Nott''s County 2 Sheffield United 1

Last updated : 12 January 2014 By deadbat_db

If ever a week summed up the highs and lows of a being a football supporter and being a Sheffield United fan; then it was this week. After a superb performance at Aston Villa and a deserved win the previous Saturday; United were brought back down to earth as a poor performance saw them go down at Meadow Lane.

If ever a week summed up the highs and lows of a being a football supporter and being a Sheffield United fan; then it was this week. After a superb performance at Aston Villa and a deserved win the previous Saturday; United were brought back down to earth as a poor performance saw them go down at Meadow Lane.

United got a dream start thanks to Connor Coady’s early strike but two incredibly sloppy goals saw Notts County gain a crucial win in a relegation battle. United had created few chances and did not make the keeper work all afternoon outside of the goal. In truth County did not offer much the other way but Matt Hill’s error led to the decisive goal.

Clough opted to bring back Coady for Murphy in midfield otherwise the side was unchanged although on the bench was new loan signing Billy Paynter and also the returning Elliot Whitehouse who had come back from his loan spell at York,

United began in front of a large away following and some were not even in the ground when the Blades opened the scoring

< Note: The ‘some’ would include me! I did not see this goal due to getting to ground a bit late combined with the incredibly long amount of time it took to get through the turnstile - so the below description is sadly based on watching replay on TV>

COADY picked up the ball ran at the County defence and after a one two with Porter was able to run in and convert beyond Bialkowski. It was a dream start and soon after United were on the attack again but Coady this time missed when presented with a good chance. Campbell Ryce shot over as the home side looked to find a foot hold in the game. United had began well and had a number of corners and had a good appeal for a penalty for handball but the officials waved play on. Sheehan had a free kick chance that fortunately never threatened. Campbell Ryce had been the main threat and from his run, County were level. The winger got away from Hill and put in a dangerous cross. SHOWUMNI somehow turned it in seemingly off his chest as Long failed to prevent it from entering the goal. It was a scruffy goal but it restored parity.

The home side were now on top and Hill was booked for a foul on the games stand out player Campbell Ryce. United had completely lost any of the early momentum and it was now a scrappy game but the loose balls were being picked up by the Magpies. Another appeal for a hand ball was turned away but in truth united had offered little after the good opening 10 minutes.

The half time whistle came and went but the game continued in the same vein with little between the sides but County seemingly more determined to win the ball in challenges. The two centre backs had imposed themselves on united and Baxter and Flynn, two stand outs in recent weeks, were not in the game as a muddy pitch allied to poor touches meant United could not get any kind of spell of football. 

There had been few chances and Clough put on Paynter for Flynn as Baxter went wide to the left. 

The game had seen few chances and there was a distinct lack of quality. It was to be 
a defensive mistake that proved vital. Hill errored twice, as he lost the ball firstly and then gave it away again soon after and

FOTHERINGAM’s first effort was saved by Long but it fell straight back to him and he turned it over the line. Sadly in a game of few chances it meant United now were in real danger of slipping to a second defeat of 2014. 

McMahon was booked for an alleged dive but soon after united missed their best (and only significant) chance of the second half. After some decent build up play the ball came across and McGinn was positioned around the penalty spot but blasted horribly over into the stand behind. 

Time was ticking down and Murphy and then Miller came on for United as they looked for a late leveller but in truth they failed to even get any quality balls into the box let alone test the keeper. Baxter ‘s shot wide was the best they could muster. At the final whistle former Blades player Derry was on the pitch embracing his men as United players trooped off after another defeat leaves them perilously close to the League One trap door once again.

United – Today showed why a good majority of these players should not be at the club moving forward. Too many have had so many chances and week after week they prove they are not good or consistent enough. Today was a huge game and ultimately more important than last week really despite it being a great day and a good win at Villa. I felt once again today we never turned up and the performance was night and day from last Saturday.

The same players that fought for every ball, were organised, cohesive and created and had numerous efforts on goal, today failed in every aspect of this. We looked a disorganised mess for long spells against a really poor County side who should have been tossed aside comfortably.

Heard some saying many have overreacted to this defeat but cannot agree. We have lost a big relegation battle and are now right back in the sticky stuff; if we were not already. A few more poor results and we are right back where we started before Clough had steadied the ship. Today whilst County were poor I felt they fought harder than us and were up for the scrap more. There was nothing in general play between two poor sides on a dreadful pitch.

However they won a number of key battles and generally seem to understand what was needed to get the ball in the right areas.

I felt the middle of the pitch saw us lose the ball when it mattered and then up top Porter was dominated whilst Showumni at the other end was at times able to cause Collins and Maguire problems. Hill had a horror show beaten continually by his man and making a number of mistakes. He was involved in the first goal and then made two mistakes on the second. 

Even allowing for two stupid goals we still should have had enough to score more than one goal against an equally slow and immobile side. We looked generally clueless going forward though and other than the Coady miss early on, one McGinn bad miss and a Baxter shot wide I cannot recall many chances we made outside the goal. We never made the keeper work. There was no real pressure or domination or anything. We just kind of kicked it forward in the hope Porter and then later on Paynter would win a knock on but whilst they did not do this, there was noone anywhere near them even if they had won the ball. 

The spine of the team had others had alluded to was poor and the main thing coming out from the day was how remarkably soft we are. Journeyman like players such as Campbell Ryce and Showumni caused real problems and as they won 50/50’s our side started to lose the desire. IT worried me that another side outworked us just for the little loose balls and second tackles. This happened a lot in the second half. County did little with it but our inability to win the middle of the field or win those headers/tackles meant we were restricted in how much we had of the ball. It meant we had to be very precise when we had it as we knew the next time we had any space could be a while away. Sadly the few times we had it, it was aimless punts and we never really showed any composure or quality.

Make no mistake after having watching County fight so hard today; United have to wake up and fast. Despite recent buoyancy about the so called revival the truth is that we have now failed to beat Stevenage, Oldham and Notts County and only the one win v Tranmere in 5 games over the Xmas/New Year period means the form is actually not that great and some of the others such as Bristol City and County are picking up more points. I have seen nothing to suggest this side will ever put together 2 or 3 wins. We may raw a few in a row but if it carries on as it has we are going to be in this right to the wire and would anyone back this sorry bunch to win when it matters?

Final point about the January transfer window; I have to say I was incredibly disappointed with the signing of Paynter. Maybe he has done well at this level before but I think we need a genuine out and out goal scorer and/or someone with some pace. Tough to get I know but for all the talk from the board and this game changing investment, if the loan signing of a Donny reserve who cannot get in a desperately bad side over there, is the sort of player we are going to be signing then we are in trouble. SO far we have seen nothing in terms of real action (in terms of replacing some of this dross with superior players; that yes may cost a bit) and most of it has been empty words. I cannot understand this talk of waiting till the summer either. Yes more changes will be made then I understand that but surely we have to take action now. If we don’t there is a strong chance we will go down. Sadly I cannot see the Prince and this Phipps character etc being quite as interested if we are in the bottom division for a few years playing Accrington at the Lane in front of less than 10,000.

Notts County – Thought they were poor. As bad as us really. It was a woeful game of football. They went behind but hung on in and then scored two scrappy goals. They defended ok but we easily could have had another goal but were wasteful with few chances we had. A draw would have probably been fair. The biggest part for me was that they fought harder and wanted the ball in key areas. It was only the tackling, desire and effort that separated two poor sides. That and two daft goals we gave away. Campbell Ryce caused a few problems and Showumni was a handful but felt it was just the fact the centre backs won more headers than our forwards and the midfield won more ball than ours that would please their fans. They looked more determined and knew what a big game it was. We seemed to just accept our fate and did not do enough to test a poor side really. They will probably stay around the bottom of the division as lack quality like us to go on a run and will win a few but lose quite a few too. They look no worse or better than us and the fact is you could say the same about Oldham and some of other sides down there. People may say there are 4 sides worse than United but can we honestly say in games against these teams (maybe Tranmere apart) we have been any better or looked much better? 

Long 5/10 – Another decidedly dodgy game. I felt he was not great on either goal. He had little time to react on the first but it still went in all too easy and on the second his parry was less than convincing before they knocked in the rebound. Had little else to do all game but on the two shots I can recall them having they went in.

McMahon 5/10 – Not a great game. He was too far off his man and this led to a number of crosses coming in (from both sides). He did not get forward that much and was sloppy in possession. Booked again for what looked like a blatant dive. Be suspended again soon I am sure. Bit of a liability and sadly thinks he is far better than he is. Another out of contract that I will be glad to see the back of.

Hill 3/10 – Nightmare from start to finish. He got beat regularly and made some awful mistakes on both goals. His game was summed up when near the end and us 2-1 down and under little pressure he chose to just kick it out for a corner under no pressure whatsoever. He has been a steady player but sadly I think his time is almost up at the Lane and I cannot see him being given another contract at the end of the season. There must be better left backs out there in the lower divisions (Sheehan for one we saw today). Sadly he is not the only one you could say that about

Collins 5/10 – Slow, immobile and clumsy in possession. Got bossed by the bigger Showumni when faced with him and at times seemed to not know who he as marking. Really ought to be looking to replace him now for me. He is getting progressively worse and struggles with even journyeman strikers now.

Maguire 5.5/10 – Slightly better than above but only as he at least try and bring it out a bit but he too was not able to impose himself as they did on far superior players. At times seems to be coasting in games. He is not a youngster now and one of our most important players but makes too many mistakes and does not stand out even in poor games such as this. Both him and Collins were bullied by the useless but strong Showumni.

Coady 6/10 – Scored a good goal (apparently!) and was involved in some of other better moves we had in the opening spell and had a few other efforts but none hit the target. At least he got in the right areas and had some efforts and was our best player by this fact only. He faded badly after the break and cannot recall him being in the game much. 

McGinn 4/10 – Do not really see what he offers. He is wasteful with the ball, he cannot tackle to save his life and is not particularly strong or fast. The sort of player we do not need when we are in a fight to stay up as we need some tackling, harrying or some quality passing in that area. He does not offer anything really. Even his set plays were poor (Baxter’s no better). We looked completely powder puff in the centre today.

Doyle 4.5/10 – Not much better than McGinn. He did win a few tackles early but County gradually picked up more loose balls and won the headers/flicks and key little things to ensure we never got on the ball and they could turn it into the United last third more. As I say we never got hold of the midfield all day. Last week they played as a pair and got close to Villa and then used it well when they had it. Today there was nothing of the sort.

Flynn 5/10- He was poor today and sadly played like the Flynn we have seen for much of his three year spell at the Lane. He was played on the left side which was odd but I still felt despite this decision, he would have been full of confidence, looked to attack his full back and get shots in like last week. However I can barely recall him doing anything of note all game and was taken off on the hour.

Baxter 5/10 – A poor game really. He blasted one shot wide but was never really in the game outside of this. County pressed him and pressured him and without time on the ball he struggles as he lacks mobility/pace to run past people. He does not have that consistency we need and is a bit of a luxury player. On a middy pitch where others were just a yard sharper he was never able to really exert any influence.

Porter 4/10 – He laid off the goal but outside of this cannot recall him doing much right. He barely won a header all game and never even left his feet for numerous attempts. Not a goal threat, did not link up and too far off from the midfield. He is a really poor player. I cannot see how we will score or create many goals with him leading the line. He does not hold it up, is slow and sadly I do not agree with this myth that he works so hard. I watched him today and he barely jogged after a few (albeit poor) balls forward. One of the worst centre forwards I have ever seen for SUFC and there has been some bad ones. Sadly he might be still the best we have. Maybe Paynter as uninspiring a signing as he is, may now take over this role.


Paynter – Brought on for the final 25 minutes but he never got in the game. Got booked for a poor tackle and looked off the pace. Not as tall as I thought he was and another who looks less than fit (weight – reminded us of Tim Bresnan for his appearance!). Him and Porter both are very slow and lack ability to run at defenders and both play with back to goal so unsure how they would work as a combination. Guess at end we just went more direct but they coped easily.

Murphy – Came on with less than 10 left which was not enough time really and as we just pumped it long he could not get in the game.

Miller – Not sure what he was expected to do in 2 minutes and then stoppage time? Maybe hope one of long balls forward would drop to him but we did not even get it into the box.

Manager rating – Clough 3/10 – Why he replaced Murphy I do not know. He is being messed around in recent weeks and it would not surprise me if he wanted off. He gets a run of good games and is dropped? We seem more worried about opponents by being more solid but at Villa (a better side) we attacked and got chances. Now we go more defensive? It was odd. 

His side were not able to win the key battles and we actually got worse after his half time team talk and County had their best spell. His subs did not change anything with two ridiculously late. It was crying out for pace and Brandy for me (look at Campbell Ryce’s impact for them). He clearly does not rate him (nor Cuvelier) so he may aswell offload them now really. The former I still think offers something we do not have wide. The latter was really poor in the game I saw and would not lose any sleep if he is moved on. 

For all the talk over how well Clough has done, recent results and performances in the league (maybe Tranmere apart) have been poor. Yes, it is better than Weir but even the defensive improvements have started to disappear with some of the goals we are now conceding. We have started 2014 really badly and need a win soon. I am not sure these players have the fight, bottle (let alone quality) and worry if we go back into the bottom four if we would ever get out. Clough needs to stop messing around and get in some players now. The recent results suggest the players have not realised the position we are in and do not seem able to put together two performances in a row. So he needs to bring in 3 or 4 who may realise the perilous position and may fight with the chance of a new start at United (or potential transfer if on loan). The same players keep letting us down again and keep getting picked week after week and offering the same dross.

Officials – The shout for a penalty looked a good one as he did seem to raise his hand. If that had been given we could have gone two up and the game may have been over. However I don’t buy Clough moaning about not getting decisions. He seems to conveniently forget the 4 or 5 hand ball shouts that Cambridge had the other week. We also got a very soft free kick last week that led to the second goal at Villa. I do not think we have had lots of decisions that have affected games and Clough needs to look at his own team. The officials today did not affect the game and I can recall that many decisions that were controversial. It looked like McMahon did dive to me but it was over the far side but he certainly was not fouled and went down theatrically. Paynter’s challenge was really poor and was right to be booked; as was Hill. 

Crowd/Day out – United had 3,321 of an 8,564 crowd which was a good following although it seems not many went and paid on the day. The fans tried but it was such a wretched game that even the noise made early began to abate. County fans got behind them as they saw the game out but they were so spread out (ground fairly big for a League One ground- 20,000 capacity and outside of Wolves, the Lane and MK; is it the next biggest?). They put all the away fans on the side and the view is decent. We sat right up near the top of the stand fairly central. 

The rest of the day was good (aside from match!). We (6 of us met up different points of the day) had a few beers and a lovely sandwich in Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem (cracking boozer with such character – should be if oldest pub in the world – allegedly). We then had a few more by the Castle Inn and then somewhere closer to the ground (one on the corner near London Road?). After the game we had a beer at the Canal House before heading into an odd place that seemed to have a disco at like tea time. Very strange. A few more back in the centre and some chips and home for 21.30 ish. Not quite as buoyant as last week but still a few decent beers and banter but as many Blades away days are; often spoilt by the match.