Blades 3-4 Bluebirds

Last updated : 25 October 2009 By Deadbat_DB

Bizarre. That is the word that comes to mind when describing Sheffield United's latest defeat; the time at the hands of high flying Cardiff City at Bramall Lane. Whilst United had been well beaten at Scunthorpe and Blackpool in the last seven days, the circumstances around United's defeat this time were completely different. With a hum drum game heading for a goalless stalemate just before half time, the game suddenly exploded into life with four goals in four minutes that left the game deadlocked but this time at 2-2.

United had looked the better side in the opening to the second half but poor defending yet again led to the visitors taking the lead for the third time. This time they would not relinquish the lead and added a further goal towards the end with Peter Whittingham completing his hat trick. United did not give in though and came back again to reduce the arrears and right at the death had an effort disallowed for offside to deny them what would have been a deserved point.

The Blades had began the day making further changes in an effort to halt the poor run of form. Kevin Blackwell changed his goalkeeper with Ian Bennett coming in for the on loan Mark Bunn. Evans, Treacy and Little were all restored to the starting line up with new signing Henri Camara on the bench.

Cardiff were nearly ahead inside the first minute as a free kick was not properly cleared and Gerrard fired inches wide of Bennett's right hand post. Buoyed by this let off United were able to get a foothold in the game and with neat interchange United were playing most of the game in their opponents half. Ledley was booked for bringing down Treacy and then two dangerous crosses from the winger should have seen a teammate on the end of them.
However, despite the improved play United had not created many clear chances and Cardiff were able to start to get back into things. From a cross from Matthews, Bothroyd headed the ball home but the linesman adjudged the striker had crept into an offside decision. Evans was booked for a wild lunge on Hudson and then the striker blazed over twice when better options presented themselves. Taylor had to go up injured to be replaced by Stewart but the game had not looked likely to bring the drama that ensued with only four minutes of the half remaining.

Cardiff took a quick free kick and Chopra was left unmarked but his cross seemed set to be cleared by Morgan but the centre back wildly kicked the ball right against Walker and the ball ricocheted into the path of BOTHROYD who swept the ball past Ian Bennett from close range. Initially the linesman's flag had gone up as Bothroyd was stood in an offside position and the goal seemed to have been disallowed but rightly referee Kettle gave the goal after discussing the incident with his assistant.

Straight from the kick off, United were level though. A long ball forward from Walker dissected Gerrard and Hudson, and HENDERSON latched onto the ball and calmly drilled the ball under Marshall.

United were behind again though when a long throw saw Bothroyd go to ground under a challenge from Henderson. It seemed innocuous enough but referee, Kettle gave a penalty kick. After the protests Whittingham drilled the spot kick home to give Cardiff the lead back in controversial circumstances. Unbelievably United were back level again instantly as HENDERSON scored once again. Walker's cross was headed back by Morgan and Evans first header was saved by Marshall at point blank range but Henderson reacted quicker to loop his header into the corner and restore parity once again in an amazing end to the half. The half time whistle went not long after and the match officials were roundly booed by the home fans as they headed to the dressing room.

United began the second half well and twice the ball fizzed across the box with no one to apply the finishing touch. Kilgallon blasted over when the ball came to him from a corner and on reflection he should have done better. However, poor defending on the hour mark gave Cardiff the lead back yet again. It came from another Matthews long throw and Hudson beat Morgan to the flick on at the near post and neither Walker nor Little tracked WHITTINGHAM's run and the midfielder converted the finish.

Cotterill replaced Little and then Camara made his debut replacing the ineffective Evans. For the next 15 minutes, Cardiff were able to take the heat out of the game and it seemed like they had now got a strangehold on the game but United somehow were denied yet another equaliser on 77 minutes. Morgan headed down and Kilgallon's effort was goalbound but the ball hit Kennedy on the line and flew over. Chopra went down injured after play stopped but seemed to recover quickly as he was able to take odds at Walker similarly going to ground after he had shoved him and kicked the ball away. Both players were booked. United had another great chance when Treacy was in the clear but his shot was blocked by Matthews. Cotterill then floated a free kick wide after clever skill by Treacy had led to a foul. As United piled players forward they were always susceptible to the counter attack and so it proved. Cardiff broke away and some fluent interchange McCormack, Chopra and Bothroyd saw an easy conversion for WHITTINGHAM who completed his hat trick.

As some of the crowd started to drift away, United still had chances with Quinn's free kick held by Marshall and Camara shooting just wide. With four of the five minutes of added time played; HARPER then toe poked the ball home from the edge of the box to give United a glimmer of hope but it seemed like the referee's whistle would come immediately after the goal. Yet, immediately United were back on the attack and Walker made a run forward and hit a driven shot that Marshall spilt into the path of Quinn who sidefooted home. However, as the midfielder peeled off his shirt, his joy was short lived as the linesman flag was raised. The midfielder was then booked for celebrating a goal that never was! The final whistle went shortly after and United fans trudged out shaking their heads; not so much at the fact their side had lost again and lost their unbeaten home record; but by the circumstances of the defeat in a truly strange game.

United - To be honest it was an improved performance despite another defeat. We did try and pass the ball a bit more and created plenty of chances and really should have had at least a draw. However, calamitous defending coupled with some wretched bad luck meant United lost again. The fact the fans did not really boo them off suggests even they knew it was not an awful performance. There is still major problems with the defence once again shipping goals. To concede 10 goals in 3 games is unacceptable. Morgan and Kilgallon in particular were really poor but the team as a whole is defending badly. The midfield still remains largely nonexistent and players who came in with a lot of hype such as Evans and Harper are simply not performing whatever blame is made of the tactics or the manager.

We did try and pass the ball more today and there were a few decent moves and with a bit more composure/luck we could have scored 3 or 4 more goals. However, all 4 goals were totally avoidable. If you give away 4 goals at home then you normally are not going to get anything from a game. It is that simple.

Blackwell keeps saying that it is a new team and there is injuries etc, etc but the season in terms of a promotion challenge seems a million miles away. I think that most fans realise we will in all likelihood not be around the top 6 and that it a season of transition in reality. A mid table finish does not fill me with much excitement but I think we may have to accept that is what it is probably going to be. I do not see a mass surge up the table even when some of the other players come back. We will do enough to stay away from the bottom few I think but it gets no easier and I cannot see us getting much from top of the table Newcastle or a fired up Barnsley . I envisage in a few weeks that we will have Williamson and Montgomery in the centre of the park with Treacy and Ward out on the flanks. At the back regardless of personnel we have to improve how we defend. We may hopefully have Naysmith and Geary pushing for recalls possibly. This could maybe see Walker paired with Morgan at the back.

Bennett 7/10 - Actually did not have that many saves to make but found himself picking the ball out of the back of his net on four occasions. I do not think he had a chance with any of the goals and in general play did not do that much wrong. The way we are shipping goals does suggest that there is perhaps more to it than individual mistakes. I would suggest it matters little who the keeper is; but that the back five need to working better than they are at the moment as a unit in terms of communication and covering each other.

Walker 5/10 -Has gone right off the boil in recent weeks and his standards have completely dropped in the same way the rest of the team and defence has. His touch is not as assured, he is giving his man too much time and is not looking as much of a threat going forward. Can never be good for a player when your direct opponent scores a hat trick, whatever the circumstances.

Taylor 7/10 / Stewart 7/10 - I felt the left back position was perhaps our strongest in defence today and I have not said that all season. Taylor was having a decent game before he went off injured and then Stewart was much improved from his last performance and did alright too defending fairly well and getting forward when he could.

Morgan 4/10 - A mistake laded performance. Some said the first goal was unlucky. I think it was awful defending by our captain. He dallied to clear and then could have kicked the ball anywhere but where he did. It was his fault completely. There were other moments throughout the game where he missed his clearances or lost his man. Actually did not win all his headers today and likes of Hudson and Bothroyd beat him to quite a few aerial plays, particularly from set plays. Bothroyd and Chopra were too sharp for both him and Kilgallon.

Kilgallon 4/10 - He did one or two good blocks/headers (one that saved a certain goal from a cross in the first half) but generally looked off the pace again and along with Morgan I felt they could not cope with the movement/pace of Bothroyd and Chopra. His body language is odd at the moment as he does seem to be just going through the motions somewhat until his inevitable exit in January. In an ideal world we would not play him and plan for the future but we do not have anyone to bring in; unless you count on loan players like Davies (and Walker) who are no more part of our future than Kilgallon and all 3 will not be United players come May. Maybe they try Fortune? He cannot do any worse at the moment.

Quinn 6/10 - Another up and down performance. I felt he at least got stuck in and did some alright things with the ball today but this was mixed with an equal amount of giving the ball away needlessly and inability to do the simple things.

Harper 5/10 - I have been very disappointed with him since he came in. When we signed him and Howard went the other way I felt it was a great deal. Howard had come in as arguably one of the better midfielders in the division but was very poor and it right to move him on. It seems the exact same situation with Harper. Like Howard he seems totally unfit and struggles to keep up with the pace of play. He does a lot of pointing and shouting but very little with the football. He scored a decent goal and made one or two decent passes but his overall contribution is not enough at the moment and this means the midfield area is badly lacking.

Henderson 7/10 - Scored 2 well taken goals and was his usual handful throughout. The penalty was odd as whilst he did get hold of Bothroyd he went down very easily and is the sort of thing that happens all the time. Henderson himself gets manhandled all the time and never gets penalties or free kicks for similar incidents. I felt Henderson faded a bit in the second half and was not as much of a threat Hoepfully him and Camara can be a more effective partnership than the one with Evans that has not worked.

Evans 3/10 - Another woeful performance. Like I said earlier whatever issues people have with the tactics, Blackwell, his striker partner or anything else, there can be no defence for his play at the moment. His touch, shooting, finishing, link play, work rate and overall performances are very poor and he is looking like an expensive mistake. If someone offered us anything near for what we paid for him in January I would snatch their hands off. People are saying give him time but we have played 17 games of which he has featured in most; starting the majority and other than Watford I cannot remember a good performance.

Little 4/10 - He was not at the races at all today. He looked totally off the pace, barely got in the game and when he had the ball he gave it away. His lack of mobility, speed and stamina meant Walker was badly exposed on quite a few occasions too. Not surprised he was taken off but then Cotterill came on and did even worse!

Treacy 7/10 - Played well. He put in some good balls that people did not get on the end of. He may not run around at break neck speed nor throw himself into challenges but he is a good technician and has excellent close control and dribbling. He had patches of the game where he drifted out of things but he was still probably our best player.


Cotterill - Sure he only gets the odd game here and there and arguably he has had a bum deal in that when he does play badly he instantly gets dropped as opposed to others who have kept their place for ages after similarly poor games (Quinn springs to mind). However, after today it is hard to keep pleading his case as he was appalling when he came on. I am more pro Cotts than against him. I have always felt he may drift out of games or do little but that one moment of quality could lead to a goal but these moments are becoming rarer and rarer. His aversion to any kind of physical contact is quite maddening but more than that he does not get enough crosses in nor beat his man enough.

Camara - Looked bright when he came on and showed more movement, class and touch than Evans had in the previous 70 minutes. Hopefully with a full week of training he will start alongside Henderson against Newcastle.

Referee - Trevor Kettle. A bizarre refereeing performance in a bizarre game. He started the game alright and got both bookings right; for Ledley and Evans. He was letting things flow and ensuring the game had momentum. However, after the poor decision to give the penalty he seemed to just generally lost it and the second half nobody seemed to know what he was going to give and both teams seem equally perplexed by some of the decisions. Of course Kettle was right to overrule his assistant for the opening goal. It was incredulous that the assistant would have disallowed it in the first place. The Bothroyd header looked marginal when it was disallowed and the Quinn one also looked tight.

Crowd/Atmosphere - Strange atmosphere as it was fairly quiet most of the game despite all the goals but if there was any noise it was pro United rather than negative despite the defeat. At the end there were a few boos but it was more frustration than anything I think than anger at the performance that was not that bad. Even when the Cardiff fans mocked Blackwell at 4-2; ' You're getting sacked in the morning!'; no United fans joined in to my knowledge. Obviously if we lose to Newcastle then the pressure will be firmly jacked up in Blackwell's direction and the crowd may not be so patient. I think yesterday the performance was acceptable in certain ways even if the result was negative again and the fans knew that.