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Bramall Lane (ATT 25,273) 16th August 2008 - Kick off 15:00 Ref: G Laws

Sheff Utd Sheffield United vs Queens Park Rangers QPR



Blades too Sharp for Rangers

Sharp hat-trick sends Dowie's Rangers packing

Last Updated: 16/08/08 6:56pm

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Sharp: Hat-trick hero

Sharp: Hat-trick hero

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.

Slotted home

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.

Stab home

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.

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Sky Bet Championship

Sky Bet Championship
Pos Team P Pts
1 Derby County 14 26
2 Watford 14 26
3 Wolverhampton Wanderers 14 26
4 Bournemouth 14 24
5 Middlesbrough 14 24
6 Norwich City 14 23
7 Nottingham Forest 14 22
8 Blackburn Rovers 14 22
9 Charlton Athletic 14 22
10 Ipswich Town 14 21
11 Cardiff City 14 19
12 Sheffield Wednesday 14 19
13 Brentford 14 19
14 Reading 14 18
15 Millwall 14 17
16 Rotherham United 14 17
17 Huddersfield Town 14 17
18 Leeds United 14 16
19 Wigan Athletic 14 15
20 Fulham 14 14
21 Brighton and Hove Albion 14 13
22 Bolton Wanderers 14 11
23 Birmingham City 14 11
24 Blackpool 14 6