Sheffield United`s quest for third division football continued today as they slipped to a third straight defeat at home to Derby County.
It was a game that would have left neutrals salivating; not for the quality on show, but for the abysmal showing by both sides that would have made a coma more appealing.
Jonny Ertl replaced the suspended Shane Lowry at the heart of the defence, and Lee Williamson lined up against Michael Doyle in the centre of midfield.
Theo Robinson scored the only goal midway through the first half, and aside from a point-blank header that was tipped over by Frankie Fielding the game was completely without incident.
It leaves United six points from safety with only Preston North End below them.
It’s rare I give opinions but after seeing ‘that’ I can’t help it. There are positives and negatives to take from any game so here goes:
On Tuesday United went 2-0 and it was clear to see had little idea what to do when they were in front. Today, there was no chance of them going in front.
The previous two ‘must win’ games have come against sides scrapping for their lives, getting the odd result here and there but ultimately being amidst the same relegation scrap as the Blades. Today, United faced a side in freefall but who were there for the taking, and still they failed to capitalise. From back to front there were a handful of performances that couldn’t be described as incompetent, but on the whole, it’s the perfect word.
Steve Simonsen in goal was faultless for the goal, but if he could distribute the ball as long as he does high, the strikers may have a slight chance of winning it. Who am I kidding? Richard Cresswell winning something? no. The veteran (still with a couple of years on his deal) who captained the side today doesn’t win things, he dives into tackles, dives when he is tackled and has a first-touch that Carlton Palmer would be ashamed of. But let’s not forget… ‘He works hard.’
Alongside him Ched Evans is one of the few that can take some dignity, but it’s too little too late from the Welshman who you feel is putting himself in the shop window for next season. 18 months of abject performances have disappeared as Evans finally shows the quality we were promised following his £750,000 deal from Manchester City. Perhaps if he’d worked on match fitness a little sooner the goals would have come under a previous regime and we wouldn’t have struggled at the start of the season.
Marcus Bent, Daniel Bogdanovic and Sam Vokes all came on in the second-half and were ineffectual, through little fault of their own. It’s all well and good having the strikers on the pitch, but without the service what are they supposed to do?
That service is expected to come from midfield, but it’s unlikely with the ‘creative’ Mark Yeates on the bench. Yeates who can be frustrating at times must have been pulling his hair out (figure of speech) watching the ball continuously break down in advanced positions.
One man who finished on the bench after starting the game was Stephen Quinn. The Irishman usually bears the brunt of fans criticism, but today was a rare highlight on the field. Before people get confused and think this should be in the positives column, his showing was far from excellent, and was fairly mediocre. This should give those who weren’t there some idea of how the rest performed.
Williamson struggled, Doyle looked uniterested and Bjorne Helge Riise for his ball playing ability is not a winger!
What is a problem, is when the standout performer in the backline is Nyron Nosworthy and even more worryingly it was the second successive game. Whilst he looks uncomfortable going forward and that unorthodox throwing is more hindrance than help, he defended much better than his compatriots.
Jonny Ertl’s use of the ball was poor at best but looked like Rio Ferdinand next to Neill Collins who missed his calling in life as a winger. Collins is more than happy to collect the ball from the goalkeeper and make use of it, yet throw a routine ball to him and he’s unable to defend. Over on the left young Matt Lowton is little better. I don’t like to criticise youngsters, especially local youngsters who have developed through the academy but Lowton is simply not the solution at left-back. The imbalance is incredible as his inability to use his left-foot constantly leaves him very one dimensional, usually looping the ball goalwards and hoping for the best.
All in all, a poor showing, a poor side and poor spectacle week after week. Why? Because this is a very poor team. Misfits is a word that’s thrown about referring to this team, and you have to feel it’s apt. What happened to the partnerships? Even as recently we’ve been used to seeing a team develop with a core to it, but not now.
No leader, no flair and no creativity. Say goodbye to Elland Road, the City Ground and 20,000 plus attendances. Unwanted trips to Oldham, Rochdale, and worst of all, the decrepit Hillsborough await.