The Blades’ wobbly form continued as they failed to win for the second consecutive home game. With only 9 games left to play United cannot afford at this stage to throw away points against struggling sides like Tranmere. United’s recent form and performances have not been good enough and today they could not say they deserved the points after a game in which they struggled to keep the football let along create many chances. The visitors fought hard and were well organised and were good value for their draw.
With rivals Wednesday winning again, the margin between the sides has all but evaporated and with a tough away game to come it would not be a surprise if the two Sheffield teams were to swap spaces in the next week. United need to find fresh impetus and quickly but today they looked lethargic and worryingly a side that does not really have much to play for still seemed hungrier and more determined.
The Blades began by restoring Neil Collins to the line up with Marcus Williams dropping down to the bench and Matt Hill moving to left back. Chris Porter kept his place up front with Will Hoskins again operating wide right. There was still no Kevin McDonald in the match day squad.
The game began with an injury almost instantly as Tranmere took the kick off and hit a long ball towards Matt Lowton. As the right back jumped he seemed to be caught and fell awkwardly and had to have treatment for several minutes before hobbling to his feet and continuing.
The first chance came for United when Goodison dithered and Porter nipped in smartly but his instinctive shot flashed across the goal. Tranmere had started well though and were competing all over the field. Brunt showed off his long throw on more than one occasion and then Showumni hit a flashing shot just wide. United were struggling to get into their game and Tranmere were fighting hard but actually playing the better football as well.
United had the ball in the net when Porter headed the ball in a challenge with Williams and Evans slotted home. The referee adjudged that there had been a foul from Porter as he challenged the keeper in the air. United protested but unfortunately they are normally the decisions that go the way of the defending team in most instances. Porter then headed over from a Williamson cross but Tranmere then had a chance of their own but Brunt’s effort went wide. It had been a fairly even game but
Despite their decent start the visitors were not exactly rushing and some blatant timewasting from keeper Williams was not penalised by the referee despite the custodian taking forever to take a goal kick.
United got in front on the half hour as they finally made a move of note with Porter and Quinn linking well before EVANS tried to flick the cross goal wards but the ball got blocked. However he was able to react quickly and stabbed the ball home from close range. It was his 26th goal of the season and a vital strike in a game United had struggled to control thus far.
Soon after Buchanan and Bakayogo both bumped into each other in a comical clash as they tried to clear the ball and as the players lay on the floor injured United were able to break away. However, Hoskins perhaps took too long and his eventual ball across evaded two United players who were probably offside if they had connected. Tranmere had a strong finish to the half and Brunt shot wide again before Welsh had an effort deflected wide amidst a scramble in which Tranmere players were convinced a hand had been used in the melee. Showumni then nearly stole in at the far post and United were pleased to hear the half time whistle.
United began the second half poorly and gave the ball away constantly. They had hardly ventured into the Tranmere half and the visitors sensed they could get back into things. A few crosses had whizzed across the Blades box before Tranmere did finally level. Welsh’s corner came right into the six yard box and AKINS lost his marker and powered the ball goalwards. Simonsen tried to scoop it out but the ball has clearly crossed the line. It was dreadful defending in terms of awful marking and poor goalkeeping as the ball was crossed into the six yard box but once again Simonsen opted to stay on his line.
United had a chance straight after this and won a corner with Williams booked for kicking the ball away to delay the taking of the set play. From the kick Collins had a header cleared off the line and then Maguire nodded back and Porter had a close range header saved. Outside of the goal it was the first real opportunities on goal for United.
Tranmere had a golden chance to go in front when Hill played Brunt onside and a simple through ball saw the Rovers man in the clear. He was one on one with Simonsen but credit the Blades keeper who stayed on this feet and saved not once but three times at his feet before eventually forcing the player wide and seeing the chance away.
After this let off you would have felt United would now step things up but were struggling all over the field and the game had become really scrappy. United had created little and were not keeping the ball. Tranmere were continuing to win loose balls and seemed caught between whether settling for a point or going to win with the extra belief eminently clear in their approach.
However Evans got away from his man and the Tranmere defender Taylor’s clearance fortunately scuffed into the deck and into the keepers hands when any kind of decent contact would surely have resulted in an own goal.
Williams replaced Porter with Hoskins going more central and the substitute playing on the left and Quinn moving to the right. Wallace was booked for a foul on Williamson and then Taylor likewise for pulling back Evans.
Cresswell and Beattie came on for Hoskins and Hill. This saw the team move around again with Cresswell on the left, Williams going to left back and Beattie partnering Evans for the final stages. A chance came for Cresswell but his header was comfortable for Williams and Tranmere then actually had a break of their own and won a corner. From the resulting kick Cassidy should have scored but header wide. United were running out of time and ideas and the additional 4 minutes saw no real chances of note as a desperately disappointing afternoon came to an end.
United – The form, performances and results is very inconsistent and we seem to be bottling it at the wrong time. A few weeks ago we were 5 points clear with 2 games in hand but other than a solid performance against Brentford and the second half against 10 man Scunthorpe the performances of late have been really poor. With a tough game to come at Notts County who will want to bounce back from defeat today (can’t really see them losing back to back at home to both Sheffield clubs?) and with our rivals around us having eminently winnable home games; I really fear the worst now.
Wednesday do seem to have the momentum and now have a far superior manager in charge than they did have but regardless of what they do it is not about them but us. We simply seem to be imploding and to take 5 points from a possible 15 is not good enough at this stage and is more like relegation form than promotion form. We now have to up our game and fast but the same people that let us down last year seem to be doing the same again at this critical stage. We have no leadership and many of the players seem to just accept their fate. To watch Simonsen, Doyle etc make the same mistakes as last year and then see players like Williamson, Quinn go into their shell again is hard to watch but does not surprise me.
I have sounded like a broken record on these reports but calling these players bottlers but I am afraid it looks like I am right. I am sure people will say get behind them we are still second but I think most people can see what is going to happen. It is like watching a car crash in slow motion but there is nothing you can do about it. I hope somehow our manager can galvanise us and somehow get us back to some kind of form for the last 9 games and this is his first real of his stewardship. He makes changes too late though and it seems like we don’t any real pattern to our play at the moment. McDonald will hopefully make a difference but we cannot pin all our hopes on him and there is so many players underperforming at the moment.
The thing that worried me the most today regardless of the poor passing as we gave the ball away so many times and the poor defending/keeping; was the total lack of passion and commitment. I actually felt we got outworked for long stages and in the second half it seemed like they were quicker to the ball and actually wanted it more than us. This is sad considering the position we are in but it did seem like that. We were playing poorly and nothing was happening but it was 1-1 and we still had a chance to win the game but a lot of players’ heads were down or they did not show any urgency. They almost did not seem bothered. That maybe harsh but that is what it looked like. It was as poor as it has been at home for most of the season and would go as far as to say that it was much worse than Oldham despite the mistakes in that one. We created little of note all game and had few moves of football all day. It was a really poor performance with so many players 5/10 or less.
Tranmere – They seemed like certainties for relegation and were plummeting down the league after being in the top half and around the top 6 in the early part of the season. Les Parry had done well despite this dip and may have seemed a little harsh to sack him but Ronnie Moore has come in and completely galvanised them. They have won a series of games’ at home and now have won away. Moore always reminds me of a poor man’s Neil Warnock in that he comes into teams and tends to get them motivated and gets the best out of lesser players. When he has took teams up though he struggles at higher levels and with better players and has thus bounced around a number of teams but normally between the Wirral and Rotherham. Sadly for him he will probably keep them up this season but long term it will be a struggle for them to stay in this league.
Still he has clearly got them organised and fighting hard. Today they certainly deserved their point and with the chance they missed could argue they could have had all 3. They certainly were not clinging on and I felt coped with us most of the game really comfortably.
Simonsen 5/10 – He made one excellent save where he came out at the forwards feet and smothered the ball and kept going until he had seen the chance off. It was crucial as it was probably the best chance of the game outside of the two goals. However outside of this I felt he had a really poor game and was indecisive throughout once again. There were at least 4 or 5 crosses that just drifted across the 6 yard box that he completely left when it was crying out for the keeper to take. The goal was a ball that had to be taken and whilst it was poor marking and the defence was set up all wrong; all coming back rather than attacking and a big chasm between him and the players attacking the ball; it was clearly his fault. Like many other goals this season he was flailing around trying to save the ball after the initial mistake but it was clearly his fault. What he was asking the referee for I am not sure as it was well over the line and he was not fouled in any way. He seems an amiable kind of chap and clearly wants United to do well but he is not good enough. At the end of the season I am certain he will be released (out of contract) and probably end up somewhere like back at Tranmere I reckon.
Lowton 6/10 – Thought he was ok for patches but looked disinterested for long spells and did not get forward like he has been. Defensively he was slow to react at times and I just felt there was no urgency about him in any situations. We still had some of our better attacks when he got forward but overall another one who did not do enough today.
Hill 2/10 – Well we have a winner in the competition to find the worst left back in one season. After some wretched performances mixed with some so so ones between the likes of Francois, Williams and Taylor; todays performance from Matt Hill was easily the poorest all season. From minute one he was totally hopeless. The only thing I can say in his defence slightly is that Quinn did not help him much all game but overall he was head shakingly bad. He left his man often, he could not control a football, let alone pass it and his distribution looked like a man who had never played the game before. Finally took off but it was too late realty.
Maguire 7.5/10 – Thought he was our best defender today. He at least won his individual battle, got in front of his man and actually showed some desire. He used the ball well for the most part; a few punts notwithstanding; and did try and at least move it with some urgency. Worrying when an 18 year old is one taking responsibility at the end whilst others are literally hiding.
Collins 7/10 – Did ok on his return and was steady enough. He swept up what he had to and tried to keep the ball moving. Defensively he did what he had to and certainly any chances/openings they had were due to players in front of the rather than mistakes from the two centre backs.
Doyle 4/10 – Thought he was pretty woeful today. He gave the ball away constantly and played some shocking balls behind men or to an opponent. He actually did not win the tackles or make the interceptions he has been doing much of the season and we got overrun in the middle at times. He looked like the Doyle of last season. The only thing I would say for him is that he did not go missing at least even though that may have been preferable.
Hoskins 4/10 – Did not get in the game at all and cannot recall much of note he did. He is clearly not a wide right player but given a start you still thought he would get into the game more or show some of the quality he has in terms of touch, pace or running. I cannot remember him getting a cross in or having a shot all game. He was moved inside to central striker near the end when we made changes but I cannot recall him doing much then either.
Williamson 4/10 – His performance summed up much of what is wrong with United at the moment. He is a good footballer and when he gets on the ball he does ok most of the time but he seemed to be literally going through the motions today. Got on the ball a few times and did a few bits and pieces but overall the game just seemed to pass him by. I watched him in the second half and he was 80-20 favourite for one ball and he just jogged towards the area and lost out easily. This happened a few times. He only actually seems interested when he gets on the ball. Another one that will move on in the summer and I cannot say I am sad as he is injury prone and completely inconsistent but more than this he seems to lack the desire to want to be a footballer at the highest level which is sad when he has decent ability.
Quinn 3/10 – Another dreadful performance. He made the goal with a decent ball and did put in a couple of other good crosses that people did not get on the end of but outside this it was an embarrassing performance. All he did was look for free kicks, fall over, flick the ball aimlessly or toss the ball away. He blamed everyone but himself when making said mistakes. Another who is an experienced player who needed to take responsibility and get on the ball but he disappeared when the going got tough. Seems quite happy to see us fritter away games and like many of the others does not seem to want it enough. Not sure he cares really and probably just thinks I will be off in the summer anyway.
Evans 7.5/10 – Once again our best player and god knows where we would be without him as he has almost single handily kept us up there and without his goals we probably would be outside the play off places let alone automatic promotion. I would not say we are a one man team but we are not far off. Persisted to get his goal after his flick did not come off and had a few other efforts on goal. He once again seemed to be putting far more effort in than anyone else! Things did not quite come off second half for him but he kept trying despite no service at all.
Porter 6/10 – I actually thought he was one of our better players but that was not saying much. He won quite a few headers, had the early effort on goal and actually looked interested. He did not offer as much after the break although had our maybe best effort with a header saved just after they equalised. We have all been crying out for Hoskins or even Beattie but both of them have come in and had games and not done it. He will probably remain in the team as much by default that the others have not been good enough.
Cresswell – Came on but to be honest we were hardly battering them and did not have many chances aside from one looping header that was comfortably saved.
Beattie – Won one header and then headed two back the wrong way. Looks very immobile and it has been a signing that has not paid off. Sadly he looks done and it was an emotional re-signing that has been a drain of resources. We should have looked for pace and hunger and been better signing someone who gives us something different. Easy to say in hindsight I suppose.
Officials – They were inconsistent but many United fans were seeing a different game to me around where I sat as they called for every foul to us and made out he was missing major decisions. Yes one or two pushes on the front two maybe could have gone our way but overall there was nothing major that went against us. The foul on the keeper in the first half is normally given most of the time sadly despite our appeals and Porter did lead with the arm. Also, we were fortunate not to concede a penalty in the first half when it seemed to be a pretty clear hand ball. The foul on Williamson was a regulation booking and all those crying out for red ought to realise that whilst it was late it was not high nor did he go over the ball. I also thought our man made more of it writhing around Ditto for Quinn not long after when their player just outmuscled him and won a header but he went down like he had been shot. Embarrassing really as was the dive that he did when going down near the corner to gain a free kick when their player barely touched him again. It seemed like our fans were desperate calling for every 50/50 for us and as I say other than one or two that may have gone our way we were just shouting for everything. It was not the referee today (he did book the keeper for timewasting and added on a fair bit at the end of each half) but United that cost us that game.
Crowd/Atmosphere – It wasn’t good at all in terms of the numbers or the noise but you could understand the anxiety and the frustration. I do not think any real criticism could be directed at the fans who for the most part were quite patient faced with watching utterly dire play and lack of effort in some areas. They got booed off at the end but cannot say they did not deserve it really. Yes of course maybe fans should get behind them more but it was hard to be really positive in the vocal side today when simple passes/control continually goes astray. May do United good being away this week but we have to start winning at home again. I would go as far to say we have to win all 4 of our remaining home games to have a chance of automatic promotion.