 6, Allen 7 (Andrew 86, n/a), Bennett 7 (Fenelon 86, n/a), Dawson 7, Vicenti 7, Henderson 9, Done 7
Subs not used: Lancashire, Hery, Musangu, Bunney
STAR MAN CAMPB
ld United BLADES RUNNER: Jamal Campbell-Ryce wheels away without a shirt after netting the winner