The superb recent home form came crashing to an unexpected end as the Blades lost to bottom half Oldham Athletic at Bramall Lane yesterday.

It brought a new twist to the Promotion race. In an incredible contest the Blades led 2-0 thanks to goals from Matthew Lowton and Ched Evans and looked completely comfortable but missed further chances to put the game away and were made to pay.

An own goal and a red card for Matthew Lowton turned the game around. A well taken equaliser soon followed and the Blades were in disarray but then despite players in completely the wrong positions and at a man disadvantage, they seemed to have done enough to have got at least a point. Indeed they maybe still could have won with a late chance for Evans but unbelievably Harry Maguire brought down Reuben Reid and was given his marching orders to give Oldham a penalty in stoppage time. Former Owl Shefki Kuqi completed the remarkable turnaround and Oldham somehow left the Lane with all three points. It was a staggering defeat and seemed completely unfathomable at the hour mark.

The defeat brought an end to an 8 match winning run at Bramall Lane dating back to the draw with Exeter back on October 29h and was the first defeat since the game against Charlton on October 1st.

It as an utter disaster for the Blades who lost for the second time in a week and now could go into their next game with none of their back four that has played most of the season with a serious injury to Francois, Collins out injured and also Maguire and Lowton out through suspension. It really was a game that could completely change the season but is one that should have been a regulation victory.

Many United fans pointed to the referee who was woefully inconsistent but in truth the Blades could have little argument about the two red cards which were seemingly straight forward decisions with both players making poor decisions. Maybe Oldham could have also had a player sent off with Chris Taylor in particularly committing fouls persistently but United should now better and total indiscipline cost them. United lost their shape, composure and ultimately the game.

The game had begun with Neil Collins being ruled out thus meaning a return to the line up for Andy Taylor with Jean Francois switching to centre back. United were still without Kevin McDonald and Nick Montgomery. United restored Richard Cresswell and Stephen Quinn to the line up in place of Johannes Ertl and James Beattie after their impact s substitutes in the week.

The Blades began on top and won two early corners. Cresswell pulled a shot just wide and then Lowton’s header was touched round the post from Cisak. United then had a chance when Tayor came inside but with his unfamiliar right foot he shot wide. It had been a good return for the former Tranmere man thus far though.

M’Voto had been guilty of dithering in possession on a number of occasions and was robbed again by Evans who went down the by-line and cleverly pulled it back for
LOWTON who was still forward from an earlier run and the full back converted from close range.

Despite their domination United did have a let off when they gave Oldham a great opportunity. Simonsen’s throw was probably not the wisest but Francois should have cleared the ball but dallied in possession and Oldham nicked the ball away and were clear. Adeyemi advanced and shot goal wards but Simonsen made a great save palming it up and just past his left hand post. It was a let off for United who had been in control up to this point.

Soon after another break from the visitors in a poor spell for the home side saw Maguire make a timely tackles but in the clash that followed the tackles Francois seemed to get caught. He United man looked in some distress and after lengthy treatment he had to go off on a stretcher to be replaced by Ertl. It looked a really serious injury and after having a seemingly unchanged line up at the back for much of the season Untied now faced a period of uncertainty in this area.
The second goal was not long coming though despite this brief period where United’s attacks had alleviated and it came from their leading scorer. Oldham’s defence had been making routine errors and made another when Tarkowski gave the ball away to EVANS who drove inside and hit a fierce shot into the far corner. It was a superb finish and gave the keeper no chance.

Lowton’s surging run nearly led to another opening before Flynn brought down and volleyed over as United looked to score further goals just before the additional 5 minutes of time; mainly due to Francois’s serious injury.

Oldham made a change at the break in an effort to get back into the game as Marsh Brown came on for Winchester.

United continued to attack though as Evans has an effort saved at the near post and then squared across the box for Cresswell but his partner was caught on his heels and could not convert. It was United playing all the football and Oldham looked a side that was low in confidence and at times they were being passed around too easily. Ertl errored badly by taking too long to clear leaving a chance for Taylor to cross for Oldham but his namesake did well to head over at the far post under pressure from an attacker in a rare Latics break.

United came again and Evans had another effort saved after combining with Quinn before Lowton and Doyle both had efforts blocked as United looked to score further goals in a relatively one sided contest. Doyle curled a precise left footed effort that hit the base of Cisak’s post. If this had gone in then surely the game would have been over.

However, just after the hour out of the blue Oldham got back into the game in strange circumstances. From a Morais corner, CRESSWELL somehow stooped and managed to nod the ball down and into his own net. It was a daft goal to concede and gave the game new life completely. After the goal there was a skirmish between Lowton and Taylor as Oldham tried to retrieve the ball and both players were rightly booked as the United man threw the ball away as Taylor pushed at him.

This yellow card for the United full back was compounded not long after as he made an enterprising run forward and got into the box but after overrunning the ball his tackles was late on the defender. United probably feared the worst but it seemed after a long time of deliberation that United may get away with it. Sadly not as after the delay the referee Moss did give him a second yellow card. Lowton had picked up two yellow cards in two minutes. It was stupid from the young defender and had further turned the game on its head.

Soon after incredibly it was 2-2. The ball was not properly cleared and LEE took a touch and curled a wonderful effort with his left foot right into Simonsen’s top corner giving the keeper no chance. It had once again been sloppy defending but the game had suddenly turned on its head.

Oldham now were sending blood and for the next period of the game were the better side and looked like they were going to score again s United were all over the place with the fans frustrations aimed at the home side and the officials in equal measure. Oldham sent on another striker in Reid and were really going for it as United looked a shambles. However, they still had one or two opening to score themselves with the dangerous Evans still causing problems. From a rare opportunity, Evans rolled his man and his fierce shot but it unbelievably went straight down the keeper’s throat and he clutched the ball. A yard either side and it would have surely been a goal. Evans then was shown a red card for dissent but this was retracted as the referee Moss had brought out the wrong card. It summed up the game for the man in charge that most United fans were now fuming with.

Reid then headed wide and Oldham had another chance with Kuqi stopped at the death by Maguire but United were now really struggling to even get a point from this game that they had controlled for so long.

The tiring Taylor had been struggling with cramp and he had to come off with Hoskins coming on. Flynn went to left back and United now had 3 new players playing in unfamiliar positions in the back four. Beattie also came on for Quinn as no one was quite sure on the terraces who was playing where for United as the game entered an additional four minutes of stoppage time.

United seemed unsure whether to stick or bust but had one final chance when Evans was brought down by Brown. Unbelievably the referee decided this was not a yellow card which would have seen the Oldham man sent off for a second caution. It was totally inconsistent from what had gone before.

Williamson took the free kick short and cleverly rolled it back too Evans who blazed it over when a goal at this stage would surely have won it. Still there was to be a late twist as a long punt forward sent Reid clear and Maguire was horrible exposed for pace as the substitute went past him. As he went in the box Maguire brought him down and was rightly sent off for being the last man. It was turning into a horror show for United who were now finishing the game with nine men. After all the commotion had calmed; it seemed fate that ex Wednesday man KUQI would take the kick and he duly sent Simonsen the wrong way to cooly convert sending the travelling Oldham fans into raptures. They surely could not believe what they were seeing. Oldham actually nearly made it 4-2 as they attacked again and hit the post straight from the kick off. United were all over the place and the final whistle went not long after with most of Bramall Lane in utter disbelief.

United – In 33 years of watching the Blades, United have managed to throw away games, **** things up, choke, bottle it and generally let down their home fans on a regular basis. Today was the latest episode of this rather annoying habit. No matter who the players are, who the manager is, where we are in the football pyramid or how good/bad the opposition are, we seem to find new ways of chucking things away. Today was just eye popping and a new way of displaying total ineptitude.. We were 2-0 up and in complete control. We had played well and passed it about. We had chances and looked very good. We were much better than in the week. After the break we continued where we left of and had 3 or 4 other good chances and also hit the post. If a third had gone in the game would have finished.

However, we had still shown periods of sloppiness (they had a 5 minute spell and a few chances in the first half) and then we seemed to start overplaying and show boating somewhat in the second half.

Then for the remainder of the game everything that could go wrong did go wrong aided and abetted by some inconsistent refereeing.

Some sloppy passing led to a corner and the own goal that was just daft (not sure what he was doing). We then just went to pieces from the stupid yellow card for Lowton, to more shocking defending on the second goal, to another moment of madness from Lowton. It was 2-2 with us having a man less in a 5 minute spell. It was 5 minutes that could de rail our season. After this it was scrappy but we seemed to be caught between going for a winner or holding back for a point. We kind of did neither and they had chances and so did we right at the end but the third goal and the red card was a hammer blow. It is incredible how we lost the game, a game we dominated for an hour and then somehow lost 3 goals and 2 men. I really do believe today could be a huge turning point.

With the other dropping points we could have gone on and won 4 or 5 nil and been really clear but now we have lost further ground and more than this we have major question marks in the defence (and midfield). We could (and will in some cases) be without Collins, Francois, Lowton, Maguire, McDonald and Montgomery for the next 2 or 3 games. These are tough away games and could easily see us dropping points with the teams below us having very winnable home games. It would not surprise me that in 2 or 3 weeks we are back down to 4th and have blown a golden chance. Today was incredibly stupid not just the defeat but the players we lost. We have been lucky all season (and disciplined) not to have to change the back four (or team that much) but now we have to bring in others (not really got many options for right back nor centre back) and it I really fear the worst. Taylor did ok today but we know over the last few seasons how poor he has been and Ertl was terrible today. I can see us shipping a bucketful in weeks to come. Today was so frustrating as against a poor side we had the game won and chucked it away. We had played very well for an hour but a mad 5 minutes not only turned the game but could change the season. The sending off and goal at the end just topped off an awful final half hour.

Sadly, despite enjoying this season and seeing some good football at times and plenty of wins I fear the worst for the run in now. We are perennial bottlers and despite the good form recently and all the optimism I have never been totally confident we would see it through and this week’s results have proven we are in for a very bumpy ride. My own honest opinion is that we will blow it but that is as much based on United in the past as present. Wilson need’s to galvanise the squad and somehow eek a few results out until we get the players above back but I really fear for us over the next few weeks.

Oldham – Thought they were awful on the first day of the season and United beat them easily but they seem to have done ok considering resources and players they have. I heard some of their fans fear they would be certainties for relegation after the opening day game but they seem to have maybe done better than many thought and with experienced players like Kuqi and some decent young talents like Simpson and Taylor; they will always have the chance to score goals.

For the first hour today they were awful and should have been dead and buried. They had one chance Simonsen saved but outside of this we could have had 5 or 6 goals. The two centre backs looked cumbersome and slow and looked easy to turn. They really looked a poor outfit and looked a beaten side in every sense.

When the own goal went in completely out of the blue it gave them new life and then the stupid red card gave them further belief. After this it seemed no way United would hold on and so it proved. They scored an excellent equaliser and then went for it putting on another forward and actually always looked more likely to win than us despite us having a chance at the end.

Oldham had a real go and credit to them. As bad as they were in the first half they really went for it second half. Of course the red card was a big turning point but we could say the same of the game in the week. It went for us then but it did not today. I am sure they will have enough to stay up as they showed some real guts aided by our idiotic lack of discipline and got a huge win.

Dickov was as irritating as a manager as he was a player as he shouted for every foul and every decision. He was like a young version of Warnock. Wilson stands completely unmoved and never even asks the referee or fourth official about anything. This seemed strange today considering what was happening but in a way it is nice to see. I am not sure how the approach of the former influences the referee (Maybe it did today!) and as we saw under Warnock you usually get less when you behave like Dickov.

Simonsen 7/10 – Thought he made a few silly throws out that he should not have done and these caused problems for us but he made a few standard saves and then an excellent parry after Francois’ mistake, which he ironically contributed towards with a stupid throw out! As for the goals he had no chance with any of them with the second an excellent goal. The defence in front of him were all at sea in the second half and I actually felt sorry for him.

Lowton 6/10 – Thought for much of the game he was one of the better players on the field and looked outstanding going forward and was maybe an 8/10. He scored a goal and was involved in most other things. He showed a good touch and defended well, completely winning his battle against the rather irritating Chris Taylor. Then after they scored he stupidly held the ball and then chucked it away (despite everyone having a go at Taylor here not sure what he did wrong – he just was trying to get the ball back). Then not long after he made a decent run but after overrunning the ball he stupidly lunged in. It was close to being a straight red and despite the ref taking ages it was an obvious decision. This contributed towards changing the game. Like United a few minutes of utter madness and he should be fined as much as possible. A really good, young player but a real learning curve for him today.

Francois 5/10 – Not convincing and carried on from much of the other night when he looked poor. He actually won a few headers and clearances and at least got closer to his man but a few ‘Nyron’ moments showed up again including one where they should have scored when after a bad throw from Simonsen he dallied and let his man though. Not long after he was involved in a sickening looking challenge and whilst we do not know for sure, I have a feeling it was a bad one and he could be out for the rest of the season. It looked a possible break of the leg and he looked in agony as he was stretchered off.

Maguire 6/10 – Had a decent game and was another maybe 7-7.5/10 up to the moment of madness. He had played it out from the back from the start and helped cover for two awful partners in Francois and Ertl. He headed it out, made some good tackles and also played it out well when he could. Overall he played Kuqi well and was a good performance until….right at the death. He got done with a ball over the top, got under the ball and lost his man. He showed his total lack of pace and mobility and then made a stupid challenge instead of staying on his feet. The way Reid went past him really exposed him. He will play much quicker and more mobile players up the league. Remember him getting sent off once last year in a game against Bristol City was it? Sadly for all the above qualities and his decent play he is always susceptible to the through ball or pace due to his dearth of any kind of speed. This will unfortunately in my opinion prevent him from playing at the top level. I still expect him to have a steady career in the Champ/League one.

Taylor 7.5/10 – Not his biggest fan but he actually gave one of the better left back performances we have seen in recent times. Defended sensibly and got forward well when he could. Also had a few shots and crosses and used both feet. He did well and hopefully he will be a nice lift in the run in. God knows we need it with all the injuries and suspensions. How long is Williams out for? He has been a poor signing, showing inconsistent play when featuring and then often not fit.

Doyle 7/10 – Thought it was a game of two halves. Excellent first half winning tackles and getting on the ball. He also was able to pass the ball well and showed a good range of passing switching it left and right and bringing others into play too. He covered a lot of ground and often went short to get it. He was a good outlet and was also breaking up much of the play. Our central midfield completely dominated for the first hour. After the goal and the red card, he was struggling as many more were as players swarmed around us and picked off the ball and attacked. He like many others just ran out of gas.

Flynn 5/10 – Never really got in the game. Showed a few neat touches and link play early but yet to see him properly beat his man. He lacks pace and also strength and whilst he is a neat bits and pieces type of player I am unsure he is not quite good enough to play week in, week out due to reasons mentioned. I expect a winger to get a cross in now and again or run at the defenders and sadly he does not really do neither even though he does work hard.

Williamson 7.5/10 – Our best player for much of the game. He showed nice touch, control and got about the pitch. Was consistent most of the match and although faded towards the end it was hard with the man advantage they had. He showed the standards I remembered when we first signed him and played him in central midfield and I do feel he was able to actually get up and down. His touch and technique was always solid and often made room for a pass. As the game sort of fell apart he was chasing players like the rest of them which was a shame as he played well.

Quinn 6.5/10 – Real mixed bag. Involved in some of the really good things that we did and got around the pitch well moving from right to left and drifting off causing defenders real problems. His passing was poor for much of the game as he played some shocking balls just into aimless areas hoping players would run onto things. He also needed to do more near the end when he tired badly and with us short in numbers he cannot go missing.

Evans 7/10 – He looked a class act for much of the game, scoring a good goal and made a goal. Oldham could not handle him at all and he looked fast, strong and skilful. However, his decision making at times was not the best and he actually was a bit too greedy at times and he shot 2 or 3 times when a ball pulled back at the angle would have possibly led to a goal. He missed a good chance right at the death from a free kick when it was 2-2 when he blazed over. He needs to be a bit more clinical at times as he gets in great positions but he actually could have had 4 or 5 goals today a long time before that comeback.

Cresswell 6/10 – Yes, he scored an own goal and maybe did not contribute massively from an attacking point of view but I will praise him for his effort and commitment. He played centre forward (should have scored twice when Evans put crosses in and he was stood), on the wing and then ended up at right back for the final stages and did not disgrace himself. He is not a massive goal threat but today despite the strange own goal he did keep battling and did a good job for the team in difficult circumstances.

Subs

Ertl 3/10 – Looked awful. Played at centre back today when he came on but looked so off the pace it was untrue. I remember him being a limited player who did not let us down last year but the last few games he has looked dire. Terrible touch, can’t pass it and slow to react to any kind of danger. All he did was just kick it out (and that was the positive things!) or dither on the ball. Sadly we are going to have to play him as we have no one else.

Beattie – Came on and sort of played in the middle of the field for the closing stages as we did not know whether to attack or defend.

Hoskins – Was brought on at end and ended up wide right as Flynn ended up at left back. We were basically all over the place for the closing stages of the game and the shape/discipline has completely gone. Feel sorry for Hoskins as despite us hitting a bad run of form he has not really been given a chance. He may aswell have stayed on the bench at Brighton at a higher level. Wilson and his coaching staff were messing about for ages making notes when we should have brought him on a long time before with tiring players and the ten men. Why we waited till we did to make the change was incredulous.

Officials – Firstly I will say the officials were really poor throughout from start to finish and some of the decisions were laughable. They were totally inconsistent and I believe several players for both teams got away with a lot. He maybe could have booked Taylor for 2 fouls in the first half (on Lowton) and then he would have walked for the incident when he wrestled with our players getting the ball back. He was fortunate in this regard to stay on the pitch even if it was niggly fouls. He also could have sent off the number 6 after he had already been booked and then cynically pulled back a United player near the end. There were a number of other fouls missed or poor decisions and he did not have a good day. He was not helped by two woeful officials who did not see anything and may aswell have been sat in the stand with me. However, despite all this the two red cards for us were red cards. Lowton was stupid on both occasions. He actually also could have been booked for wrestling with Taylor earlier (both fortunate) and then was daft to firstly hold the ball in his hands as they tried to get it back to the centre circle (yes it was our kick off but to walk out with the ball in your hands and not even move it forward would of course annoy opponents who want to get the game going). He then chucked it away. It was a yellow card easily. He then had another good run and overran it and dived in very late. It was a very poor tackle and not much different from the one the Scunthorpe player went off for in the week, even if it was in an attacking position.

The Maguire one was straightforward. He has done this before and probably will do it again. He is so slow it is untrue and seems to be going backwards at times when the ball goes over the top. You could see it coming. Ertl did not cover behind and then it was a clumsy, daft challenge. He is now out for 3 games when we have loads of defenders out missing so was incredibly idiotic.

Maybe we might have got a draw, maybe we might have won if a few decisions had gone our way but it could have been different in the week the other way. We cannot blame the referee today as whilst he was poor; we lost due to our stupidity and ill-discipline.

Crowd/Atmosphere – Thought it was quiet for long stretches and that.