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ACE LEE LIGHTS WARNOCK FIRE; ALBION 2 SHEFF UTD 1 Hughes in boss 'cheat' storm.

Byline: Rob Owen

FUMING Blades boss Neil Warnock condemned Baggies match-winner Lee Hughes as a 'cheating conman' after Albion snatched a precious late win at The Hawthorns.

Warnock went ballistic after a stormy encounter, accusing the Baggies hero of getting Robert Ullathorne sent off after 30 minutes.

The Sheffield United supremo slammed Hughes for supposedly talking referee Mike Ryan into giving Ullathorne his marching orders, and said the Ginger Ninja's behaviour made a mockery of the old adage that cheats never prosper.

And to rub salt into the wounds for Warnock, Hughes popped up late to snatch a desperately needed three points for a much improved Albion.

'Lee Hughes is a conman, he ran 30 yards to convince the referee to send my player off,' said a seething Warnock.

'He said you've just booked me for that, he got the crowd going and the referee fell for it.

'What he's done is get a fellow professional sent off and I think it is an absolute disgrace.

'All that will be remembered though is he got the winner. The fact that he cheated will be forgotten about.

'So the way forward for us is to play with 11 conmen and cheats and see if we can't get players sent off.

'Whoever said cheats never prosper had no idea what they were talking about.

'I have asked the referee to have a look at the video to see why he decided to send Ullathorne off.

'I think it was Bill Shankly who said referees know the rules but don't know the game.

'How we ended that game with only ten men I will never know. It was Hughes who should have been off the field for what he did.'

The flash point that got Warnock so hot under the collar came from Ullathorne's late challenge on Baggies playmaker Ruel Fox.

Referee Ryan brandished his red card to the former Norwich City stopper eight minutes after first booking him for clattering into the back of Jason Roberts.

At the time of Ullathorne's dismissal, Ryan was throwing cards around like confetti and was struggling to control the game after a sequence of strange decisions had incensed the crowd.

Silky

But Albion took until the 61st minute to make their numerical advantage count when Fox applied a silky finish off a post after being played in by that man Hughes.

Paul Peschisolido capitalised on indecision in the Baggies defence to strike a stunning equaliser on 75 minutes.

But Hughes turned ghostbuster to ensure the ex-Baggies star didn't come back to haunt the Hawthorns when he turned in a Fox corner on 84 minutes.

Roberts got a vital flick on before Hughes applied a devastating finish from point-blank range at the far post.

After back-to-back defeats victory was vital to get Albion's promotion bandwagon rolling again.

And after struggling for long periods to break down a stubborn Blades back four, Albion merited the win which puts them two points behind third-placed Blackburn ahead of today's clash between Rovers and Blues.

Baggies boss Gary Megson allowed himself a pat on the back after a sparkling debut by pounds 750,000 new boy Michael Appleton.

The former Manchester United fledgling barely put a foot wrong adding extra bite to Albion's midfield and passing the ball with crisp accuracy throughout.

'I thought it was more than a pleasing debut for Michael, I thought he was the best player on the pitch,' said a beaming Megson.

'He passes it very simply, he passes it sharply, he tackles, he works hard, he talks, he wants to win.

'He is an all-round midfield player and I think he will only get better.

'I think he deserves great credit for the way he played in so much as if I asked him to name all our team and subs today he would struggle with the first names because he hasn't been here long enough.

'He has done remarkably well considering that,' added Megson, before joking that he was a far superior player to Appleton in his own midfield heyday.

Meanwhile, Megson claimed Warnock's explosive post-match reaction was par for the course after a full blooded encounter.

'I felt that what was happening on the line mirrored what was going on on the pitch.

'It was a very tense and very passionate game. I think the type of personalities that me and Neil are it was always going to be like that.

'He is well documented as being a United fan so he has more reason to get excited.'

BIG MATCH FACTS +++

TEAMS

Albion (3-4-1-2): Jensen; Butler, J Chambers (Balis 58), Carbon; Lyttle (Taylor 58), Appleton,Sneekes, Clement; Fox (Sigurdsson 90); Hughes, Roberts.

Sheff Utd (4-4-2): Tracey; Kozluk, Murphy, Samford, Ullathorne; Montgomery (Suffo 73), Woodhouse, Santos, Brown; Peschisolido, D'Jaffo (Jagielka 60).

Referee: Mr M Ryan (Preston).

Attendance: 16,778

GOALS

Albion: Fox (62), Hughes (84).

Sheff Utd: Peschisolido (75)

BOOKINGS

Albion: Roberts (22), Hughes (29), Appleton (45), Fox (45).

SENT OFF

Sheff Utd: Ullathorne (30)

STAR MAN

Michael Appleton

CAPTION(S):

BOB THE BUILDER... Striker Bob Taylor skips past Phil Jagielka as Albion threaten THE LAST ACT... There's no stopping Lee Hughes as he wheels away in delight after scoring the winnerPictures: Sam Bagnall
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Title Annotation:FOOTBALL
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Jan 21, 2001
Words:870
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