THERE was nothing sharp about this Blades end of season performance which saw relegated Sheffield United lose 4-0 at Swansea, writes Graham Walker.
The home side convincingly saw off 10-man United to leapfrog Cardiff into third place on the final day of the npower Championship season and set up a play-off semi-final showdown with Nottingham Forest.
Stephen Dobbie opened the scoring on the half hour with a free-kick whipped in at pace from an acute angle which evaded everyone.
Blades defender Shane Lowry then saw red for handling Scott Sinclair’s goalbound effort on the line, with the England Under-21 winger stepping up to score his 24th goal of the season from the spot.
Dobbie then grabbed his second of the afternoon and Leon Britton rounded matters off late on against his former club, to leave a youthful and relegated United second from bottom in the final standings on goal difference.
City boss Brendan Rodgers made two changes to his XI, restoring star names Sinclair and Fabio Borini after they were rested for last weekend’s impressive 2-0 win at Millwall.
Blades counterpart Micky Adams - who spent 13 days as Swans boss in 1997 - made three changes to his line-up, most notably handing a debut to goalkeeper George Long.
And the 17-year-old, a star of the club’s successful FA Youth Cup side, was called upon after just 70 seconds to turn Dobbie’s snap-shot around a post.
The final 20 minutes were played out amid an end-of-season tempo, with United boss Adams handing valuable game time to youngsters Terry Kennedy, Daniel Philliskirk and Matty Harriott as the club prepare for life in League One alongside city rivals Sheffield Wednesday.
But there was still time for Britton to add a well-taken fourth in the 90th minute.
Swans went into the game knowing they had no chance of automatic promotion after champions QPR received no points deduction from the Football Association, a decision which it is understood Swans chairman Huw Jenkins will take no further action against despite the possibility of appeal.
What is for sure after months of uncertainty, is that City will now head into the play-offs in confident mood after today’s deserved victory, boasting the crucial second leg at the Liberty Stadium and the possibility of a south Wales showdown with Cardiff, who now face Reading.
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FIXTURES, Saturday, May 7, 2011:
Championship (KO 12.45pm):
Swansea 4 Sheffield United 0 (HT:1-0)
Barnsley 1 Millwall 0 (HT:0-0)
Middlesbrough 3 Doncaster Rovers 0 (HT: 1-0)
League One (KO 3pm):
Sheffield Wed v Exeter (HT:1-0)
League Two (KO 3pm):
Chesterfield v Gillingham (HT: 1-0)
Rotherham United v Torquay (HT: 2-1)
Stevenage v Bury (HT: 2-2)