It is now just 3 wins in 11 for United as they were held by bottom placed Ipswich Town at Portman Road. Once again, the Blades dominated possession but they gave away another ridiculously sloppy goal against the run of play before ace marksman Billy Sharp got them level early in the second half. After this United did not do enough to win the game and it was telling that for all the control of the game; keeper Dean Gerken only had one real save to make and that was in the first minute. United passed and passed and passed again but too often nothing came into the box or when it did; it lacked the real quality to hurt the home side. In the end Ipswich looked as likely to grab a winner as the visitors.
Wilder kept an unchanged team from the defeat to West Brom but Leon Clarke was back on the bench for the United. Ipswich were back on home turf after a rare win last week against Wigan under new manager Paul Lambert.
The Blades came out of the traps quickly and had a chance in the opening minute as McGoldrick played in Sharp who hit an early shot on the angle that should have been routine for Gerken but he somehow scooped it up and over the bar. From the resultant corner Egan had a header blocked and then a floated ball from the right from Duffy just was too far ahead of Sharp.
United were in control of the ball and territory with everything coming through Norwood at the base and Duffy further forward. One neat move saw Stevens played in and he was almost rugby tackled to the floor as he looked to come into the box down the left. Incredibly Spence was not booked. The free kick came to nothing and then Ipswich had a rare break but Egan nipped in to cover. United were back on the ball and Fleck nearly got Sharp in but hit the Ipswich man. The midfielder then carelessly gave it away leading to a break but once again Egan made a good interception.
Duffy had a weak shot saved easily from Gerken after good link up from Stevens and then Sharp. Harrison had a header after a cross came in to give Henderson his first work of the afternoon but then at the other end Sharp screwed badly wide after a cross came in after patient build up play. Duffy then looked to probe again but McGoldrick was slow to react. Stevens and O’Connell were building well down the left but too often there was either a poor final ball or more often than not, no final ball and United got crowded out.
Knudsen’s long throws helped Ipswich have a spell out of their half but it was very much the away team on top so it came as a real shock when Town scored. Norwood gave the ball away initially but United recovered possession but Basham played a horrible back pass that was short for Henderson but the keeper just got there to kick away. Inexplicably Basham tried to spin round onto his right foot on the right touchline after it came to him via the keeper and lost it. The ball was played forward by Sears and it fell for HARRISON who hit a powerful shot that may have nicked a defender but nestled into the top corner. It was a great shot but horrific defending. The home side could not believe their luck after never being in the game at all.
Duffy was fouled twice in quick succession and Chalobah got booked for a very late one on the midfielder. The next half chance came for Nolan but his shot was well off target as United tried to recover from the shock of the goal.
There were no changes but United got back into the game almost immediately. Norwood had one shot blocked but then as the ball was switched to the right; the midfielder curled a beautiful cross over that was met by the head of the unmarked SHARP who headed high into the goal to give the Blades a deserved leveller.
After this United tried to exert their control but it became a bit scrappy for a spell with a few fouls frustrating both sets of players. Patient passing nearly saw the ball played in for Sharp but then Baldock took too long and was robbed. Ipswich went down the other end and won a corner as Stevens dithered to clear. From it they nearly went back in front as Sears shot was blocked from O’Connell from close range. Chambers then looped a header over soon after as Ipswich had a good spell now probably for the first time in the game.
Sharp has a wild shot high and wide after decent build up and then United looked to move it side to side but too long they did not produce a cross or a shot and Ipswich actually nearly broke to threaten on two occasions after United overplayed. One decent move saw a ball come in from Duffy and just miss Sharp at the back post. Baldock had a shot blocked but United were not really having any clear chances. Clarke came on for the quiet McGoldrick and Ward for Dozzell.
Basham had not quite been at his best and he was booked for a pull down 30 yards from goal but Sears effort drifted wide. United then won a few corners the other way but Egan headed wide and then another effort failed to beat the first man. Stevens had a really good hit from 25 yards but it was blocked by an Ipswich man. This may have been the best effort for United since they scored.
Roberts came on for the goal scorer Harrison as the game entered the final 10 minutes but Ipswich had another late spell without seriously threatening but United were now sloppy on and off the ball. Clarke had a headed chance from Stevens cross but it was over the bar but United were not really looking like scoring and indeed Sears had a low shot saved from Henderson and Ipswich had a long throw and a corner. Norwood became frustrated after not winning a free kick and ran into the back of his man in a petulant act and was rightly carded. The final few minutes of normal time saw Ipswich have more of the territory but did not create anything.
Three minutes of additional time were played and with just a minute left Sharp rolled his man Spence who was booked. Another free kick off the training field saw the ball played to O’Connell on the edge of the box but once again as he did in the first half, he wildly sliced the ball and it looked like the chance had gone. Egan did pick it up and blaze someway off target from long range on the volley. The final whistle came not long after that. Ipswich’s players reactions in comparison to those from United showed who was far happier with the result.
United – Frustrating. Same as last week and many more in those poor runs of form in terms of results. We were the better side. Played better football and looked aesthetically far better. However, we did not much of anything of note in the final third, failed to penetrate where it mattered and the keeper had one …maybe two routine saves to make all game. United passed and passed and passed and passed and passed. It went nowhere. Then we would lose it and they would break. They never really looked like scoring of course but then we make 2 or 3 howlers (Norwood and then Bash twice) and its in our net. It’s the same old story.
We dominate teams and are good to watch for most of the game but we don’t look like creating or scoring much and then make stupid mistakes. It happens too much and the theme over the last couple of months means it is past frustrating. It is just how it is. A few maybe could do better (Fleck for one) but overall the players are for the most part doing their best. None have played at this level before or higher and we are still overachieving. It is just frustrating we completely control teams and pass them off the park for long spells but at the two ends do not do enough. In other games we have been guilty of missed chances but not today.
We rarely had any clear chances at all. I love the way we play but we have to move it quicker and occasionally have to put crosses in earlier before defences are set – look what happened when we did it – we scored. Mix it up a bit now and again maybe? We did not do this after we scored. After we conceded despite controlling the first half, we reacted well second half but then after this we did not kick on. They had as much of the second half as us and even though they only had one real chance from the corner will say we did not hurt them at all and are right. All the stats and possession are useless if we do nothing with it. I am not being critical of the players or the manager. As I say for the most part, they are doing their best and we are punching even to be 6th at this stage but you can feel us slipping away and slowly down the league – just like last season. I hear pundits saying we have a deeper squad but I do not see it. We had Brooks last year and have nothing like that off the bench with a lot of clubman/journeyman types and a less than 100% Coutts and back to the inconsistent form of most of his career sadly in Clarke. We do need 2 or 3 players in January but even with those this team (doing its best as I say) has shown it is not quite good enough to sustain a top 6 finish. Too many players have good games one week and poor ones the next and rarely do we have 8 or 9 bangs at it. It is like a couple play well, 6 or 7 average and then a few really poor ones punctuated by an error or more most weeks (Bash today) (Norwood and Egan last week) (Johnson, Stevens, Norwood v Rotherham, Henderson Leeds). This means we need to also score more than one goal to get a win. At the moment only creating one or two chances a game means this is tricky.
As I say I still enjoy watching us play and we are a far better side than Ipswich (table shows that) but we do even with the deficiencies I have outlined; have to put these teams away. With our really poor form against the good teams and struggling at home (lost 2 and drew 1 of last 3) it puts pressure for us to see off teams like Reading and Ipswich. We got away with a patchy show at Reading but today did not as for all the control did, we do enough to score more than one goal in terms of creating.
Norwich, Boro won although Derby and Forest drew and lost respectively. I do feel that we will do very well to keep in the top 6 and in a month, we could be around the middle of the league as other teams at the top will invest more than us. Some of them are already going the other way in terms of results to us and with Stoke, Villa and Brum coming on strong; you fear we may get caught by some of those if our form continues. We seem incapably of putting in 2 or 3 consistently good performances/results. As I say that is not a criticism of the team. It is just who we are and what these players are. Still we have a few games at the Lane, are due a few good results down there and the Xmas games always see some big crowds so I should not be too down. It is just frustrating to see us drop off again and it is exactly the game as last season how we are falling away. People may say it is not but the graphs in terms of points and position is almost identical. We have done a bit better in December but then we did a bit better last year in November. We are still good to watch but is so tantalising that we are so close to being very good but so often I find myself shaking my first as the final ball or final bit goes awry. Maybe it would be easier if we did not get to those positions or chances to win games and not quite get what they should and maybe this makes it more frustrating!
Ipswich – Been crap most of this season and were crap today. They barely had the ball and when they did often give it away. Tried hard but quality wise we were much better. Still they kept in the game and the lad finished well giving them something to defend. After we scored; I thought we would go on a la Reading and control it again but it never happened. After that it was a bit scrappy and whilst we had more of the pretty play and half chances; they maybe had the best other chance when Sears effort was blocked right in front of goal. They are bereft of experience and quality and the win and draw the last two weeks will give them heart but need some players fast. Even though I am disappointed we failed to create too many clear chances they had no control of the game at all and that is still poor for a home side. I do expect them to struggle and would be more surprised if they got out of the bottom 3. The only consolation is Bolton are worse and I expect Rotherham to trail off once they tire but outside of those two not sure there is another worse side. The likes of Millwall, Reading, Hull etc all have more quality and goals.
Opponent man of the match – Chalobah kicked Duffy a lot and ran around and saw a lot of the ball. He maybe shades it from the centre half Chambers who played McGoldrick well.
Weak link – Not sure anyone was that bad but they were all very average to poor. Sears normally does more than he did today and I felt they were toothless as us up top apart from the goal. Spence looked very clumsy and I felt we could have got some joy from the defence as I do not rate Pennington (poor for Leeds last year) either. The lad Nolan who was linked with United was anonymous as was Jason’s son Andre Dozzell.
Henderson 7/10 – Nothing to do aside from a few kicks and routine catches and little chance on the goal. Put under pressure from Basham on the build up to the goal.
Baldock 5.5/10 – He frustrates me. Decent on the ball, quite nimble and gets around the pitch but takes forever to make decisions and often loses it when he does. His final ball continues to be appalling as he rarely gets whipped crosses in hitting weak passes into the first man. He has now grabbed the shirt from Freeman. Also messed up trying to be too clever in their goal and lost it.
Stevens 7/10 – Very good. Got up and down and put some of our better crosses in. Linked well, used it when he could and very neat and tidy. Had one good shot blocked and I think he has been one of our most consistent players both ways this season.
Egan 7/10 – Back to better standards. Made a few excellent tackles including a superb one where he stopped the man dead first half. He was our most committed defender in blocks and challenges. He went up for corners but kind of loops his headers and never powers them with conviction.
O’Connell 6.5/10 – Ok defensively save for one moment he dithered and he got forward well and most advanced he has been for weeks. His final ball and cross like most of the team was lacking. Vital block from Sears effort. Two awful flicks from short free kick routines were really annoying as wasted a decent attempt (x 2) at something a bit different. Ipswich did not cotton onto the repeated effort but he once again missed it!
Basham 5/10 – Poorest he has been maybe all season. Started game ok but then made a few poor touches and then the horrible back pass. After this he had one a bit with some odd touches/headers and never regained his composure.
Fleck 5.5/10 – Thought he was not very good again. He gave it away far more than he kept it. Least that is what it seemed. He telegraphed so many passes and those balls that came off last year or not happening this year. Seemed to have his hand up continually. He did not hide today I felt but he lacks the dynamism he had last year.
Norwood 7/10 –Some lovely passes as per normal and made the goal with a super cross. He also was on the ball more than any other player over the game and switched it right and left. He did give it away on the goal (build up) and then lost it stupidly lashing out at his man and could have got a red card on another day. He is a good player though and I feel we are lacking pace in the forward areas to properly allow his skills to thrive. He has to play perfect balls to feet often rather than into space as no one has the legs to chase.
Duffy 7/10 – He was decent today and I felt the main attacking threat. He did fade away as he normally does but first half most of the attacking stiff went through him and he was in those little pockets where he makes things happen. They struggled to keep him in check and resorted to fouling him a lot. He got some real hammer. At times he maybe overplayed a bit and would like now and again him to try a shot or a driven cross into a dangerous area.
Sharp 7/10 – Worked hard and was able to hold it up an bring others in. He ran the channels and got in decent areas. Missed one half chance early on and then a sliced effort when it was behind him. Got his goal with a classic Sharp poachers’ effort. After this he was close to getting on the end of a Duffy cross. He seemed to get so frustrated that the ball was never coming into the box. He kept checking back and going in and then the same again.
McGoldrick 5/10 – ineffective. Few bits of link play but he was sloppy with possession and did not really create anything or have any efforts. He looked a bit languid at times and never really in the game today. I did not abject to the change but we got worse after it but not sure Wilder could be blamed for that!
Clarke – Came on but looked quite disinterested. How can he be so far behind his man when the ball comes forward? He does not look a player that is saying ‘start me!’ when he comes on. Need much more effort even just a nuisance threat. He did score at Brentford but his impact in most games when he has come on has been minimal and he has had a fair bit of time not just 5 or 10 minutes
Wilder 6/10 – Performance decent. Result poor. Same old story but today it was a concern we did not create chances either despite the control. Least we got a reaction 2nd half as we normally get worse after half time but this did not sustain. I personally would have given Johnson or Washington some time as our attacking threat just petered out as they played higher up the field with no pace or movement to worry about. He will be happy with the position in the league from the start of the season and also the first few games but it is worrying that the trend from last season has continued. I fear he will have the same issue being able to compete for the better loan Prem players with the clubs around us.
Referee – Ipswich fans seemed to hate him questioning everything he gave. I felt he gave a lot of odd fouls both ways but he at least tried not to book people although the lad Spence should have had two yellows rather the one, he collected for a rugby tackle and the worst foul of the game. Norwood was a bit naughty when he charged into someone. Fortunately, he was a rather lenient ref. I felt for all the criticism Ipswich fans gave him, they failed to see Duffy getting kicked from pillar to post and Sharp also getting some rough stuff.
Report by Deadbat_DB