|Mullet added 20:16 - Oct 14|
The loss of Garner to a knee injury meant a surprising line up in part, but unsurprising deployment of 3-5-2 ahead of Bart. Chambers being flanked by Webster and Knudsen came up against the duo of Sharp and Clarke. Around them was Iorfa and Kenlock acting as wingbacks to form the defensive lip of a shallow 5-man bowl. Skuse sat behind Nydam and Ward and McGoldrick was nominally a strike partner for Waghorn, whose inclusion as a striker meant Didsy was often drifting towards Iorfa as a sort of winger.
The game started in bright unseasonable sunshine and a din across the lower tier. A massive following keen to see a resurgence in form, or a forgotten venue, or both; were making a grand noise. Aided in part by the rest of the 25k crowd in the home ends.
It was a half where Town had again made do with those available, and made the conscious decision to neutralise rather than corrode, the confidence of a side whose bounce from league one clearly had them sky high. Whether through formation or functionalist football, the quick build-up of pressure and play towards the away end by the home side was met gamely.
When Didsy found a perfectly weighted Knudsen through ball pleasing to the touch, he dragged play down with some technical drawing of defenders, before finding Waghorn too hurried and too close to the near post now to fire off anything effective. It was a design of things to come, both in terms of the unfamiliar attack and its scarcity.
There were passages of play punctured by a ref many felt was a homer. Certainly, it seems, one could again question the weekly calibre of second tier officials, but one must also question the recurring naivety of a Town side that seems to play into the hands of opposition so happy to drop to the floor when all else is shut out.
When Leon Clarke was booked for redirecting an already airborne Grant Ward with a clumsy slide from behind, the obvious yellow was met with predictably obvious glee of a congregation clamouring for momentary judgement when our salvation today looked unlikely.
Several corners ensued as Sharp looked the, well sharpest Blade out there early on. The number 10 snuck up on our centrebacks like time had on a career of non-Premier League heroics. While he and Clarke sounded like a crime fighting duo of Victorian literature, they proved to be both aged and experienced in giving Bart and several blue shirts either side of him palpitations.
There is no doubt that 3-5-2 doesn’t suit us. It fits all the right players in the all wrong places like a baggy t-shirt of tactical utility. Skuse seemed to get a foot to everything and if not a head, by 25 mins Ward and Nydam had switched sides, but the momentum of the half really hadn’t.
When through balls did find Waghorn or McGoldrick, they had the touch and time to bring red and white stripes scurrying back, but not enough blue shirts into the game. McGoldrick took one run from deep from the left flank and when it looked like everything was falling in to place to beat Blackman he produced possibly the worst and most uncharacteristic shank. It bounced off the hoardings with a thunk that said in a syllable why we just weren’t going to kill off the Blades.
Likewise, Town had two attempts to tap in a low cross from right to left. When McGoldrick was the supplier in the earlier attempt there was no one there to apply the killer touch. When Ward whipped one in to a crowded box just before half time, there were too many bodies and not one calm head. A long break due to a presumably nasty injury for Freeman. One of the many unfancied names, that made you remember how good the home side are collectively, it affected them and us for diametrically opposed reasons.
If McGoldrick is a No.10 in a world of false 9’s, Webster tried to shake off the positional rust by stepping out ahead of the defence in a manner way apart from the true 6’s of old. The like of Venus or Linighan wouldn’t be seen dead patrolling in such a semi-circular manner. It didn’t really work. The man hasn’t started since January, and that ballistic right foot of his sent wayward skid missiles at, past and towards team mates all too often.
Town looked more likely to snatch a lead in a 45minute spell that had seen Kenlock turn inside on the line and use his weaker foot to drop passes and play out of trouble. It was a much-improved performance rekindling the promise we’d seen so often since his debut.
At the far end the two young Premiership loanees had contrasting approaches to their defensive duties. For a big lad Cameron Carter-Vickers liked to let the ball bounce and then boot it away. More often than once it set us free, and challenged the gangly Blackman to dally in possession when needed. The Chelsea keeper spun on the edge of his area more than once, both with ball in hand and at his feet and each time looked likely to gift us something we just couldn’t manufacture ourselves.
The second half came as a chance to see Town attacking towards us, and there were plenty of pairs of lungs keen to inhale the ball our way and into the net. It took just a few ticks of the minute hand to put blue heads in theirs. Before falling to Fleck of all people, you knew the Norwich connection would produce a sweet one, as Basham skipped into the air and met an excellent cross unannounced to head home.
Iorfa had already come in for some criticism, it was conspicuous when you considered his absence in a move that was so simple from the side he was patrolling. But to single him out when so many were at fault for not doing the same to Basham might be unfair. Webster had after all clearly been instructed to ramble against a side so well drilled. Chambers and Knudsen also had had their moments of getting to grips with man and not ball too.
What had troubled Town also bothered United as Nydam found a wonderful incision not long after. A defence splitting ball in the proper and uncliched surgical sense fell to Waghorn. The man who had a goal every 81 minutes this season, looked certain to crunch his own numbers in this 90. Another example of excellent touch and control not always obvious from the North-Eastern attacker. Instead his superb shot crunched off the bar, a beaten Blackman and blues all over couldn’t believe it.
Mick decided there was space in which to play and removed Kenlock. It was clearly not akin to his removal at Barnsley as Town switched to a 4-3-3. Waghorn and Ward the widemen and McGoldrick less up top, and seemingly not up to turning the game like he had any man charged with dispossessing him.
The 4-3-3 would soon change again as Nydam and the injury-prone Irishman were removed. It turned out to be a clever choice. Neither team were accustomed to draws and artistry was lost in a clash so coloured by industry and midfield collectivism. The introduction of Sears and Celina as widemen completely changed the face and pace of Town’s threat.
Knudsen meanwhile dealt with Sheffield’s best chance to double the lead by halving their striker. Picking up a yellow card as he got up off the youngster who had kept him from the turf and an unblemished disciplinary record.
Clumsiness was another trait shared by both sides when Clarke had a chance from looked like 3 yards to finish everything. Bart saved easily. Too easily in fact. It was also Clarke who hit the bar in similar but not quite as impressive fashion as Waghorn had, such was their profligacy and the pondering nature of a game where neither side seemed demonstrably better than the other.
Celina had the more memorable moments of the double substitution. Closing down the ball and turning his man, but out of play from Knudsen’s clever work. He also spun a cross from deep over the bar and outside of the front post with a box full of players waiting. His first touch of the game had been a header from a corner, he was the wrong man in the right place and so it continued all afternoon. He beat two men with tow touches as he careered into the area only to have a toe poke it off his with glory beckoning and fate slowly shaking its wrist harshly toward the young star.
Sears meanwhile had look so often a lost cause all season, but chased them better than anyone in Yorkshire today. More than once he forced CCV into an error, despite being awarded the MOTM gong by the home fans. The young defender gave away fouls and possession as he had earlier in the game. Unfortunately, time was against Town, not the imperceptive officials.
You can see why the equaliser never came. Too many mistakes in play and preparation cost us. But whilst we edged out narrowly again to a side who sat in and around top spot. Mick’s home county has gone from providing many happy returns, to little for us to celebrate. The Blades are more like another red and white striped side when they came up and bothered the playoffs a while back.
As clubs they couldn’t really be further from Brentford in geography and ideology, and more like us in size and shared memories but ultimately United might fall short of promotion and understandably so. There’s no disgrace in the wonderful way they’re going about things right now.
With our sensational form, receding into defeats either side of the international break and memory beyond, the upcoming derby looks even more significant. From relegation favourites, to not quite fan favourites, the bar has been set much higher because of August. As we look to finally record a win years in the waiting next Sunday, it’s as important for the return of the natural order as it is the momentum that we thrived upon only weeks ago.
guentchev added 01:57 - Oct 15
Some of the worst wing-back play I have ever seen. Kind you'd see in a kick-around at the park on Sunday.
brazil1982 added 10:16 - Oct 16
Chambers, Waghorn and Knudsen worked hard.
We weren't overrun - simply didn't create much.
Good following too.
TonyHumesIpswich added 10:29 - Oct 18
jabberjackson added 11:37 - Oct 19
Mullet is absolutely world class
Always disappointed if he doesn't put a report in
Where would we be with out Harryfrombath, and Mullet
Can we have an award in TWTD where we vote for the best contributor?
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