Olly writes his latest article following Saturday’s tea-time’s defeat away to Derby County.
I was looking forward to watching this on the telly yesterday as I noticed British Forces TV had it in their listings, so I plonked myself in my cabin on board and got settled in for the game, hoping we would walk all over Derby and come away with all three points.
I nearly threw my remote through the TV screen and choked on my glass of cider though after nineteen seconds and Derby’s opener! Couldn’t believe they managed a goal against us so quickly. None of our players got near their attackers and I feared the worst was to come, perhaps a constant drubbing of our defence. It seemed that our lads had a bit of bus lag from the short journey down to Pride Park!
To be fair to them they did respond well with piling on the pressure on Derby up until halftime. It was a relief when Basham slotted in for the equaliser just before the half-time whistle. I thought CW would have given the lads an ear bashing at the interval and we’d come out with our usual constant attacks, but I presumed incorrectly.
The first half was full of chances for us and you could see Billy Sharp’s frustration having gotten into good areas in the penalty area only to see the wing-backs and Duffy crosses going amiss. Numerous times he aired his feelings about the lack of finesse with the crosses across the face of goal.
There were a few mistakes other than that in the first half that we managed to deal with though. Basham fluffed a few passes and gave the ball away for a Derby counter-attack, but we managed to deal with that. Duffy didn’t perform to his usual standards in the second half for some reason and was replaced by Coutts on sixty-five minutes. Freeman had a shocker in the second half as well, he was at fault for not closing the cross(es) down on the right-hand side and ultimately cost us a goal to give Derby the three points.
Having said that though, the BBC stats had us more or less even with possession and shots on target etc, but I think if we hadn’t sat so deep in the second half then we would have aced all those stats.
I’m not sure where the problem lies, yes we are having problems finishing opponents off with sloppy crosses and not being able to get the ball into the onion bag, but I seem to reminisce back to the Preston game which was my last before I had to come back to sea. We nearly threw that game away when we took Sharp and Duffy off in the second half and went one up front. I now believe that Sharp needs to stay on unless he’s totally knackered. It was pointed out that we went flat when he came off in that game and we shifted to a lone striker, but we managed to pull that back by chucking on another attacker. It’s not so much Sharp’s ability in front of goal, but the fact that his heart’s there and he’s a natural leader for us. When he gets replaced we seem to lose cohesion and struggle to get organised. It was the same yesterday. I know we started sitting back a bit but when Sharp came off we just went to pieces.
Basham, Sharp and Duffy were replaced by Coutts, Washington and Clarke. I’m not sure I would have gone for that selection to be fair. Coutts is a good midfielder and something needed to change with Duffy fluffing about in the latter part of the game, but Washington and Clarke? I liked Clarke last season, but now that he has his contract he hasn’t netted once for us and without being bad to the guy I’m not sure if he’s in the mindset that he’s got a deal and doesn’t have to try as hard. I’m still unsure about Washington. He was at QPR and they had goal problems, and when he was released and signed for us he hasn’t lived up to expectation. I know I’ve read that there were a few calls for Ched to be called back from loan early and try him out after his decent run of form at Fleetwood.
Anyway, it’s all done and dusted now and we have to look forward to our next game on Tuesday against Stoke, and then Saturday against Wigan. Both of these games are at BDTBL so I expect we’ll be piling the pressure on them both as well be at home in front of the Bramall Lane faithful! Hopefully we can get back on track and get six points out of these two games and keep the pressure on the top spot.
On a final note, sitting in my cabin listening to the game I could hear our fans in full voice totally drowning out the Derby fans all through the game, even when we were losing. We have the best twelfth man that any team could wish for!
Olly Longden (RFA)
Sheffield United MOD/Armed Forces Supporters Branch