Sheffield United 2 - West Bromwich Albion 0
Some emotional thoughts with all the usual biases after another painful 90 mins. Once again, we just weren’t good enough when it mattered.
Big call from CC dropping Swift for TGH. I thought it was fair... away from home in a game where we’d need to run.
And for the opening 15 it worked quite well with us on top... however Grant missing a sitter with his first touch and then the referee missing a clear penalty not long after should’ve warned us it just wouldn’t be our game.
A word on the ref who managed to be diabolical for both teams all evening. Where do they get these guys? Clueless.
Anyway, after 15 mins Utd came into it as we did our classic sit back and be deep. We had to defend well and keeping the ball became a real problem for us, but we weathered the storm and came back into it.
Probably the most frustrating thing for me in the first half is that we got into some really great situations but the final ball or decision was absolutely awful, panicked or sloppy. There just seemed to be a total lack of belief that we could score and as a result we even failed to get shots off.
The other frustrating thing was the overly cautious and patient play. There were times when the was a simple ball wide but we came inside and backwards. Moments where just a run down the wing and cross might yield a set piece or something to fall for us... but we forced our play through patterns and a structure every time.
Still, at HT we’d shaded it and you felt if we could nick a goal we might be able to hold out.
To Sheffield’s credit they came out like they meant business and put us under much more pressure physically and positionally. They played with experience and know-how. We were coping okay but ball retention was a problem for us which led to mistakes. Disaster struck when TGH, playing quite well, played a really silly back pass when a simple touch to Townsend who could then ping it down the wing was on.
Not excusing him but it was the kind of pass in absolutely certain no footballer would choose naturally from where he was…it felt like a forced coaching thing and from there Sheffield were in and took the opportunity calmly and clinically.
Up until this point you couldn’t question our players for effort and desire, but the goal visibly knocked the stuffing out of them and after that we were pretty much all at sea.
There was no rally or plan b… the bench didn’t allow for it really. CC did make changes but it didn’t dramatically change anything. The crowd were buoyed, we were flat, some arguably threw the towel in and eventually they scored a second via a bit of percentage play from a corner. The kind you seem to get when momentum and belief are with you. A gift.
It was then just a case of waiting for the whistle. These last couple of games a reminder of how far away we are from being good enough and how well CC did to get a run together with the majority of players available. The truth is we didn’t miss out because of tonight, but for 3 points we might’ve gained had we kept a bit clearer of injuries.
As a thoughtful coach you would hope CC looks at learning from his own mistakes too although a glance at our bench does make you sympathetic to what a plan b might look like. I guess that’s what he got the new contract for... solutions. He’s going to need plenty of those next season.
Of the subs, I thought Swift played with some desire and took responsibility to get in the ball, so perhaps the kick up the arse he needed?
Despondent but not surprised. Saturday might be more like a wake...
It was the result I expected but actually the performance for the first hour was pretty decent. If Grant doesn't miss a sitter and the linesman isn't asleep then we could easily have been 2 up. However like the rest of the season we aren't very effective in the last third. I feel for young TGH I thought he was playing well up until the mistake.
I think that's it for the season now and in all honesty I don't think we're in the right place as a club to go up anyway. The squad needs a complete overhaul. I think Carlos can be pretty pleased with what he's achieved with this group from being bottom of the league but we just don't have enough players who can really affect a game. I think we need to look hard at the players we get in on loan next season, they need to be young lads who are looking to prove themselves not old pros looking for a decent payday.
Hopefully we can sign off with a win at home this weekend and get some positive news around ownership in the summer. COYB
Be careful what you wish for: TGH starts but may have have ended things
So yes, at the end of my Sunderland thoughts, I did say that I wanted to see Gardner-Hickman start, but, in my defence, that was in place of an ever-so-off-the-pace looking Yokuslu. Corberan though, either didn't read my thoughts or, if he did, decided that the Turk should start, but did bring in TGH, as part of a change in formation, for Swift.
Unsurprisingly, the resultant 433, with two right-footers on the left of the two threes, and no obvious playmaker in behind Thomas-Assante, looked a little lop-sided and suggested that much of Albion's wide play would have come down the right, through Wallace.
And within the first minute, Albion would advance down the right as Wallace, not for the first time this season would get around the back and deliver a peach of a cross, this one finding it's way to the back post where Grant would miss a sitter.
As ten minutes passed, Ajayi's weak challenge allowed an attacker to race away, but the defender just about had enough pace to recover.
A couple of minutes after that, with Albion pushing upfield once again, BTA would be fouled as he ran across the right corner of the Blades' box, although neither the linesman, nor the referee noticed that the contact occurred inside the box and so we got a free-kick outside it.
A training ground free-kick routine teed up Grant for a shot from the edge of the box and central but he was unable to direct the ball wide enough of the keeper who duly saved the attempt.
The away side had been looking the better of the two in the first twenty, but then Sheffield started to look like the team in second place, as Albion got squeezed over on the their left, leaving a acre of space on their right from where a cross just about evaded everyone in the box and went out for a goal kick, although TV replays suggest Furlong's touch, which rewarded him for altering the path of the ball, should also have rewarded the home side's endeavours with a corner.
A minute after that, Pieters was lucky to get away with a yellow after he'd initially lost control of the ball and then dived in to try and win the ball back. Then again maybe it wasn't down to luck, but more to a referee who, apparently hasn't sent anyone off yet.
Ten minutes before the break, with Albion still looking the better side, Wallace and BTA combined well to deliver another ball into the box but TGH's overhead kick lacked power, whilst, five minutes later, Townsend would get into the box on the left but fail to pull it back, and shortly after Molumby would get get off a pass, albeit not a good one.
Three minutes after the restart, Townsend would give the ball away whilst trying to find an option to clear, which forced Palmer into palming away \ the resultant cross before it found a target.
Just before the hour mark though, the fat lady would take a deep breath after TGH somehow decided that playing the ball back forty-five yards towards his keeper from wide on the left was his best option: but it wasn't. It was not even clear if TGH even got his head up and had a look before playing the ball as, had he done so, he would surely have seen the SheffU attacker and Ajayi still central and on the edge of our box.
Despite that attacker, who collected the awful back-pass, having to go away from goal with Ajayi in pursuit, a perfectly executed Cruijff-turn saw Ajayi go sliding out of play and allowed for a ball across edge of the six-yard box to be simply tapped-in from the middle of our goal.
Considering how well we'd been playing, going behind in such a fashion clearly knocked a lot of the wind out of our sails and the Blades now got on the front foot, and a free header from central on 68, that was directed wide, should have put them two-up.
Corberan then made some changes: Bartley and Swift coming on for Pieters and Yokuslu, but the momentum was now with the home side and after a corner was only cleared to the edge of the box, a shot was going wide of the post was side-footed in to start the automatic promotion celebrations, celebrations that were not affected in the slightest by Albrighton coming on for Grant, a change that, yet again, saw Wallace worrying shifted over to be less effective on the left, nor by Jovan Malcolm replacing Wallace for a five-minute cameo there either.
Hard one to take this: more so as, prior to gifting the Blades the lead, Albion had been the better side and probably worth at least a draw, if not the win we needed to put things completely back in our hands, but once again, it's the lack of players who can consistently put the ball in the net, no matter how well they are served up by Wallace, that's probably going to cost us that top six spot, not that it's all done and dusted yet, of course.
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