Robson's charges start to get it right

Blades 3 Spireites 1 Attendance: 11,170

THE FIRST WIN of the Bryan Robson era but Sheffield United remain far from the finished article as this Carling Cup derby with neighbours Chesterfield proved.

Two first-half goals from Jon Stead one from Danny Webber ensured it was the hosts who progressed into the second round of a competition which could yet provide some light relief from a long and potentially arduous Championship campaign.

But having used his programme notes to call for United to adopt the same attitude to the knock-out competitions as they will in the league, Robson's joy was tempered by the belief that, for the second time in as many games, his charges needed a good old fashioned rollocking to spark them into life.

Chesterfield acquitted themselves well and departed the stadium with their heads held high.

Robson has twice reached the final of this tournament as a manager and is clearly intent of completing a welcome hat-trick.

"I don't want to lose, it's as simple as that," he said afterwards, confirming that, unlike the previous regime, the league will not dominate the agenda on the stewardship.

Roared on by their vocal support, Chesterfield were always going to present stiffer opposition than the form book suggests.

But while Robson will be pleased with the result, the fact that United again started sluggishly suggests that their primary purpose will have been to help coax the after effects of relegation from red and white limbs.

"This cup is obviously very dear to me and of course we want a good cup run," continued Robson.

"It only becomes a problem when you pick up injuries or bookings.

"I want to go as far as we can and although I was pleased with how we did in the end, I wasn't with how we went about things early on.

"The second half was much better and that's how I expect us to play."

Robson's squad remains a work in progress and last night's tie provided him with the opportunity to watch some of those on the periphery of the first team in action.

Having made six changes to the starting line-up which laboured to a draw with Colchester on the opening day of the season, he will have excused his players' lack of fluency during the early stages of what was eventually to become a profitable evening.

But with Saturday's trip to Watford now on the horizon the sight of Wayne Allison - Chesterfield's veteran striker - cruelly exposing their lack of presence at the back will have troubled him as much as the knock which forced captain Gary Naysmith to depart after just 10 minutes.

The Bramall Lane crowd, some of whom were still queuing outside the ground at kick-off, know all about Allison's qualities in the opposition half and, just as during his 73 appearances for United, he set about using his powerful frame to cause his markers all sort of problems.

Stead's goal - a crisp finish after debutant David Carney pounced upon the loose ball following a smart save from Barry Roche to deny Webber - should have provided the platform for a convincing victory.

Instead it only served to mask United's inability to penetrate the visitors or, more worryingly, deal with their vastly experienced but aging attack.

Indeed, United's lead lasted barely three minutes and it was no surprise to see Allison carve open the opportunity which saw another Blades old boy - Jack Lester - level the scores after bravely bundling home Jamie Ward's cross.

With the former Torquay midfielder subsequently suffering a reoccurence of the hamstring problem which hampered him last season, Chesterfield were robbed of his driving influence in midfield and Stead seized upon this weakness to ensure United at least trooped down the tunnel at the interval in front; Bromby's pass proving the catalyst for another coolly taken effort.

Stead's intervention may have spared United some cat calls from the terraces but not, it seemed, a dressing down from Robson and they emerged a much more potent force after the interval with Webber testing Janos Kovacs' mettle and the impressive Carney using his intelligence to send Derek Geary scampering through but his shot flashed wide.

Allison again went close but it proved to be a brief moment of respite for Lee Richardson's side when Webber made the game safe just before the hour after being released by Michael Tonge's perfectly executed pass.

With United finally showing the quality of possession and movement Robson has demanded, Aaron Downes was forced to clear from Carney on the line before Lester came close to grabbing what would have been a deserved consolation for Chesterfield after a fine solo run.

"You get sick of being good loser against higher opposition but we did play well and thought we had the two best players in Jack (Lester) and Roche but we lost goals at crucial times," said Chesterfield manager Lee Richardson.

"They have more strength in depth than we have.

"You saw Sheffield United's quality and ruthlessness.

"At the levels we play at you don't tend to get punished for mistakes like that."