Bellamy Blast Dooms Blades

Last updated : 13 April 2011 By @blades_mad1889

The inevitability of relegation to League One headed nearer to reality for Sheffield United as they lost yet again; the time to high flying Cardiff City at Bramall Lane on Tuesday evening. Most United fans have accepted the fate a long time ago and aside from the glimpses shown in recent times against Forest and Leeds; two victories in a total of 17 games under Micky Adams has meant they have not even given themselves a chance of survival. The latest loss to a side chasing promotion came about thanks to a goal in each half from Craig Bellamy and Jay Emmanuel Thomas. United were unable to register a significant effort or shot on goal all game in a pathetic showing in which City barely had to get out of first gear to register a comfortable victory.

United began by naming an unchanged side with Montgomery returning as a substitute and youngster Maguire also making the bench. Cardiff began with Bellamy and Bothroyd up front and attacking options all over the field as they sought to climb into the automatic promotion places. United started the game by earning an early corner but were unable to create any clear cut chances despite Quinn being heavily influential. However, Cardiff looked slick in possession and was looking to get Bellamy on the ball at every opportunity. The Welsh international cut in and fired a shot that Simonsen saved and then he had another effort blocked. Bothroyd was also causing problems with his height and mobility and had an effort just wide. Burke also then had an effort deflected wide as the visitors were now in the ascendancy. United had a rare opening as Riise converted but an offside flag halted him before the referee brought the game back for an earlier foul but United were unable to make anything from the resultant free kick.

On 20 minutes the visitors took the lead. Once again United did not heed the warning as BELLAMY was once again allowed to bring the ball onto his right foot and after a one two with Whittingham he was able to cut inside and take aim. His shot was deflected but it had the power to beat Simonsen and nestle into the net at the Kop end and give the Bluebirds a deserved lead. United had not really been in the game and had not given the opposition keeper Bywater anything to worry about.

Bellamy was on the attack again and once again allowed to get his shot away but Simonsen saved smartly down to his left to deny City a second goal. Bothroyd then appealed in vain for a penalty with most of the home fans complaining the England international had taken a dive. However, the Blades were unable to get any kind of foothold into the game. Riise and Quinn were trying to force openings but all too often the ball was going sideways or backwards and no one seemed to take responsibility to create a clear opening. Henderson and Bogdanovic up front had barely had a kick thus far. The final chance came to Bellamy who fired over after Bothroyd’s knock down and united’s players trooped off at the break knowing they had not really done enough at either end to force any kind of result.

There was a flurry of substitutions at the start of the second half. Straight away United made a change with Nosworthy being replaced by Montgomery with Lowton going to right back. Soon afterwards with the half only 5 minutes young, youngster Maguire came on for Mattock with Lowry switching to left back. Emmanuel Thomas also came on for McPhail for Cardiff. Maguire made a good start with two solid headers and then a crunching tackle on Bellamy but United were still struggling to create anything of note despite an improvement in effort and ball retention. They managed to have a spell of possession but seemed unable to get any kind of clear opportunity in the last third with Lowton’s effort over the bar and then a tame header straight at Bywater the sum of their efforts. The same man was then booked for a cynical foul as Bothroyd as Cardiff broke away. Untied looked to Riise for more inspiration and the Norwegian nearly worked an opening before his corner was headed over from Collins.

The game was effectively sealed when Lowry was out of position and Burke managed to out over a cross unopposed which saw EMMANUEL THOMAS get in between Lowton and Collins to head home from close range. It was a simple goal in its execution but another desperately poor once to give away for the Blades.

Bent then came on for Henderson but United looked clueless in the final third and other than a few balls into the box which were headed clear they were unable to create any kind of chance. Lowton and Quinn were still plugging away and the youngster Maguire continued to play with assurance and determination but in truth the game was up for the home side. Indeed at this stage the visitors were now playing keep ball as the game ended like a testimonial or benefit game with sarcastic cheers from the travelling contingent. Four minutes of stoppage time saw Quinn’s curling effort saved by Bywater and the final whistle was greeted by a smattering of boos from those that had actually stayed in the ground. Sadly a large majority were already well on their way home resigned to another defeat and inevitable relegation.

Cardiff – At the start of the season the Blades held City to a draw with ten men and could have won if not for the sending off. We looked as good as City and seemed like we would finish top half easily after holding one of the favourites for promotion. United did not excite but were well organised, solid and did an effective job.

Fast forward 8 months and the difference in confidence and personnel are quite frightening. United had a ragamuffin outfit filled with loans, cast offs and ineffectual performers. City has proven internationals like Bellamy and Koumas; goal scoring options aplenty in those mentioned plus Bothroyd, Chopra and Whittingham. They have creativity in Burke, McPhail etc and have strength and pace all over the team. I think they have weaknesses at the back but against us it did not matter. They are right there with Norwich and Swansea second place and have as a good a chance of any of going up with the firepower they have. Indeed I would put them ahead of the others as slight favourites to finally go up this year.

Tonight they did not look amazing nor tear us to pieces but it did not matter. They controlled the game from start to finish and scored goals at just the right times. Bellamy was given so much room to come inside and shoot and although he got a bit fortunate with a deflection on the goal; he could have had more goals as he was given countless chances to come inside and take shots. Bothroyd also was given so much time to turn and bring others into play. He did everything Henderson could not. Burke moaned a lot but also was a constant threat. Whittingham was not as much of a threat in open play but he took some good set plays which caused us problems. They passed the ball sensibly, kept possession and then got the ball to the aforementioned attacking threats that ran at our players and created chances. Olofinjana was a man mountain in midfield and won most of the headers/physical challenges. They had some inexperienced players at the back in Keinan and Quinn but we gave them as easy a match as you could imagine. The keeper Bywater could have sat on a deckchair and read his paper. He saved a few regulation flicked headers and that was it. Cardiff won the game at a canter. It was so comfortable. They may only have had 4 or 5 shots themselves but when the home side does not have one of note then that is enough to win a game. Even at 1-0 they seemed to be playing within themselves and I always felt they could step up and play better/create more chances.

United – We looked a beaten side and the confidence now just seems to have ebbed away. The players look like they do not have the belief to win games and stay up anymore, the manager’s body language mirrors this and on the terraces the fans have seemingly just accepted the fate and they can’t even be bothered to get angry, protest or voice their frustrations. It is a sad state of affairs and the club is in a real mess. On the playing front we have players that are probably already speaking to their agents of finding another club (Evans, Quinn, Montgomery, Henderson – Adams can say all he wants about them being contracted as he did on Saturday but we cannot afford to keep them!), loanees just counting down the days till they go back and then others who know they have another year/2 years on their contract (Simonsen, Doyle, Yeates, Collins, Taylor, Ertl) and know they can just pick up a wage.

The performance tonight was ‘abject’ to borrow a phrase from the manager’s post match comments. He called some players cowardly and apologised to the fans. All heartfelt and accurate comments but he is in charge and has to take responsibility. His comments also confirm he has completely lost the dressing room and probably there is no respect both ways. If he does hang on he has to literally get rid of around 10-12 players (admittedly only around 15-16 under contract for next season) and start again. He cannot work with the players he has openly slammed (maybe rightly but he has to get the best out of these and has basically said they are all useless).

We lacked guile and penetration with an ‘oh so slow side’ from front to back. We looked like we would not score and looked like we would concede at the other end. We looked clueless in the last third and relied on punts into the box and even then we did not even carry a threat with Henderson and Bogdanovic completely ineffectual. It was a really painful night. The one thing that was most worrying and shows the white flag has truly been raised was the fact that we lost a lot of 50/50 challenges and actually seemed to give up tonight. Seth Bennett on Radio Sheffield said the effort was there and they tried but I actually felt tonight for the first time that the heads went down. There can be no blame to the crowd either as there was a hardly a boo or real criticism of mistakes (sure most sat in stunned silence!) but many players did seem to be just going through the motions.

To say it was literally the last chance we had of saving things it was a pitiful showing with only maybe Lowton, Riise, Quinn and then Maguire really coming out with any credit.

We are down and we need to now just forget this dreadful season and move on. The season cannot end quickly enough. Whether Adams will be in charge is still debatable as he once again has shown nothing to suggest he can turn this around. He said a lot of the same things we think/have said this season at the end of the game; but he still maintains it is not his side. He does seem to conveniently forget Collins/Doyle/Bent/Mattock/Lowry/Riise (half of the side) is players he brought in! He did make a comment tonight saying he brought in who he could at the time which indicates he may have regretted some of these signings but that does not excuse poor signings and waste of resources.

He seemed speechless at the end and seems unable to suggest how we can turn things around. He said he may play some youngsters which is good but alas too late after we have relied on experienced players who had consistently not performed.

As an aside McCabe was there tonight. I saw him outside the South Stand with Birch and he was laughing and joking (with a ridiculously orange tan). So at least he saw how bad we are. Wonder whether he will do anything in terms of allowing a complete overhaul of the squad (paying off more players out who are not doing it or part of plan – heard a rumour Yeates has been paid off this week? Hope so!) And allow us to bring in young, hungry and fast players. I wonder whether he is looking at changing the managerial side or whether I suspect he will just allow the club to meander along further into the abyss of league one football and heaven forbid even further down the leagues.

Simonsen 6.5/10 – Seemed to have little chance on either goal I don’t think with the first deflected and the second being a header from close range (like to see how close it was to him but once again being too critical and the defending was awful). He made a few good saves from other shots but he was given little protection once again as Cardiff has pot shot after pot shot.

Nosworthy 4/10 – Abysmal. He seemed to lose his man constantly and when on the ball he often just gave it straight back. Seemed to be simply day dreaming at times as Cardiff often played in a ball to the back post or towards his man and he was nowhere to be seen. Rightly taken off at the break. Not a right back but he is not a centre back either. Do not know what he is. He is certainly not a top level footballer.

Lowry 5/10 – Not his best night. Seemed to struggle with movement of Bellamy and Bothroyd in the first half and lost Bellamy countless times. He also looked uncomfortable at left back and went completely missing in the build up for the second as Burke had all the freedom of the park to cross for the goal. He has been one of our better loanees but that is not saying much as he often gets into bad positions defensively and his ability to use the ball when in possession is nil.

Collins 5/10 – Pretty poor again but maybe slightly better than Saturday. Defensively he was poor again as he often lost his man or seemed at full stretch due to lack of pace and/or awareness. He was slow to react on the second goal as he seemed to just lose his man. One positive or minor positive is that he at least tried to get on the ball and bring it out of defence a few times and tried to take some responsibility. Sure he often booted it to no one but at least he did not pass the buck as much as maybe some others did tonight and did not hide.

Lowton 7/10 – One of our better players just for sheer effort and determination to get on the ball and try and push us forward. Messed about again in that he was moved from central midfield to right back; once again. He showed some nice touches and was always positive when in possession going forward not sideways or back like many other players. Think he will make a player if he is given chance to bed down one position.

Mattock 5/10 – Not convincing again. He leaves his winger too much room and seems unable to understand it his job to stop the cross/ball coming in. He drifts infield too much and seems to give the winger acres to receive and then cross. Better going forward with a decent left foot and cross but he struggled in this aspect too tonight, hitting the first man most of the time. Taken off early in the second half.

Doyle 4/10 – Barely noticed him all night. He shuffled the ball on either back or to the side a few times but seems to treat the ball like a ‘hot potato’ and does not like taking any kind of responsibility. When the other team has possession he is often behind the play and his lack of pace/mobility means he struggles to get back and hold things up. Not sure what he is offering us at the moment.

Riise 6.5/10 – Maybe our most threatening player going forward but even he did not create too much despite showing good ability on the ball. Always looked to get on the ball and try and advance into the last third. He was the only one who looked like he could beat a man, make a yard or send a cross over. All too often his final ball was lacking tonight but the fact he at least tried to make something happen was a positive in a sea of utter mediocrity; at best; tonight. His touch and close control is clearly too good for us and probably wonders what he is playing with looking at his teammates.

Quinn 7/10 – Another gutsy performance where he fought hard and never stopped. He always looked for the ball and then when he passed it; moved into space or tried to be an option again. He seemed too really bust a gut to make things happen and either he is one of the few showing some pride in the shirt or realises he is essentially playing for a move. Whatever it is; his performances in recent times have been one of the few bright spots in this awful season.

Henderson 4/10- Really poor again. He did not win many headers really, did not hold the ball up, was not a goal threat, looked unfit, was immobile and basically did everything you would not want in a centre forward. He just seemed completely stationary and was unable to bring others into play. Not surprised he was taken off as he looked completely unfit.

Bogdanovic 3/10 – As bad as Henderson; maybe worse. He summed up the lack of interest from many of our players as he barely got his shirt dirty all night and for want of a better choice of words; ‘it seemed like he did not want to know.’ That may seem harsh as the service to both of them were poor but I expected them both to at least put a shift in, work across the line, chase down loose balls/the centre backs or be a nuisance factor. He did none of these things and seemed to just be ambling along. 3 or 4 balls that were clearly his to be won he basically moved away from. Not sure he is a player you would want to build a team to try and scrap and fight in league 2.

Subs –

Montgomery 5.5/10 – Came on and at least showed some fight as we started to win tackles and won more of the loose balls. He got passed around by the Cardiff midfielders too easily and his own distribution was not good either. Seemed to be chasing shadows at time and unable to contribute much when on the ball but at least he did show some energy and passion.

Maguire 7/10 – Brought on and played centre back and was a real bright spot. He is 6 foot 3/4 easily and is particularly well built for an 18 year old. He was determined and tried to ensure he was decisive in all challenges. Attacked headers, won tackles and did not shirk the challenge of facing Bellamy and Bothroyd. He maybe tried to win too many challenges but good to see he wanted to win every ball! I would keep him in till the end of the season and look to bring in others like Harriott, Whitehouse and Long too.

Bent – Came on and lost 2 or 3 headers barely touched the ball and continued his nonexistent contributions since he came back to the club.

Officials – Michael Oliver. Oliver has been promoted up the leagues at a very quick rate and at 25 is the youngest ref in the select list and the youngest to ref a Premiership game beating Stuart Attwell; did earlier this season. His Dad Clive was a referee too. He did ok really and only had to give one booking to Lowton for a cynical pull back. Burke maybe should have been booked for constant whinging/. Ditto for Bellamy but it was an easy game to referee with hardly any poor challenges or decisions of note to make.

Crowd/Atmosphere – Saturday was the final nail in the coffin and tonight saw the coffin put into the ground. It is over and the fans to a man, woman and child know it. This was reflected in the atmosphere with a general malaise all over the ground and people seemingly cannot even get worked up anymore. Cardiff’s following was not that great but understandable on a Tuesday night. They made quite a bit of noise and clearly in with a chance of promotion they knew tonight would be easy pickings. Many United fans seemed to have departed long before the end and the ground was half empty at the end. There were no protests or real displeasure; just fans with their heads bowed trudging away. In some ways that makes it worse. Fans cannot even be bothered to get angry/mad complain. The crowds next season will be significantly lower and the way the club has gone they may have lost many fans for a long, long time after how the club has been desperately mismanaged from top to bottom for the last 5 years.