Sheffield United’s disastrous start to the season continued with another wretched result and performance at managerless Carlisle. Matty Robson’s effort from a corner was adjudged to have crossed the line as the struggling Cumbrians picked up their first victory of the season. United offered little in response and manager Weir seemingly clueless of how to turn things around. As is the case in football, results determine everything and his position at the club is now probably precarious whatever the level of personnel he has at his disposal.
It was another awful game of football and in truth neither side really deserved to win but the home side nicked all three points after the strike from Robson and defended their own goal relatively comfortably.
Manager Weir swapped his long striker around again with Joe Ironside this time getting the start. George Long was straight back in goal after Mark Howard was dropped after his error at Rotherham last week. United also brought back Stephen McGinn for Connor Coady. Also coming in was Darryl Westlake for Ryan Flynn. There was no place in the match day squad for Flynn, Chris Porter and Jamie Murphy.
Carlisle who had sacked manager Greg Abbott in the week had Graham Kavanagh in temporary charge and had former Blade Paul Thirwell in the side.
United started with lots of neat and intricate football that went nowhere in particular and for all the possession the visitors had; the first chance came when Carlisle broke and Noble volleyed wide. Miller then got through and Long dived at his feet. The award was a goal kick but some referees maybe would have awarded a spot kick as there was some contact. United had passed the ball well but had created nothing with Ironside unable to even control a basic pass on at least three occasions. Baxter tried to get on the ball but was often crowded out and Westlake was not in the game
It was a scrappy contest and a rare corner for United came to nothing as Collins loping header was well over the bar. Miller was looking quite threatening and he had two efforts; one blocked and another saved by Long. The home side had certainly had more chances even if they had enjoyed less of the ball as the half time whistle came.
The second half saw Maguire booked after his initial hesitation and he then brought down Robson. The same man took the kick and Long had to flick over unsure whether it was going in or not. From the resultant corner the ball bounced around before ROBSON nodded home despite United trying to clear. The ball had clearly crossed the line and the linesman flag confirmed this.
The disappointing Ironside came off for Taylor and the striker chased a few aimless balls down as United tried to create something.
McFadzean came on for McGinn as United finally tried to get more men forward.
The young winger got booked instantly but then drifted down the flank and sent over a dangerous cross that evaded everyone. He then made half a chance for Doyle who skied over badly.
United were hardly threatening to blow the door down and Carlisle were surviving fairly comfortably. On the break they actually looked more dangerous with Amoo’s pace causing problems. Archibald Henville headed over and then McSweeney was just off target. United were huffing and puffing a little more but still not really creating anything as the game seemed to be petering out. Finally, United at last made the keeper work as Cuvelier had a fierce shot that was patted out by Gillespie as United’s travelling fans ironically celebrated their first shot on goal; which came right at the end of the game.
There was an additional 5 minutes of stoppage time which seemed rather generous but Carlisle actually went closer than the Blades when Amoo had an effort saved by Long. The final whistle saw jeers from the visiting fans as the home contingent celebrated their first victory and clean sheet at home.
United – It was awful. Again. We barely had a chance and only the last 5 minutes did we really get in the final third. Seriously. Defensively we had few major problems but lost another scrappy goal due to poor marking. The trouble is after we concede we never come back and are done for. The confidence of the players is rock bottom and we do not look like a team that knows how to score goals and wins football teams.
Today I could not even say it was tippy-tappy football and that was the weakness. We did not even really play football. After the first 10-15 minutes where we did keep it and knocked it around and went nowhere; we then resorted to a nothing sort of approach ranging from knocking it nowhere to square passes where we then lost it. I actually can’t even remember us keeping the ball for more than a few passes all game after that opening spell. The formation was confusing and I still do not know where Cuvellier was playing or what the shape was supposed to be. There was a huge gap between Ironside and the other players, we had no width at all despite the inclusion of Westlake. We looked powder-puff and bereft of ideas how to even get in the final third let alone create anything.
It is the worst SUFC side I have ever seen but some of these players as bad as they are surely could do better than this and the way we are playing is not working. Weir may be stubborn and stick to his principles but the game today showed even the players are losing belief as they kind of stopped passing and we played as much long stuff today. That did not work either. Overall we look a disorganised mess that has no system, no plan (never mind the plan B and look devoid of belief. Also a big point is there is no fight, passion or determination. The side looks beaten before games starts and when we do inevitably go behind it is almost as if they just accept that is it.
We now play some of the better teams in Preston and Wolves and if they take their chances and we play like we are doing, then we will be in for a rout. We may bring players in but it does not matter really. They could sign 4 strikers and play them all but if we do not get to the last third then what is the point? The manager has a brave move to make and has to change how we play. If he does not he loses his job. It is that simple now.
Carlisle – They looked a relegation side and they beat us. That says it all. They were low in confidence and have been shipping goals all season with 4’s and 5’s going in at home. We barely had a shot or chance and saw us off rather comfortably after scoring a scrappy goal.
Their manager said they played well but they did not. They were as bad as us really but just got a goal. Apart from that it was going to be a 0-0 game. They have some really poor players and so many journeyman and are very slow and cumbersome. Regardless of what happens to us; I will be surprised if they stay up. Most teams will go there (as they have) and win easily.
Opposition star man – Matty Robson. He scored and was solid throughout. The lad Amoo was lively too up top.
Opposition weak link – Paul Thirwell. As bad and anonymous as I always remember. Made Doyle look good.
Long 6/10 – Had very little to do. Had no chance on the goal really and before it he had to save the shot as did not know whether it was going in or not and of course they scored from the corner. Can’t recall him making any other saves all game although maybe a bit rash when he came out at the start and clashed with Miller. He looks generally fed up with what is going on in front of him.
McMahon 5/10 – He wasn’t great but defensively suppose he did ok against little pressure. Still trying to get involved in situations that he did not need to and seems more bothered about winding others up than just playing the game. Another who thinks he is far better than he is. Will realise how good is he when he contract is up at the end of the season and the only interested clubs will be in League Two.
Maguire 5/10 – Another lackadaisical performance where he kind of strolled around but often was too slow to react to danger. The moment where he got booked summed it up as he was too late to deal with the striker and then barged him over. This led to the goal. If Chelsea or Man Utd do want him (surely this is utter nonsense) then we should let him go for whatever fee as he is getting worse at the moment.
Collins 6/10 – Solid enough. Won headers and got stuck in but he too was guilty of giving the ball away and seemed clueless what to do to spring the attack. He is not great but at this level is probably as solid as a centre half as you can get and he is certainly not the problem.
McGinn 4/10 – Non descript. Another who gave it away when he had but again like with most of the midfielders and forwards (forward should I say) did not assert himself enough and just seemed content to let the game go by when if someone took initiative we may have created something.
Doyle 6/10 – Will be one of the scapegoats again but he actually has been one of our better players (not saying much) this season. That was the case today. He actually looked to get on the ball and was busy most of the game. His passing was mixed and again as a captain I never see him encouraging or galvanising.
Baxter 6/10 – He was again one of the few bright spots and he was only ordinary. He at least got on the ball a bit and looked lively but he too was not very effective. As the game went on he became less involved. Seems to be carrying a bit of weight and does not look fully fit for me.
Westlake 4/10 – Played wide right and further forward. Not sure what the thinking was but it did not work. He was pretty abject. I cannot recall many positive things he did. He gave it away quite a bit, did not really get forward and cause any problems nor did he help McMahon much. We basically played with two right back. Two bad ones.
Cuvelier 4/10 – I honestly could not remember he was playing. He looks extremely lightweight and the game just passed him by. He never got on the ball; did not link with others and worrying seemed to just hide. At the end he had a shot that was saved by the keeper fairly easily (our only shot on goal)
Ironside 3/10 – He is not good enough. He never looks like scoring and lacks pace, strength and most of all ability. Yes he had not service and nobody really got close to him but at least 6 times the ball was played to him in the first half and it just bounced off him. His control and first touch was awful. Does not matter who is up front as we don’t create but when he did have the ball he lost it and did not even offer nuisance value. Surprised he stayed on as long as he did and did well to last an hour.
McFadzean 6.5/10 – He made a difference and at least got on the ball. He had a few efforts and also put in one good cross that no one got on the end of. I do not think he is great but sadly he is still one of players who at least looks like he may do something positive.
Taylor 5/10 – Ran around a bit and at least put some effort in but he never had any chances or create anything really. Another that looks sadly out of depth.
Bunn – He played wide right but I cannot recall him doing anything the time he was on the pitch.
Weir rating 1/10 – It was abysmal. Again. We created nothing till the last few minutes against a dreadful side and never looked like doing anything. It was like watching paint dry. The players do not seem to understand whatever he is asking them to do and look confused and totally lacking in confidence. His job is to get the best out of whatever players he picks and he is not doing that at all. They are poor players in the main but still man for man they should be better than a lot of teams at this level.
I want it to work and in many ways I am totally against sacking a manager again and having to start again but the facts are that we are getting worse and at this rate we will go down if we carry on in the same vein. We may have to just face facts and whilst he says all the right things and seems a nice man; he looks completely out of his depth at the moment and I am afraid it seems like Martin Peters, Adrian Heath and Gary Speed all over again. Whatever people said about Wilson he had a similar squad and got them in the top 6. It was shocking football but he got results in the main. We are now playing shocking football and not getting results and no sign of what we are trying to do. The players are not playing for him and for all this talk about what he has done in the game and the respect they should have; they are either not following his instructions or he is not getting the message across. He picks the team, picks the tactics and motivates them. He is failing in all aspects.
I am not sure how many awful performances and defeats they will be but you have a feeling although the board may preach for patience and talk about a transition but that the reality is it is a results business. Most clubs in the whole league who have our run of defeats and level of performance would sack their manager and Weir is running out of time. I have seen nothing to suggest he is a good manager or could be a good manager outside of some articulate comments at fans forums. I would rather have an annoying so and so like Billy Davies and get results than a nice guy who is losing. I think his comments and body language after the game suggests he knows if we have another couple of defeats he is out of a job. Next week is huge for him. He has to have a performance and a result. No more excuses. I seriously think if they lose next week they may have to change things as sad as I am that we have to go through everything again. We would be better going for a Slade or Smith (Walsall) who know the division and have experience. We cannot be Weir’s experiment as we may only have one chance with these new investors. If they lose interest or don’t invest then we could be done for.
Officials – A nothing sort of game to referee with barely a bad tackle all game but somehow he managed to book 6 players with four from them! He booked Maguire for a clumsy sort of foul and McFadzean was booked just after he came on. I cannot recall any particularly poor decisions or anything controversial. The goal had clearly crossed the line and there was no real appeal from any of the United players. The referee even somehow found 5 minutes of stoppage time but he could have played 5 hours and we still would not have scored.
Crowd/Atmosphere/Day out – We took around 700 fans. They tried to get behind the team and even in the second half were still singing but many just seemed fed up and the reaction at the end for the team was sadly merited. Interesting that Weir never even came to acknowledge the support and the coaching team just sort of slinked off. Only Long, Maguire and Collins actually came to the fans. The latter came the furthest and got the double rods from many fans who were thoroughly disgusted with the performance. At least he did come to us. Many of the rest looked like they did not give a damn and walked off.
The only amusing moment was when the fans launched into a chorus of: ‘It’s just like watching Brazil!’ as the yellow and green attired players beneath them stumbled around barely even able to trap a ball.
As for the rest of the day; we did the Settle to Carlisle railway which was really nice and with it being a sunny day we had some lovely views on the way over. Of course many in the hills/fields take photos as the train comes over the Ribblehead (you can’t see that from the train of course). Some really nice little train stations and many railway enthusiasts were on this route mixed in with some Blades fans and families on a day out. Coming back took longer as we stopped at more stations.
Carlisle itself seemed a fairly mundane kind of place. We had a wander towards the Castle and then had a few drinks in the centre before drinking with some hens at a place called Andaluisan and then had a few drinks at a nice place on the Crescent called Bar Solo. We had another at the Beehive near the ground and then made our way in. My first visit to Brunton Park. An odd looking ground that is a bit ram shackle with stands of different heights. One end behind the goal is not used; a terrace; whilst the other end has an odd shaped roof and this is where the home fans stand.
Thankfully I will not be going to any more away games for some time; nothing planned before Xmas (may go to Orient) and many others will also save their money I am sure.