Blades too Sharp for Rangers
Billy Sharp helped himself to a hat-trick as Sheff Utd brushed aside follow promotion hopefuls QPR.
Last Updated: 16/08/08 6:56pm
Billy Sharp helped himself to an impressive hat-trick as Sheffield United brushed aside follow promotion hopefuls QPR at Bramall Lane.
Sharp opened the scoring with a close-range header just two minutes in before doubling The Blades' advantage with a cool finish following a lengthy run.
The former Scunthorpe United hit-man added his third six minutes after the break from close range to seal a thoroughly deserved win for the Blades.
The Blades started in ominous fashion. Darius Henderson rose highest to flick on Greg Halford's long throw and his strike partner Sharp was unmarked six yards out to head past an exposed Radek Cerny.
The Blades were playing with plenty of verve and vigour and they doubled their advantage 10 minutes later.
Veteran midfielder Gary Speed's pass sliced the Rangers defence in half and after leaving Kaspars Gorkss in his wake Sharp slotted past the onrushing Cerny from eight yards.
Home debutant Sun Jihai was creating plenty of problems down the right-hand side for Rangers. The China international crossed for Henderson after 20 minutes but the former Watford striker's header was thwarted by Cerny.
QPR's new-look side struggled to gain a foothold in the game during the first 45 minutes and were restricted to speculative long-range efforts from Mikele Leigertwood and Daniel Parejo.
Sharp should have claimed his hat-trick two minutes before the break but he lashed his angled shot wide of the left post, while Cerny did brilliantly to keep out Michael Tonge's low effort as the Blades looked to kill the game off before half-time.
United started the second period with the same confidence which had characterised their first-half display and they were rewarded for this approach with a third goal after 51 minutes.
Substitute Ugo Ehiogu used his considerable frame to cause panic in the Rangers defence and after an almighty goalmouth scramble Sharp was alert enough to stab home from almost on the line.
Cerny's bright stop prevented Sharp from netting a fourth, while Stephen Quinn saw his ambitious 25-yard volley creep just over the crossbar as United continued to pile on the pressure.
Despite their insipid display, QPR were desperately unlucky not to pull a goal back after 63 minutes. Emmanuel Ledesma saw his low shot cannon back off the post and only a sensational saving tackle from Ehiogu prevented Dexter Blackstock from slotting home into an empty net from the rebound.
Blackstock was posing a threat and he had two golden opportunities to score just minutes later. Firstly, his nonchalant flick was kept out by Kenny's outstretched leg and then his glanced header from a corner arched just over the crossbar.
Kenny had to be alert again 10 minutes from time to stop Parejo's free-kick from nestling into the bottom corner, while substitute Danny Webber fired wide for the Blades late on.