Sheffield United 1-1 Colchester United

Last updated : 21 August 2013 By deadbat_db

It’s a win, a defeat and now a draw as United’s inconsistent start continued with a largely disappointing performance against unbeaten Colchester at Bramall Lane. In a really poor game, United went behind after some incredibly poor defending gifted a breakaway goal to Freddie Sears but got back level when Harry Maguire’s shot was somehow spilt into the net by visiting keeper Sam Walker. In the second half United improved mildly but were still largely ineffective as an attacking threat and the game petered out to a stalemate. Overall, manager Weir will realise he has a lot of work ahead of him and currently this United side looks a long way off being a promotion challenger. Whether you say this United side is in ‘transition’ or just simply poor; it is clear that it is going to be a long, hard process in terms of the manager getting the personnel, style and approach right to enable the Blades are moving in the right direction.

After the departure of Kevin McDonald in the week, United had not brought in any new signings and went with what they had. United did make changes with both full backs being dropped after the defeat at Brentford with McGinty and McMahon coming in for Westlake and Williams. Callum McFadzean also got a start in place of Stephen McGinn with Connor Coady playing in a less advanced position. Weir also gave a place to young striker Jake Eyre on the bench joining another youngster Jahmal Smith. Whilst it was pleasing to see more youngsters being given a chance it also says a lot about the squad depth when a second year scholar was on the bench. Colchester had won both games so far and was hoping to avenge two heavy defeats at the Lane in the previous campaigns.

It seemed McFadzean was operating just behind Taylor as United began the game with some patient, if a little pedestrian football. However some neat stuff where it mattered, in the last third saw some neat and tidy football leading to a chance for McMahon who curled a left foot effort wide. Colchester started to come back into the game and had a few moments of good possession without creating much. Brandy nearly got on the end of a McFadzean cross but there had been little of the way of genuine chances. However, from a United corner, some naive defending saw the U’s take the lead. Somehow as the ball broke it was 3 v 2 for the visitors and Watt ran away, took his time and found the easy pass to the left that saw SEARS one on one with Long. From the angle he smartly struck the ball low into the corner and the visiting fans celebrated at the far end.

United tried to react but the game became scrappy and the home side were making little headway and the visitors actually looked more like scoring again. Eastman ought to have scored as the ball came across the goal and then a shot from range from Dickson was just wide. The crowd were becoming frustrated and a poor back pass from Collins did not help.

United looked short of ideas but then just before they break they were level. It was an innocuous long range shot from MAGUIRE that should have been dealt with easily by the keeper but somehow Walker let the ball hit his chest and go behind him into the net. It was a real horror show for the Colchester custodian and soon after the half time whistle came.

The second half saw United show a bit more urgency and they were moving the ball quicker. Taylor had a turn and shot saved before Coady’s header was saved by Walker as United’s fans finally had something get excited about. However a break from Colchester saw them have a goal chalked out for offside. To be fair the flag had been up for a long time. United had a good chance when Brandy threaded the ball through after a solo run but Taylor’s shot was saved from Walker who was quickly out at his feet. Maguire was harshly booked before Colchester had a series of corners to take the sting out of United. In response, McFadzean had shown quick feet to have two good runs at the defence and it was puzzling that he was taken off for Johns who went into an unfamiliar position in midfield.

Brandy was causing more and more problems and his run led to a corner that Maguire poked wide despite being grounded at the time after grappling with the centre back prior to the chance. United had at least had some half chances and shown more urgency but were not exactly dominating and Colchester were coping with them rather comfortably for the most part. In stoppage time United also had the ball in the net but again it was clearly offside when Taylor converted after another good run from Brandy. After a series of odd refereeing decisions, the game came to an end with honours even.

United – It was poor and was more like Burton than Notts County sadly. We were slow, predictable and barely created any chances all game. We looked quite poor at the back and some mad defending where we left 2 v 3 on a corner gave them a goal (but we had done it before and did it after!). In the first half it was quite even with them having as much of the ball and chances as us. United were very fortunate to go in level with the keeper’s mistake. We did improve in the second half but other than a few half chances for Taylor; we created very little and they got a point rather comfortably in the end.

We passed it side to side and backwards and went nowhere in particular. We kept it for spells but achieved nothing really and often when we went into the other half we had no idea and lost it. It was slow build up and we never really hurt the opponents in the final third. The new formation worked against Notts County (albeit 10 men) but the last few games we have created little and scored few. However, I think it matters little what formation we play the players are for the most part not good enough to hurt teams. Overall I look at the team sheet and yes we have some young players learning their trade but for the most part the squad/side depresses me. It is woefully short of quality and excitement and screams out mid table (at best).

In terms of personnel we looked a side that were without any real stand outs. I do not see where the creativity and goals is in this side at all and it will be a long hard season unless we can bring new players in. Brandy looked decent again but too many players did not get the game by the scruff of its neck. The likes of McFadzean and Coady did alright but sadly alright is not going to get you goals and wins. Murphy was poor and Taylor with little service was not in the game much. The two centre backs continued their shaky start to the season.

There were some debate over the old pass v hoof argument but I think many were not saying lump it forward (some maybe were in some parts of the ground); it was more about the speed of the attacks and what we did which were painfully slow. Some argued we kept the ball but we simply were not going anywhere and it was so predictable. The reality is most fans I think do want us to keep it and play football but at a speed where we can actually get in the other half and hurt teams. Today as it was played sideways and backwards; Colchester just waited and waited until one of our technically inept players tossed it away. Fans may have to be patient but I am unsure whether these players can ever play the way Weir wants and we may have to mix it up a little (it is not about going long or short but a mixture of different play). We certainly need to get the ball into the opposition half quicker and then fine knock it about and pass it then and wait for opportunities. Moving it around at the back is fine if you are moving the opponents around and switching play with players interchanging and moving out of position. This new formation is supposed to allow players to move into different areas but the last few games it has been quite fixed and we have played in lines; which is no different to 4-4-2 and means we have big gaps between areas too. Whether it was Murphy or McFadzean they were too far off Taylor and the wide men often were not able to support either. It was unclear which of Doyle and Coady was supposed to be the more advanced and thus there was a further big gap between them and the forward players. The full backs did not really get forward and support either and other than for free kicks I cannot recall either getting into the opponents half.

Also worryingly we were told we would press and close teams down when we did not have the ball. I did not see this at all. Mostly we were content when they had the ball and sat back. At times it was like a pre season game as both teams passed it around going nowhere before they lost it.

Everyone says the table settles down after around 8-10 games but the current position we are in will probably not change massively. I feel we may struggle at places like Bradford and Rotherham who do have players who can score goals but hopefully we can pick up some points at home. Sadly at the moment I see us being nearer the bottom than the top from what I have seen. It is clearly a very hard situation for the new manger and it will take him time but his current approach and style requires much better players to make it work and I am not sure he is going to be able to get such players to make it work. At the end of the day though too much is made of style and formation. You can get so far with application and honest sweat and of course good organisation but generally if you have good players you do well. If you don’t you do poorly. In most cases, that may seem simplistic but usually is right. At the moment we have a very average collection of players and no strikers that can score goals. That means it will be a long, hard season.


Easily deserved a point and but for a goalkeeping error it would have been three points. They defended rather comfortably and outside of Brandy they coped with our ‘attackers’ easily. They were not great on the ball and created little of note but for an away side they did what they had to and will be happy to go away with a draw in the end. Fair play to them though; they did not exactly just come here and defend. Sure some fans will say they packed the defence, made it hard etc but reality was that did not happen. The fact they left three men up on corners said it all really. They did try and attack when they could and were just as effective in last third as us, if not more so. They coped with us fairly easily and if not the howler by the keeper; I am not sure whether we would have got back into the game. Sadly despite a decent start I think they will be around the bottom at the end of the season and the fact we barely created any chances and could not beat them is worrying for United fans. We will play a lot better sides than that over the coming weeks (Rotherham, Bradford, MK Dons next three) with more potent attackers.

Opposition star man – Magnus Okuonghae. It was more a team effort from Colchester but they defended comfortably much of the game. The big centre back Okuonghae was solid and headed/cleared most of the game. He made sure we did not penetrate and kept the side to a high line which meant there was little space to work.

Opposition weak link – Sam Walker. The keeper gifted us a goal and his handling throughout was not the best. He failed to gather a number of crosses and looked shaky all day. He did make one decent stop from Taylor though.

Long 7/10 – Long had little to do really but was left badly exposed on the goal with a three on two and had little chance as the ball went right into the corner. After this he did not have much to do outside of general ball handling and distribution as any efforts they did have were off target

McMahon 6/10 – I am not his biggest fan but he is a lot better than Westlake and at least gets close to his man. Sometimes he is reckless with his tackling though. He was fortunate not to be booked after a number of poor challenges that were late and ill advised. He did put a few decent crosses in that no one attacked. Stupidly went for a short corner leaving us 3 v 2 for the goal and then took an age to get back.

McGinty 6/10 – I saw him at York and I thought he was really poor but he did not do too bad today in some respects but mostly that is comparing him to Williams! Nothing remarkable and did nothing catastrophic defensively and I thought it was a decent debut. He did just lump it down the line a few times and his distribution wasn’t the best. He is very gangly and not the most mobile and tougher tests will await when he is up and against a real winger (wasn’t really directly against anyone today).

Maguire 6/10 – Think he has been poor in the games I have seen this season (I was not at Brentford). At times he has overplayed and lost it in dangerous situations and his actual distribution had ranged from errant short passes to long punts to no one in particular. He and Collins are supposed to be the strength of our team but have not convinced so far. At least he is our leading scorer and did have a shot I suppose!

Collins 6/10 - He too was pretty poor. Some sliced clearances, moments of indecision and a number of dreadful clearances and backpasses. Not sure that he and Maguire will ever be these ball playing centre backs who can bring the ball out and start attacks that Weir envisages. At least he did come out once but then just kicked it out after running 50 yards! People applauded that! Twice he kicked it out for corners when I had no idea what he was trying to do and that shows the problems Weir has it he wants the centre backs to kick start our attacks.

Coady 6.5/10 – Started the game well and used it sensibly and tried to get into space and rarely wasted it. He was neat and tidy but did not really get into the final third and most of his football was in an area that did not hurt the visitors. He had a headed effort second half but overall I felt he faded badly and I cannot remember him being involved much. He was the same against Burton. He is a young player and will take time for him to become more confident and more influential. So far he has been ok but is not someone that is going to take a game by the scruff of the neck, run at people or score many goals sadly.

Doyle 7/10 – He gets a lot of criticism but today he was decent. He had one daft shot but he actually used it better than most, won some great tackles and did try and get forward aswell as protect the defence. As a captain he maybe ought to have recognised that we had 3 v 2 on the corner when they broke and scored and this was not the first time this had happened.

Brandy 7.5/10 – Once again our main threat. He tried to run at defenders, was positive and one of the few who you thought something might happen if he got the ball and attacked. Not everything came off but they struggled with him at times especially in the second half when he became more influential. He had a few good runs and nearly made a goal for Taylor. Sadly teams will double up on him as Colchester did as they realise we have little other threats.

Murphy 4/10 – Another very poor performance. I don’t buy all this he is playing in the wrong position/formation talk. He has played in a number of positions and formations and under three managers now and I am sad to say it, but he simply does not look good enough. He is not that quick, very weak to the point of where he is so easy to be tackled and often gets rid of the ball very quickly. He lacks desire or fight and games just pass him by. He did nothing of note all game playing both wide and behind the strikers. Been a major disappointment since he signed. He has been here a while now but shows no sign of improving. People may defend him but he is an attacker who simply does not present any threat to the opponents.

McFadzean 6.5/10 – Thought he was better than Murphy but he too was poor for a lot of the game until he had a 5-10 minute spell second half where he got on the ball and actually attacked the defenders; turning and going towards the goal. For the first hour he was barely in the game and his first touch was very poor. He floated between on the wing and then into the ‘McDonald’ position. Finally second half he had an impact and had a few runs that nearly led to chances. He was just getting more and more into the game when strangely Weir took him off with the largely ineffective Taylor staying on and totally ineffective Murphy also remaining on the field.

Taylor 6/10 – His touch for the first 10-15 minutes was poor as three times it came to him and just fell away. He was competing on his own with little service or help to be fair but he was not in the game first half even as a nuisance factor. Second half he improved as did United and had one turn and shot and then another effort when he toe poked against the keeper when Brandy played him thought. He maybe should have done better actually. He does not look like the sort of striker he will poach you goals or make something out of nothing but like with Porter it will be hard to score many goals anyway in a formation where the striker is isolated and they get no service. I am not sure we will score many goals at all with such a formation and personnel at our disposal. I personally would have gone 2 up for the last 15-20 mins and given him support with Porter (all we got!) alongside him.


Johns – Came on and played in midfield but in all honesty I do not even think he knew where he was meant to be playing. He started on the right, then went into the centre, then went wide left! His first three touches ballooned off to the opposition. He got fouled once but overall looked a bit out of his depth and I felt his introduction (not his fault) killed any momentum we may have built up.

Weir rating 5/10 – It is of course early doors and it will take time but today was as poor as anything under Wilson last year albeit with poorer players of course. We did not look like scoring, it was slow and pedestrian and we looked poor at the back. Of course it will take time for his ideas to seep in but I am unsure how we can win many games, score many goals with this personnel and formation which means we won’t create or score many at all. Today without the mistake I actually do not think we would have scored. Fair play to him for changing the full backs and there was an improvement in this regard to a degree but the midfield-attack formation/selections did not really work. I felt his decision to take off McFadzean was a poor one and Johns looked a fish out of water in wherever he was meant to be playing.

Good to see Weir in that he is playing youngsters (no choice?) and we had 5 under 21’s playing and then also he had a 17 year old striker on the bench. Also the lad Smith on the bench. Whitehouse and Ironside not getting on the bench at the moment which suggest Weir does not think much of them if two other kids are in ahead of them? I would say to get them out on loan but the fact no one has wanted to take them says it all. I would have hoped one of those 2 and maybe Kennedy may step up and get some starts but at the moment unless they improve massively and make Weir sit up and take notice then they are probably not going to make it here as it is now 2 and a half years since that youth cup run and none are getting any closer to selections, even occasionally.

He somehow needs to get off the books the likes of Williams, Hill, Higginbotham (three left backs and none look likely to play) as they are taking valuable wages up. Can we not come to some sort of agreement with a few of them at least?

It is going to be a big few weeks for Weir. Whatever formation he uses; whether he persists with this or goes to a more orthodox formation; the side will struggle to create or score as most of the players are very ordinary. I cannot see any players scoring more than 8-10 goals this seasons and the likes of Taylor, McFadzean, Murphy or not players that are going to really hurt teams on a regular basis. We need at least 1 striker/forward player, maybe 2 and another midfielder to replace McDonald in that position if he carries on the same approach. Without bringing in at least 2 or 3 players I cannot see us being even in the top half on what I have seen so far.

Officials – Referee: Thought Mr Clark was very poor. He simply did not seem to understand the rules. The foul where Doyle jumped up at the end and won a header and the player made a back and fell over was laughable. He seemed to give fouls just when players fell down (for both sides) and a series of bizarre free kicks towards the end just killed what was already a poor game. He booked Maguire and Coady for first offences and nothing fouls but let McMahon get away with a series of fouls. He then blew for half time after a poor challenge from United which annoyed Watt who had been dumped on the deck. The referee should have understood his frustration but booked Watt! He was not helped by his assistants who did not seem to be bothered how either side took throw in’s. The Colchester left back especially threw 4 or 5 shockers that were never penalised.

Crowd/Atmosphere – The crowd was better than expected but it was one of the cheaper games I suppose. It was mostly very quiet as the crowd were frustrated but the total lack of excitement, chances and anything really happening. The second half saw the crowd show a bit of life as did the team but overall it was a really flat atmosphere. At the end there were some boos but not many as fans kind of just sloped off knowing that it is not the new manager’s fault that he has the poorest set of players to choose from in most fans lifetimes. I do think the crowds will dip further and more performances/games of football like that will not have any occasional attendees rushing back.

One of the highlights of the game was a large bird circling around before landing on the pitch and then going around the stands again. That is how dull it was. You can insert joke about ‘vultures circling already’ here. The fact 3 blokes near me spent 5 minutes discussing what sort of bird it was summed up how dull it was.

Academy report/thoughts –

I popped up to the Academy this morning and watched the u18’s and u’16’s against Leeds. The u’16’s got thumped 6-1 (think it was 6; may have been more!) by a bigger and more skilled Leeds side. I mostly watched the u’18’s game which was a closer contest. United dominated first half going up the hill but fell behind to a goal from the standout player, the skilful and well built Leeds captain hit a great shot to give them an undeserved lead. United kept passing it well and after the break got level with a header from a corner and looked more likely but Leeds scored on the break. Not long from the end united intercepted a back pass and the striker rounded the keeper and scored. Both sides had chances to win it but it finished 2-2. It was a good game with both sides trying to play football. United if anything were slightly better and were a tad unfortunate to win. I cannot say I knew any of the players for United (sure more regular watchers can give more details) but one or two played well and the midfield in particular always looked to pass the ball. They looked a bit lacking up front but then if this lad Eyre was with the first team maybe it is understandable. Hopefully I can go up again this season. For those who don’t go or have never been; they ought to if they get chance. Its free of charge, you can watch 2 games and can get a bacon butty while you watch and as it is 11am you can then head down to the Lane afterwards!