The honours were shared at Bramall Lane as the home side somehow threw away a two goal lead with less than 10 minutes to play to concede two unbelievably sloppy goals and leave the blue and white side of the city celebrating like they had won the game. Goals from Stephen Quinn and Ched Evans put United in control and although Wednesday had chances the home side seemed to have the game sewn up but a mixture of poor goalkeeping and arguably questionable refereeing saw the Owls get a point. Maybe a draw was a fair score line on reflection but having led for so long in the game; United will be desperately disappointed to have conceded so late. It was a game that featured little in the way of neither skill nor ability and was very scrappy and physical for much of the contest.
The Blades started with new loan signings Matt Phillips and Billy Clarke beginning on the bench. Wednesday who had won 4 straight were unchanged with former Blades loanee Danny Batth amongst their ranks and leading scorer Gary Madine up top.
The Blades began the game winning a corner and soon after they had genuine appeals for a penalty as Johnson seemed to push Williamson over but the referee waved away the home appeals. Wednesday had a few half chances from Marshall’s long throws but Maguire defended well under pressure and from the next meaningful attack from the Blades they took the lead. McDonald came forward and threaded a though ball into the path of Evans. The striker advanced and hit a low shot that was deflected onto the post from Jones but as the ball came out QUINN was able to smash it high into the net before celebrating wildly with his teammates.
Wednesday ought to have been level when Simonsen spilt an innocuous header from Madine but O’Grady somehow hit the post via the keeper on the rebound when it looked easier to score. United were to make them pay a minute later as they won a free kick out wide and from Williamson’s powerful and precise delivery; EVANS got in front of his man and nodded down and in at the Kop end. United fans went berserk as the formbook before the game was seemingly being thrown out of the window.
Cresswell had another effort straight at Bywater and then United had a let off when O’Connor headed over when well positioned. Marshall then had an effort that deflected onto the bar and over before the game threatened to boil over with a series of bookings with Montgomery, Buxton and Cresswell all going into the referees notebook. Wednesday had a half chance but Batth miss kicked and then a good spell from United saw Lowton, Williamson and Evans combine before the ball was crowded to safety. Despite a fairly open first half United will have been delighted when the half time whistle went that saw them in command.
The second half saw Megson withdraw O’Connor in favour of a more attacking look with Jermaine Johnson coming on to play wide down the right. The half began in scrappy fashion with little chances of note or football on offer but Wednesday won two quick free kicks in succession after fouls from Maguire and Evans but neither effort troubled Simonsen with one in the wall and the other over the bar. Evans was booked for his challenge.
Madine headed over at the back post when Wednesday had a man over as United started to defend deeper and were struggling to keep possession. Wilson opted to make a change and brought on Phillips for his debut for Williamson but United continued to concede the ball and another half chance saw Madine blocked out by Maguire. It seemed as if United were seeing the game out and Simonsen had not had a save to make in the second half despite some chances coming for the visitors but they were given a lifeline with just under 10 minutes to play.
The ball came across and as Maguire headed away Jones won the second ball and sent it towards the united goal. The ball was flicked in off the bar by the alert O’GRADY as Simonsen dithered and Wednesday were back in the game. The United keeper was appealing for an offence but there were no appeals from any of his teammates.
It was now game on and Wednesday came straight back at United who were sitting deeper and deeper. Suddenly balls were going into the united box and from another high ball the visitors were suddenly level. It was another ball that should have been deal and it may have seem as if Johnson had impeded Simonsen as three Wednesday players converged on the high ball but MADINE won the header. The ball spans goal wards and hit the post and as McDonald tried to clear the ball bounced into the net. It was probably an own goal but Madine ran away claiming the goal. The United players appealed but many of the home fans were blaming their keeper as much as the young referee as Wednesday celebrated the unlikely escape.
It seemed as if Wednesday now felt they could win the game and actually had a chance at the death as the game moved into four minutes of stoppage time. A cross from the right saw Jones head goal wards but fortunately it was straight at Simonsen. The game ended not long after as United’s winless streak continued that sees them out of touch with not only the front two but also out of the playoff zone with a tough game to Preston to come.
United – A game that we basically threw away. We maybe were not dominant and Wednesday had their chances even in the first half but to be 2-0 up with less than 10 minutes to go and chuck away two goals that would not have looked out of place in the Sunday league was really poor. However, just as against Huddersfield and Charlton the high ball is continuing to cause way more problems than it should and leading to goals going in. Simonsen is simply a liability and whilst some refs may have given a foul for the second he still has to be stronger and there is countless other times when he has come and not got fouled. Every time teams knock it into the six yard box you worry. Surely Wilson can see this and we have to replace him? How many more goals are we going to concede that are his fault? He got lucky on another one in the first half and they nearly scored a winner when he was rooted to his line at the end again.
For the first half we actually started well and scored one well taken goal from a scramble after it got deflected onto the post and then an excellent second goal and we seemed ok despite them having a few chances. The second half seemed to be going well in terms of Wednesday having few chances and despite us sitting back and not really keeping the ball enough they did not look like coming back but you felt as soon as they scored they would get at least a draw and so it proved. If we had hung on for another 2 or 3 minutes we would probably have seen the game out but we keep chucking away daft goals. The number of times I see Simonsen running out with his arm up appealing for a foul now...well they cannot all be fouls. He is not strong enough and not commanding at all. Why did he not just run into ********* man and take him out? Why did he not flatten him? Why did he not stay on his line if he was not going to get there? Only he knows and Wilson must know he is costing us goals every week. Today of all days I wanted him to prove me wrong but sadly he could not do that and did exactly what I thought he would and let us down.
Maybe I am being way too harsh laying all the blame at him and we should have defended higher up, kept the ball more, maybe gone for the jugular more but the only way Wednesday looked like scoring was from high balls or set plays?
United do look a little power puff at times and you felt if the game had gone on another 5 minutes we may have lost. The belief and confidence went completely when it went 2-1 and you felt there was no belief we could hang on. United was time wasting ridiculously from 2-0 in the first half and some ways got exactly what they deserved. Instead of passing the ball and trying to get at a poor Wednesday defence and very slow side (as slow as us and that is saying something!) we sat back and started going long ourselves. I felt Wilson changed it too soon unless Williamson was injured and the Evans withdrawal was also mystifying. I would have put Williamson inside and took off Cresswell for Phillips and tightened up the middle. I also would have given the lad Clarke a run if we were changing the striker as Porter offered us nothing different.
United look a side destined for mid to lower mid table side at worst; around 8th-10th at best. I find it hard to see how we will be around the top 6 going on current performances/issues defensively. We cannot defend simple balls into the box, struggle to create and whilst at times we play nice tip tap football look essentially powder puff. There is little in the current personnel to change any of that and Wilson does seem quite stubborn in his approach to things which sadly whilst has seen us play more football will matter nothing if we cannot keep goals out or score goals. I felt we could have been 3-0 up with 10 minutes left and still not been comfortable with the keeper and lack of confidence the backline had. Another game without a win (that is now 1 win in 6 is it?) and with tough games to come against Preston and MK Dons; I fear it could get worse before it gets better. Hopefully the new loan signings will make a difference but they will go back if they do well and it is shorter term-ism. I fear it could be a few years before we can properly plan for the future and high earners/dead wood like Simonsen, Collins, Cresswell, Doyle, Evans are off our books. Worryingly the players brought in on 2 year deals such as Porter and Flynn look even worse! I would be tempted to look at tome more youngsters such as Harriott, Philliskirk and Tonne as we need some pace, hunger and enthusiasm and some of the players above need to realise if they play poorly they won’t play the next week. Sadly the likes of Simonsen and Cresswell keep getting picked most weeks as they know those behind them are not good enough or too inexperienced.
Wednesday – They deserved a point for chances and for what they had in the game but they really ought to have gone away with nothing. Megson is factually wrong saying they had more possession (stats show us having more) but he is right that they had more chances and efforts on goal. However, to say they were the better side for most of the game is also wrong in my opinion. They actually looked out of the game for long periods of the second half and only got back into it but lumping it into the box.
They are a percentage team and remind me so much of the side we had under Bassett in that they basically get the ball from back to front very quickly and then get on the loose balls that the big strikers win/knock down. They have little in the way of technical ability (aside from the winger Marshall) and their best tactics are often get the ball in the last third as quick as they can and then win knock downs or win throws or corners. From these they pile more giants into the box and create chances. It is absolutely horrible to watch but it is effective and will see them beat most teams at this level. I don’t think they have played much football to get up the league but does it matter? I would rather be where they are. They are clearly a very physical team and only a few of their players are less than 6 foot.
It is ironic that Wednesday fans always laud this superb football they played under Ron Atkinson and also Francis but their most effective sustained long period of top flight football in recent years where they were successful and near the top for a number of years was under Howard Wilkinson and a very direct style. It is this type of football that many united fans have been sick of watching but it is the same style that will get their rivals up going by current form and results.
Unfortunately as Radio Sheffield’s summarisers said, they do look more equipped for promotion than us despite the style being uneasy on the eye. They have a bigger and better squad and will win more battles than United. They will batter some teams with their approach and much worse teams than us will get bullied into submission.
They have much more strength in depth than us with 4 strikers in Madine, O’Grady, McGoldrick and also Lowe. These would arguable start for most teams in the division. Madine and O’Grady were a handful as much for their size and physique although the latter did try and play football at times. The former was not that impressive but has obviously been scoring goals so must be doing something right.
I do think the likes of Batth and Jones are lower league players who will probably be enough to get them out of this league (heading and kicking away) but that at a higher level they would really struggle. I found it funny to hear Wednesday players praising Jones after the game when I felt he looked like a pub player. He was so clumsy and slow but sadly at this level if you are big and strong often that is enough. Johnson at left back also looks woefully immobile and clumsy too but to be fair the lad in midfield Semedo looks decent and Marshall is impressive on the ball (only real footballer they had who wanted to get on the ball and pass it – not just lump it).
However, if they get up they can then replace them with new players. Megson and Mandaric has definitely gone for short term with signing like Jones and Lowe (lower league players and not exactly young) to try and get them up. If it works then it will have been a good move. If they don’t get up they have ageing players with little sell on value. They certainly don’t have much youth in their team (outside of loan players they have brought in and maybe Palmer) and will have to rely on Mr Mandaric pulling the purse strings. Their strategy is risky in that when Milan decides to walk will they have any foundation in place to keep going and trying to get up the leagues (very poor academy and little in the way of development of players of their own).
Simonsen 3/10 – I feared the worst after having seen some disastrous performances against teams with big strikers or who put the ball in the box. Wednesday have both qualities and will have known his major weakness at taking or coming for the high ball. Set plays I also felt could be an issue and so it transpired. He spilled one in the first half that should have been a comfortable save and then was to blame somewhat for both of the two goals, the first one he was so slow to react to the first header and came and did not get there meaning he was in effect in ‘no man’s land.’ The second may have been a foul but he should have just smashed through Wednesday player(s). There would never have been a foul given the other way but is so weak in coming and as soon as the balls come in you never think he will get there. He has to be replaced and fast. Long is not ready but we need a keeper who commands his box and can actually come and catch/punch high balls. I actually felt Collins and Maguire were ok today saving for an odd lapse but with this clown behind them you will always concede.
Lowton 7/10 – Better game from him today overall after some poor games in recent weeks and although he was faced with a tough winger in Marshall I felt he did ok save for a spell in the second half where he got beat twice for pace/skill. Looked good going forward in the first half and was involved in some of our better attacks. He does need to get tighter to his man though and really concentrate on his defensive play as he gives his winger a bit too much space.
Williams 7/10 – Sound enough game. He did the basics well and overall stopped the winger getting many crosses in or get ball. He is a neat and today footballer that defends first and foremost. I felt he stopped both Lines (in the first half) and then Johnson in the second from getting many chances. He does lack height and at times this was a problem at the back post. However, I feel he would be a good permanent signing if we could get him.
Maguire 6.5/10 – Decent enough game but eroded on the first goal. He ought to have done better as he headed it back into the danger area rather than away. Felt he coped fairly well with their front two and was able to play football when he could although his penchant for the long diagonal ball is getting quite frustrating. He really could do with an imposing player alongside him or an imposing keeper behind him but sadly has neither even though Collins did ok today.
Collins 7/10 – Thought he was better than in recent weeks and overall was fairly commanding and mistake free. Maybe he could have attacked the ball on the equaliser when it came in but then again you would expect your keeper to take control there especially as a defender you are going backwards. It was maybe the one time I wanted one of the centre backs to not wait for his keeper though. To be fair to Collins he had won a lot of aerial ball all game and done well but the law of averages said they would get goals from high balls and it proved.
Williamson 7.5/10 – Thought that was his best game for a while. He got up and down, worked hard and was involved in a lot of our good attacking play. Great free kick for the second goal and also played a few other really dangerous crosses/balls into the box. Not sure if was injured when he went off but did not deserve to go off if not, needs to show that kind of hunger and ability every week.
Montgomery 6/10 – Felt the game would be ideal for him but at times it seemed to just pass him by. He won a few tackles/blocks etc but often I felt he was just running around without really achieving anything. He snapped and harried but often gave it away when he had won it. Needed a cool head at the end and not him hacking the ball skywards which actually led to their second goal when if we could have kept it a bit longer?
McDonald 6/10 – Up and down. Did some decent things on the ball but all too often seemed behind the play and off the pace. Looks sadly unfit and with his lack of pace he often is always chasing opponents. He needs to be more imposing and get on the ball more and dictate as at times he shows he is a class footballer. You can see why he is not playing higher up the leagues despite his ability; as he does not impose himself enough on games. In the second half he was not really in it despite a few glimpses on the ball and felt we conceded too much possession and ball...
Quinn 7/10 – Strange game as at times he showed some real class with some clever runs and passes but sometimes his touch was also off and he did not quite click with his teammates. Took his goal very well as it was a more difficult chances than it looked. Played a few great crosses/balls in the second half which you expect our players to get on the end of but they did not read his play.
Cresswell 5/10 – Never in the game I felt from start to finish and looks so woefully slow these days. Often he is so slow to control or get it down and turn he allows players to get back. He works hard and tries to lead the line but lacks strength and heading ability to be a real threat. Should have come off on the hour and we maybe should have stiffened up the midfield area but how he stayed on was a mystery as he was blowing from the hour mark and looked shattered. A player that is sadly on his last legs and one that should be only used sparingly now.
Evans 7/10 – Thought he looked the best centre forward on display much of the game and was mystified why he came off as he looked to be causing problems all day with his touch and movement. Scored an excellent headed goal and had a few other half chances. Maybe tired in the second half and was not seeing as much of the ball but still offered more than Cresswell.
Phillips – Made one good run down the wing when he beat his man and showed a few other nice bits of skills but would probably not have put him on with his leading and seemingly in control. Meant we lost some of the defensive cover we had down the left.
Porter – Came on and did very little. Gave away 2 fouls and looked off the pace, sad that we have to choose between him and Cresswell when in reality neither is good enough. A really poor signing that has been
Officials – Michael Oliver. A young ref who has been fast tracked to the top league. I was concerned he may want to show ‘who he was’ today and so it proved. At times the game seemed to get away from him. He should have booked a few of their players early for ugly challenges on Quinn; a player they had clearly sought to ‘get’. McDonald for us also should have been booked for persistent fouling and how he did not get booked was beyond me. He booked Evans for jumping into his man but did not penalise several other players on both sides for such fouls. I felt Wednesday centre backs went through our strikers often and always but he was not giving them so United’s players should have given them some back but sadly did not.
As for the big decisions; well it looked a good shout for a penalty early on from us but to be fair to the ref the linesman was probably closer to it. He has let continual pushing and shoving in the box go and it was no surprise he did not give the one at the end. I have watched it back on TV and I think 7 or 8 times out of 10 refs give that. They have jumped into the keeper (2 of them; mainly Johnson) and for all the criticism I have given our keeper it is one of those that is usually given. He looked like he was going to give it then decided not to. It was a big call and one that cost us the points. I still feel the keeper should have been stronger but you can see why Wilson was as upset as the player has gone into the keeper. For O’Grady to say it’s not netball it is a physical sport is fair enough but I don’t think Johnson got the ball he got the man; this allowed Madine to win the header. I felt he was poor for much of the game the referee and let some quite ugly things go and then at others seemed very fussy, as Wilson says a very odd choice to give such a young referee such a game.
Crowd/Atmosphere – I actually did not think it was that noisy for a lot of the game and for a 2-2 game was fairly subdued. Weds fans made a bit of noise early and then United fans made a bit of noise when we went 2-0 up and of course we heard their fans at the end but it was not the raucous atmosphere we have seen in some of these games before. United fans were probably as quiet as they knew United could snatch defeat/draw from the clutches of victory and the nervousness was palatable. Wednesday fans kept going just before and after half time but even they were muted until the late goals. I heard a few Wednesday fans saying how we could not fill all the seats but I remember 3 or 4 games in the mid 2000’s at Hillsborough where they were thousands of empty blue seats (granted a bigger ground but the point remains that they could not fill their stadium either).