United hit the post twice but outside of this they barely had an effort on goal and overall it was yet another poor performance that at best was limping towards another goalless stalemate. Sadly two horrific mistakes by central defenders Collins and Maguire gifted Crawley two goals and the Blades ended up losing a game against another very ordinary side. Danny Wilson is now rapidly running out of time to find answers as the Blades now look resigned to the playoffs at very best faced with a side that is simply unable to score goals let along win goals at Bramall Lane.
Wilson made only one change to his starting line up and resisted the urge to field the two players who had contributed to the comeback at Walsall, by leaving Chris Porter and Callum McFadzean on the bench. He did recall Ryan Flynn with Barry Robson making way. Crawley included former Blade Billy Clarke.
The game began with United in the ascendancy and Flynn and Murphy both had positive runs but no chances came from either foray. Collins was off target with a header and then Proctor likewise for Crawley. Whilst United were having more of the ball they were not creating much and it was the visitors who looked more poised in the final third keeping the ball and creating half chances for Torres and Clarke. United were over reliant on the diagonal long ball and Forte was struggling to get into the game. Flynn won a corner with one direct run but these moments were few and far between.
United finally had a chance as Kitson who had been fighting a running battle with the centre backs, was finally given a free kick. Higginbotham took it but his low effort was saved by Jones. It was at least an effort on goal but never really looked like causing any major problems.
Flynn had been United’s best player and his enterprising run and angled drive hit the post and was scrambled clear. It was an excellent effort but United’s luck was out. However they were perhaps a tad fortunate at the other end as poor play from Higginbotham saw Adams get in and centre to Clarke who looked all the world like he would score but his point blank header was superbly saved by Long. If the ball had been headed a yard either side, it would have found the net. It was the best chance of the first half that came to an end soon after.
The second half saw United hit the woodwork again in the early stages. It came from an unlikely source as Doyle turned inside and hit a terrific long range effort that struck the base of the post and rebounded to safety. It was an excellent effort and out of keeping with Doyle who had been poor up to this point.
United could not build on this and the game became mired in a midfield battle. Crawley moved the ball better when attacking and were actually moving the ball quicker than the slow, predictable home side that relied on knock downs. The visitors had two chances but Torres fired at Long when well placed and ought to have done better. The wing men for the Blades were now often too narrow and Forte and Kitson were looking like two players that had never played together. McDonald’s influence was also lessening and it seemed like it was going to be another frustrating night.
Finally with the crowd asking for a change, Wilson made two with the disappointing Forte coming off for Porter and McFadzean replacing the largely ineffective Murphy. Kitson forged a chance and crossed well from deep but Porter headed wide on the stretch. At least it was a chance of note but disaster struck 13 minutes from time.
McFazdean opted to go backwards toward Collins and the centre back took an awful touch and was robbed of possession. The dreadful error was capitalised on by Hayes and the substitute advanced.
Crawley suddenly had three on one and as United frantically tried to get back the ball was played across the box and with men over CLARKE was the man left with the task of applying the simple task of tapping into an empty net.
United won another free kick but just like the other two or three it was an apologetic effort as Maguire’s shot was blocked but Porter was slow to get on a potential rebound and the ball was cleared.
Robson came on for Doyle as United searched for at least a point but disaster struck 6 minutes from time as another awful mistake by a defender saw another easy goal.
Maguire tried to overplay and as the ball got stuck under his feet his touch saw HAYES rob him of the ball and was one on one. He easily dispatched the ball past Long and sealed the game. The boos that greeted the goal from the home supporters was to be expected and many were streaming towards the exits.
Porter had a late effort scrambled away by the keeper but it was an apology of an effort and the game petered out with many of the home fans already gone with those that remained booing lustily on full time to signal another dire night and another low point in United’s recent history as for the second time in the last month, United were well beaten by a side that had been until recent times non league playing in front of hundreds of fans. This sadly is the level United are at currently as the recent performances are yielding the totally unacceptable results that are coming their way.
United – It was another wretched performance. This United team does not have the ability, pace, movement but most importantly desire to go up. Simple. Wilson cannot motivate them and cannot change personnel, tactics, shape or pattern either game to game or in games. The players look clueless of how to break down teams and look to lack confidence to beat very ordinary sides. Wilson simply has not moved them on in 3 or 4 home game and if anything we are getting worse. It was dire overall and I cannot see where a goal is coming from let alone a win at home. The games at the Lane just follow the same pattern every game and for the last 4 games it has been like one stretched out game in one with just different (very ordinary) opponents. We showed a few flashes first half but even then never really created many clear chances nor looking like keeping the ball or passing it effectively in the last third. We played mostly direct lump it football to the head of Kitson and never tried to link. Midfielders never got behind their men (save for Flynn) and the players were completely rigid in their approach and movement.
Today proved sadly that when it comes to it, this manager and this side it not good enough. Last year we were unfortunate to a degree, but this season we are simply proving that this side is not good enough led by what is fast becoming a manager that is proving why he has been in this division for 10+ years. Regardless of the current sides incompetence (and there are many!) we still should have enough experience and some kind of idea to create the odd chance of note. It annoys me when many say we have a reduced wage bill and Wilson has had to cut back but we have players on significantly greater wages than many, if not most of the sides in this division (Kitson, Doyle, McDonald, Robson etc) but these players cannot assert themselves enough on journeyman, lower league players and sadly they risk falling (if they have not already) into this category.
The games and results at home tell the facts and there is no point going on about how unfortunate we are, or teams are making it hard for us, or this or that. There are no excuses. We are bottling it, blowing it, and throwing it away. Again. The division is awful. Utterly atrocious and we cannot even score at home. It is almost laughable if it was not funny as we watch United’s latest melt down.
As for the game, many may saw we were unfortunate as yes we hit the post twice; with a good effort from Flynn and another even better one from Doyle. Grated these were unlucky but outside of this we were awful in general play and our desire, positivity, ability and overall will to win was inexcusable. It mirrored many of the other home games we have had. We had one shot that made the keeper work all game (outside of the two that hit the post) and never really looked like scoring or really creating much all game. There was no movement all over the field, no teamwork, no togetherness and no real sense of players knowing what they were doing or meant to be doing. Flynn showed some purpose first half and McDonald showed flashes but outside of this the rest of the team were really poor. The two centre backs made awful ricks but they had been poor all game playing aimless long balls or messing around with it between themselves, they never stepped out with purpose or passed it into the midfield. Murphy was anonymous; Forte may as well have sat with me and Kitson just played for fouls all game. Doyle was always at full stretch or just played hopeful balls to no one.
We now have two home games against better sides. Many keep saying how we will do better against such sides as they won’t just defend but I am sorry that it utter rubbish in my opinion. I don’t think any of the sides who have come and got results have just strung 10 men behind the ball and Crawley, as Carlisle did, had as many chances and looked more like scoring than us. If Brentford and Swindon do the same; it will be more of the same in terms of results. I remember being saying I was nuts when I dared to suggest we may miss the playoffs around Xmas time but I still think it will be touch and go for us even to make the end of season lottery. If we do does anyone think we could suddenly string together 3 results to get us up? It is once again like watching a car crash in slow motion to see the season fall apart again. Many will say we still have a chance and have games in hand and stop being so negative but sadly I see nothing, absolutely nothing positive to suggest we can start winning games (especially at home) and see more defeats than wins before the season ends. The players look bereft of belief, confidence and mostly desire. They do not seem bothered to me and their reaction at the end as they just trotted off says it all.
Personally if I could I would get rid of the lot from management to players’ carte blanche and start again. This side is an embarrassment and the performances and results are seeing them get exactly what they put in; which is very little. I will attend Saturday but cannot see us winning. We may scrape a draw at best but that is being kind. Maybe he might shake things up and play 3 or 4 kids and give a damn but I doubt he will. He did not even start with the two had made the impact at the Bescot and played the same team mostly. He will play the same set of misfits and adopt the same conservative (negative) type approach and this will ultimately probably cost him his job in a few weeks in my opinion. Tonight sadly confirmed what I already knew and that we will be consigned to another year in this division and then in truth could be a long way from ever getting out of it in the not so distant future.
Crawley – They were no better or worse than Carlisle, Orient, MK Dons etc, etc. They played neat and tidy stuff, defended well and actually kept the ball better and looked more dangerous in the last third. They were organised and fought hard but for the most part they were a very, very ordinary side and the sort of team most good teams would take to the cleaners. That is no offence to them but the table tells you that as does their away record. They began 5-5-1 with Proctor up top on his own and Clarke and Adams playing off a defensive three but again like many of the sides down here they did not simply defend as the boring rhetoric that everyone keeps using as an excuse. They actually attacked on the break but had as many if not better chances than us. Take away the two that hit the post and they had 4 or 5 efforts on goal (granted 3 were comfortable) and Long made one great save from Clarke. Generally they probably looked more dangerous. They probably would have been happy with a point but we gifted them two goals and they coped with us all so easily at the end and saw out a comfortable win. Of course if we had scored it may have been different but we did not and most of our good efforts were long range. They were never penetrated and their keeper had one save to make (Higginbotham free kick) all game. A great three points for them bit sadly winning at the Lane is not becoming much of a coup any more as they join sides such as Yeovil, Hartlepool to win down here.
Long 7/10 – He actually handled well when he had things to do and saved some routine shots. He made one great save from Clarke’s point blank header. He had no chance from the two goals as both centre backs sold him down the river. Felt sorry for him as he was one of few to come out of game with any credit.
Higginbotham 3/10 – Very ordinary player. How he has sustained a career in the top flight and Championship for most of his career is beyond me? He is slow, technically poor and does not even read the game well. His main attribute seems to be just lumping it forward or down the line. A player that needs jettisoning at the end of this season and the type of player that is wasting the few funds we have available.
Hill 5/10 – He was not great but actually one of few players who put some effort in. He may have been guilty of kicking it forward and being as agricultural as the rest but he never hid and did actually try and get forward; that from an unfamiliar position. He was one of few who actually clapped the fans at the end as the rest could not get away quick enough. He is not great but never hides and actually does put genuine effort in.
Maguire 3/10 – To be honest he had been very average before the mistake. All he did was lump the ball forward to no one in particular. He also got beat a few times that nearly led to chances. He also failed to mark the few times the ball came in and they had one or two half chances. The mistake was wretched but to be honest this is not the first time he has done this and there is a reason no one up the pyramid has come for him as let’s be honest our board would accept any kind of offer for anyone so cash strapped we are.
Collins 4/10 –He made a criminal error that led to a goal and in affect cost us the game (regardless of all other poor play). He has been steady for most of the season but sadly he would not be up against one centre forward if somehow we did go up. Today him and Maguire had one man to mark and often lost him (Clarke – had two great chances before he did score). The mistake he made he was not even under pressure.
Flynn 6.5/10 – Thought he was good first half and our best player. He attacked the full back and made things happen. I had been waiting for him to at his man and show some purpose and he did do this. His final ball often did not really lead to anything but at least he was positive. He then hit the post with a good effort and overall looked our main threat. After the break I felt they got tighter on him and his threat dried up and he was ineffective. I can’t remember him doing much of note which was a shame as first half he was very good.
Doyle 3/10 – Really poor again. He had our best effort of the second half (maybe only effort of note in the second half) when he had an excellent turn and shot that hit the post. Outside of a couple of square balls to teammates the rest of his performance outside of this was not good enough. He often was on the floor or out of the play or at full stretch. He also was poor generally in what he did win the ball; often playing balls to no one in particular or just playing it in a general direction and hoping for the best. When we went behind I never saw him try and rally the troops or try and galvanise. A captain who does not lead nor lead by example. Do we really have to watch him for another 2 seasons?
McDonald 4.5/10 – He was one of few who did try and get on the ball and pass it and move it around but often faced with few options and nonexistent movement; it was hard as he had to go sideways or backwards. He kept looking at Forte and looking for movement out wide but it never happened. He lacks pace and mobility and as good a footballer as he is, he simply won’t be effective with so little movement or pace in the side. I felt first half he put some effort in and tried but like many others seem to just give up when we went 1-0 down.
Forte 1/10 – Atrocious. No idea where to run, where to stand, does not read things, hides behind his man, does not show any effort, desire and cannot hold a ball up. Weak in the air and on the floor. Worse than he was as a kid. At least he was fast then. He is not even that anymore. Dreadful player. Can cope with his lack of abilities but lack of desire, effort and willingness to get the shirt dirty is inexcusable. He is a Sheffield lad but seems totally disinterested. Should have come off at half time and should not be involved again when we have other youngsters who surely cannot be any worse?
Kitson 3/10 – I thought he was poor. He had no help from his so called strike partner and little in the way of service but spent most of the night looking for free kicks. Granted a few may have been but most were just desperate as he was fouling the centre back as much as he was perhaps being held. He often played so far from goal to have an impact and seemed to be just grappling most of the game and often 35-40 yards from goal. He never looks a goal threat anymore and seems to play most of his game in the middle of the field.
Murphy 3/10 – Had one run that petered out in the first half but overall he was never really in the game and I forgot he was even playing for long stretches. He has been really disappointing after a lot of supposed promise when we signed him and seems so weak in the challenge and lacking guile/pace or aggression to actually make any kind of impact on the game. Not sure where his best position is but he has to assert himself more no matter how poor the rest of the team are playing and simply get himself involved. He probably regrets leaving the comforts of the SPL for us and it will be interesting to see if he does stay in the summer or heads back as it would not surprise me if he concedes that it has not worked out.
McFadzean – Would have started him personally after the accounts of his impact at Walsall but he came on when we looked bereft of ideas. Never really got into the game but it was hard for him as everyone was struggling at this stage. He did probably error in going backwards when it led to the Collins mistake but that is being maybe too critical. After this he never really got involved and had minimal impact.
Porter – At least showed some effort and movement; granted that was not hard compared to Forte! Most of the time it was just long balls he challenged for or but he did have one effort; a header flicked wide (which came at him quick but he maybe ought to have done better) and then another where the ball came to him when it was deflected after Maguire’s free kick and he took too many touches. Worrying that he was maybe 4th or 5th choice last year and early this year and even Shrewsbury were not starting him; now he is our main hope for goals just from big lumps into the box!
Robson – Came on right at the end and had a speculative shot that was well wide and took a corner. Too late to make an impact but after poor recent performances you could not say he was not deservedly dropped.
Officials – An easy game to officiate. Barely a bad tackle all game and certainly cannot recall any major decisions he got wrong. Everyone was calling for fouls on Kitson but often he was as guilty as the centre back. The referee let them get on with it and was right and for the most part just let things flow. He was not helped by two indecisive linesmen, especially the one on the John Street side but the ref overall had a decent game in my opinion and fans were often looking for decisions that never were.
Crowd - Thought for the most part they were behind them and tried to keep with the team but gradually the lack of chances, passion, positivity from the team saw the crowd’s enthusiasm slowly ebb away and I could not blame them for groaning and booing as the errors led to two comedy goals at the end. The expected boos at the end were deserved for another wretched performance and one that overall was in many ways a carbon copy of many other home games recently (except this time we lost). The fans have had enough of spineless displays with few chances, no goals and no wins. They pay good money and for the most part are watching utter dross. Doubt many given free tickets will be rushing back to pay to watch that! It will be interesting to see what the crowds are next season if the inevitable fade out does happen as it could be down to 12-14,000 again I feel. People will vote with their wallets and sadly at the moment, we are not getting value for money. Those that renew and go will do it simply out of habit and because there are fans not because they are happy with the product being served up which at the moment is awful.
The only positive from my point of view is I did not fork out to go to Pompey and Crewe (these games that many billed as promotion sealers etc and may end up only being vital as we try to hold off MK Dons and Walsall to secure a playoff spot). I also miss Brentford at home due to work and cannot say I am that sad at the moment as it is pretty painful to watch.