Olly writes his latest article after last night’s win at home Vs Boro.
I’m back on leave and was back on my seat on the Kop for last night’s mid-week clash against play-off hopefuls Boro. It was a packed BDTBL with over twenty-four thousand watching the game.
CW had to make a few changes, what with JOC carrying a slight injury and Bash was out with suspension. This made way for Cranie and Dowell to start the game from the off.
I thought the opening exchanges were a bit mixed and not up to our usual standards. Missing the overlaps from the centre-halves was missing and some of the passing wasn’t up to scratch, with wayward passes going straight to the opposition.
Wilder had eluded prior to the game that the players would be playing for Sheffield United and expected them to turn up taking into account changes etc. I thought Cranie had a really good game to be fair. He was filling in nicely at the back and made his challenges well. I think we did miss JOC running at the top end of the pitch, as well as Basham’s creativity and himself driving forward.
Although I was in two minds about Gary Washing-Machine signing for us, after his antics with Billy Sharp, I was quite impressed with him last night. He nearly got off the mark with a couple of chances, and seemed to bring something a little different to our style of play. He did bully the Boro defenders quite a bit as well, which was nice to see. Every time he got pushed he pushed back and I think his presence put the defenders on the back-foot. He added something a bit different and linked up well with Sharp. Stearman came on for Baldock who took a knock in the first half and did really well, not just with the goal, but to say he only came on just before half-time and got man of the match just showed his output and commitment to the game.
Stearman broke the deadlock in the sixty-first minute with a well-placed header to get us the lead, and the lads didn’t sit back after this, as we have done in the past. We had numerous chances to go two or three up, but a mixture of poor refereeing decisions and bad luck kept us as one-nil winners.
If I think back a while, even to last season, I can’t remember a more shocking side than Boro were last night apart from when we played Norwich at the Lane. They were time-wasting like mad and it was a very stop-start and foul ridden match. Last night was similar. I couldn’t believe the diving from some of the Boro players, and I get really tired now of watching players rolling about on the deck having bust a finger nail from a tackle! They seemed to pull the wool over the referee’s eyes a lot last night with their actions. You could tell, especially after Ayala was sent off, that they were trying their best to get one of ours to walk for an early bath. We had the ball on the wing during the first half and was legging it forward for an attack when our lad was brought down in front of the South stand. He got up and kept running only for the ref to blow his whistle for a foul. The Boro player stayed down and started rolling about in front of the dug-outs, even though it was him that committed the foul!
The referee was very poor last night. He wouldn’t give us anything apart from the free kick that created the goal. Too often Boro were getting away with murder, even at throw-ins. McGoldrick was pulled up for being a yard too forward at a throw in in the second half, but as soon as Boro had a turn for a throw in the referee turned his back on the player and they kept nicking 10-15 yards without recompense.
Norwood got booked for a slight tackle, where their lads were doing much worse and getting away with it. The only decent thing was when the referee sent Ayala off. Mind you, he should have sent Flint off as well, although it wasn’t just these two suspects, but there was constant barging off the ball when players were going up for headers, Madine should have had a penalty, and McGoldrick was bundled a few times, but these went unnoticed by the match official. The linesman didn’t help at all on the South stand side. I’m not sure he was even watching the match.
I did have to have a laugh at the comments from Tony Pulis on the BBC. He’s been whinging about how the free kick happened and complaining about his 12th outfield player – Andy Woolmer – the referee! He was by far the best player that Boro fielded last night! If he taught his players to play with an amount of sportsmanship and respect then he wouldn’t have to moan about results!
It does wind me up though, that nowadays players make a meal of anything, tackles in particular. In my job people have fallen from deck height in sea boats (quite a distance), and had many other injuries which hurt themselves, but still carried on regardless. To roll around on the pitch like they’ve just been sat on my Big Daddy or floored by Frank Bruno is a bit of a joke. You know that players are trying to get the referee to take pity and book, or send off the opposing player. Perhaps a review of some of the theatrics should be brought in and the players possibly fined, or carded after the event. I remember back to watching Terry Butcher playing in a bloodied England shirt and sporting a bandage around his head, he didn’t make a meal of it and wanted to carry on. Perhaps some players should take a leaf out of his book. Richard Creswell was the same for us, having to have injections prior to a match as his ankles weren’t in the best of shape, but the lad just wanted to play football for Sheffield United. That’s commitment and doesn’t resort to cheat tactics with all the theatrics nowadays.
Anyway, I’ll get off my soap box now and look ahead to what’s next. We’ve Reading on Saturday and need to win this one to keep the pressure on the two teams above us, as well as put a bit of distance between us and West Brom and Bristol City below us. West Brom have their Brummy derby on Saturday, followed by QPR away. I think they will get one out of the two results from those games. Norwich have a mixed bag over their next few matches, away at Bolton – hopefully Bolton can do a Preston over them! Then they have Bristol City, Millwall and Swansea, and I think they may drop a few points over the next few matches. I think the same is for Leeds as well. They have some tough games coming up over the next few matches, so am anticipating them losing ground as well.
Our opponents on Saturday seem to be draw specialists – drawn three and won one of their last few games, their only win was at home to Blackburn. I’m hoping we can get the players rested and grab all three points this weekend.
I’ll be moulding my bum shape back into my seat on the Kop this Saturday for the game. It’s an amazing atmosphere at the moment, sat alongside the best fans in the League, and I’m hoping this season can be our season and get us back to where we belong, in the Premier League.
Olly Longden (RFA)
Sheffield United MOD/Armed Forces Supporters Branch