Willo Wonder Couldn't Save Blades

Last updated : 02 May 2011 By deadbat_db

lowton nods home first half equaliserSheffield United finally were relegated the League One after a draw to local neighbours Barnsley at Bramall Lane. Recent back to back wins had given united fans some brief hope they could survive but failure to beat the Tykes confirmed the slide down to the League One trapdoor. United had fought back from a goal down to lead but more sloppy defending led to a late equaliser and confirmed the home side’s fate. In the end both Doncaster and Palace had earned draws meaning it would not have mattered how many goals United scored nor if they had won. In truth the damage had been done months ago and it was a surprise that United actually had managed to hang on until this penultimate game. The game finished with united fans clapping off the team and showing incredibly loyal support and a statement from the board at least finally acknowledged their failings this season and seasons’ past. United now have to simply draw a line under a wretched period in the club’s history and simply start again probably with a completely different team and maybe with a different manager; although still remains to be seen.

For the game with Barnsley, United began by recalling youngster Maguire in place of Collins and had Evans, McAllister and Cresswell all on the bench returning from injury. Barnsley began with two former Blades in their starting eleven in Mellis and Gray.

United were the first to show and had efforts off target from Williamson and Quinn but Barnsley won a series of corners and were competing well considering they had nothing to play for. The visitors then had a great chance to take the lead as Gray beat Lowry, Montgomery lost his runner and Mellis should have scored but blazed over with only Simonsen to beat. Maguire advanced forward but blazed wide from distance then the same man was at fault as Barnsley took the lead. It was an innocuous through ball but the youngster slipped and this allowed HAYNES to run forward unchallenged and slide the ball past Simonsen.

United tried to respond and Henderson and Riise had efforts blocked and then in a scramble following a corner the ball ricocheted around the box and cannoned clear. However, Barnsley was looking the more dangerous and was perhaps shading matters. Gray headed straight at Simonsen when well placed and Haynes movement was causing problems for Lowry who was having an uncomfortable afternoon. United did begin to come back into the game and finally produced a few moves of note with youngster Lowton always looking to get forward. Williamson was also playing well forward of the midfield area.

Slew had been quiet so far but a neat turn saw Hassell trip him and the Barnsley man was cautioned. From the resultant free kick; Williamson’s free kick was hit with pace and into a very dangerous area and LOWTON met it from close range to glance home. Questions marks may have been asked over the defending and goalkeeping as Steele perhaps should have got there as the ball was headed in from such close range but credit also must go to the taker and scorer. United had probably deserved to get back into the game and finished the half strong with Henderson opting to pass when he should have shot and then Williamson’s powerful goal bound effort being blocked. Lowton then nearly scored his second as he came inside, exchanged passed with Slew before firing over with his unfavoured left foot when maybe he should have done better. A poor challenge by Butterfield saw him cautioned just before the break.

The second half saw United on top from the start with Lowton once again getting into dangerous areas down the right hand side. From one such run and cross Henderson ought to have done better but headed wide. Mattock then had a shot blocked and United also won two corners in quick succession. United’s superiority told on the hour but it came from a goalkeeping howler. A long throw was cleared to the edge of the box and WILLIAMSON hit a firm effort through a crowd of bodies but Steele ought to have collected comfortably but somehow the ball squirmed through his body and trickled over the line.

United knew they needed more than just the win and would have to get more goals if they were to give themselves any chance of taking things to the final day of the season and buoyed by the crowd they threw more men forward. In this regard Adams threw on Evans and McAllister for Slew and the disappointing Riise as they searched to add to their advantage. United had a few chances to get in good balls but often made poor choices and now with men forward they were leaving gaps at the back. Barnsley almost profited when Trippier’s free kick was saved well by Simonsen who sprang to his left to push the ball away drawing applause from visiting keeper Steele at the other end of the pitch. However, this let off would only be temporary and from Hill’s cross, HAYNES came in unmarked to nod down and past Simonsen. This goal effectively ended any chances United had of staying up and now the noise was coming from the visiting fans that were enjoying their chance to taunt the Blades over the imminent demise with chants of ‘You’re going down in a minute!’

Cresswell came on for Mattock and United tried in vain to create another chance but the next notable incident saw substitute Evans go down injured and he had to be stretchered off with a serious looking injury. McAllister had a shot deflected away and then a flicked header from Henderson drifted wide. The tremendous support from the home fans saw many staying to sing and remain positive right up to the final whistle. The end came not long after but the positive reaction from the supporters saw the players applaud three sides of the ground. For many players it will probably be the last time they play for the Blades at this ground and it seemed like they knew it from the reaction from the likes of Montgomery, Henderson and Quinn.

United – Finally it is over. It seems like we have been dying a slow death for months now and in some ways the last few weeks of wins have made it even more painful as it has just delayed the inevitable and given us some small hopes. I actually thought that we may take it to the last day; just due to the fact we normally go down or up on the last day with some sort of drama but it would not even have mattered if we had won today due to the results of Palace and Doncaster. In truth of course the damage was done weeks and months ago.

Today we actually did enough to win and in recent games we have definitely improved a bit but continue to let in stupid goals. This makes it incredibly difficult to win games as we are losing 2 or 3 goals routinely meaning we have to score as many at the other end! Today mistakes from Maguire (unfortunate as it was) and then Lowry (lost his man) were the key moments on goals but both goals had moments in the build up where they could have been avoided. A few other notable errors could have led to goals too. However, we did play some decent stuff at the other end and with a bit better finishing and selection of pass (tried to walk it in at times!) we could have had more goals ourselves. I felt Barnsley started the better side and controlled the opening and actually won more 50/50’s and strangely seemed really interested; even more so than us in winning the game. The opening goal was a tad unlucky but they could have scored before that through Mellis. We fought back and deserved to be level before half time and then it was mostly us after the break and we perhaps should have had 2 or 3 goals and seen the game off. We were chasing more goals when the leveller came but they also had a few chances just before this. Maybe we shaded the game and maybe we deserved to win especially when you look at possession, shots on and off target, corners etc. However, we just cannot go a game without making daft mistakes or not switching on at the right times.

Today was a mixed bag in terms of individual performances; the two youngsters Slew and Maguire were not as good as they have been but it is going to be like that with two 18 year olds and it will be up and down at times. However, neither hid and kept going. To be fair to both; Henderson seemed more bothered about grappling with the centre back than playing the ball and got drawn into a pushing and shoving match. Also, Lowry alongside him was poor today and mistake riddled throughout. We did have a very young defence though with Lowton at 21 the most senior player but he too showed his promise again and really has come on in recent times to the point I fear Championship clubs may be looking at him in the summer. I thought he was our best player today.

I thought Montgomery and Quinn were at times decent and others poor, especially in possession of the football and Riise did not look interested which was disappointing considering he has been one of few decent signings. I would send him and Mattock back now as we have nothing to achieve keeping them for the last game and can play players that will be ours and get them games. Williamson was god today and showed what a force he can be as an attacking midfielder as he got forward put in some decent crosses (and some awful ones) and had quite a few shots including the second goal. Overall, I do think if we could have played the way we have the last few games from post Xmas onwards we would have stayed up. We have not been great but been better and showed some attacking intent and created more chances. However, we do continue to chuck daft goals away and it is like one step forwards, two back as we have to work doubly hard at the other end. For all the criticism he gets Henderson has improved things as a target and someone who can hold the ball up. We also have improved from injecting some youth and enthusiasm and the fact Doyle and Collins have been omitted and performances and results have improved does not seem to be a co-incidence.

I am glad this awful season is at an end and now we have a lot of work to do over the summer. The statement on the club website prepares us for player losses, no cash injection and a reliance on youth next season. I am thankful there has at last been a public apology for the mess the board has put us in. There are some frank and honest statements but it is alright apologising; wewilliamson celebrates putting united ahead now need some strong action. I am also disappointed that our majority shareholder is once again silent and would appreciate some words from him. Maybe I am being petty saying this but everything seems to come through Birch, Steer and now his son.

I think with few experienced players left it would be tough next season for whoever is the manager. We were never going to be able to sign loan players anyway as we won’t be able to afford Champ/Prem loan players anymore but it is odd they are saying we had an over reliance on loans when they said they same thing 12 months ago and have done exactly the same. They (the board) also sanctioned the wages and signings and have appointed the managers who have brought such poor players and expensive drain on resources. They are the ones that have allowed the wage bill to get so high and allowed poor managers in and then allowed them to bring in poor players. They are also the ones who have ultimately destroyed the squad from top to bottom meaning no matter how poor the managers have been (and they have been poor) it is predominantly the fault of them for the mess we are in.

I am still unsure if Adams will be back next season. The comments today suggest he could be going (branch and root review, addressing all matter on and off the pitch etc) next week. Recent improved results mask that we lost so many games when it mattered, particularly to our relegation rivals. His interview at Reading when asked if he would be the man to bring us back and his long pause suggested it is not cut and dry and with rumours over Pemberton taking over swirling around; he seems to be unsure if he will be around himself. My feelings on the matter have been detailed in reports since Xmas and I will not change my opinion. Ultimately he has failed to deliver results and performances and saddled us with some appalling players. I have seen very little to suggest we won’t be nearer the bottom than top even in a division below. I may be wrong but feel we could be wasting another summer and opening months if we keep him in charge as the change in manager that may then come in early autumn would mean another man brought into do a salvation job. If we made the change at the end of the season the new manager has time to bring his own players in and properly prepare/coach the team. We will wait and see in the next few weeks I suppose.

Barnsley – Galling to be effectively relegated against them of course but the tables have turned and clubs like them and Doncaster with very small crowds, little real infrastructure or wealth have managed to stay in the league and prosper whilst the two Sheffield clubs are plying their trade in league one. Fair play to them. The Sheffield clubs might not care about them much but they have still probably been the butt of jokes for many years and this is the first time in my lifetime I can really remember them being above both Sheffield clubs.

Today they could have cared little but they went for it and competed well. Defensively they were poor and could have conceded more goals. Steele is not a good keeper in my opinion and was at fault for possibly both goals. He reminds me of Simonsen in that usually he is a good shot stopper but poor at command of his box. Haynes took his two goals well and looked lively. He seemed to be a promising striker a few seasons ago but lost his way. Maybe he can become rejuvenated at Barnsley? Gray was how I remembered him. Neat and tidy but weak in the challenge and a tending to avoid physical contact. Mellis got forward well and showed he was neat and tidy in possession of the ball.

They may have struggled in recent weeks but are comfortably safe and a lot of credit has to go to Mark Robins. He has seen some of their better players leave for so called better things notably Bogdanovic at the end of last season and Hammill mid way through this season. They don’t have many stand out players but he had got them enough points to stay in this division and is tough to beat at Oakwell. They have a lot of honest hard workers like Foster and Hassell but without real star quality or a reliable 20 goals a season striker; it is testament that Robins has managed to get them to a position of comfort. They are well organised and fairly well drilled. They don’t get hammered much but conversely don’t hammer many teams but they have done enough to get wins when they need it and have not gone on long losing runs like we have.

He has used the loan system well to supplant his options up front when he has needed it with the likes of O’Connor (now left), Wood, Hayes and now Harewood all weighing in with goals. I would eager their wage bill is around half of that of ours; maybe lower and that are probably true in comparison to a lot of the division. Robins may not be able to take them any further than mid table at best without significant investment but with poor crowds and lack of real big time owners you cannot see that coming and it will be interesting to see whether he will be happy to effectively have their best hopes of being just around mid table and worst being in a relegation scrap for the next few years.

Simonsen 7/10 – Had a shocking season but could do little with either of the goals and actually made one excellent save from a free kick. Still missed a few crosses or remained rooted to his line when crosses came in he ought to have gathered easily.

Lowton 8/10 – Thought he was out best player. He carried the fight as he has in recent weeks and seemed to be all over the field at times. He got up and down the flank and whilst his attacking was better than his defending he was good in both aspects of the game. He shows how good he is in the air with the goal and also could have had another not long after. Really improved and hopefully will be around next season to continue to develop.

Lowry 4/10 – He had a bit of a nightmare. He routinely sliced/hacked the ball to no one in particular and also made quite a few poor mistakes both with and without the ball that led to direct chances. Completely lost Haynes on the second goal but this was not the first time. I think he has done ok since he signed but feel he has gone off the boil in recent times and his lack of technical ability really stands out. I can cope with this if he does the basic defending such as marking and clearing but recently he has not been able to do this.

Maguire 5.5/10 – Not the most comfortable of afternoons and whilst I liked the fact he attacked the ball well both aerially and on the deck he also switched off when the strikers ran off the ball today and seemed slow to react to danger. The goal was unfortunate in that he slipped but sadly he is still to blame. I like that he tried to always bring it down and pass the ball when he had it and showed he is a good footballer. A lot to learn and I felt a player who had played more games in league football, even though he is inexperienced, Lowry; did not really help him as he (Lowry) was making mistakes left, right and centre. Still a really promising player and I am sure he will get better and hopefully can be paired with Morgan next season.

Mattock 6/10 – I have not been totally impressed with him and he always smacks me as someone who thinks he is better than he is. He did ok today for spells and showed his ability going forward with a few decent crosses and shots. He clearly is a decent footballer and has a good left foot but at times switches off defensively completely and gives his man too much time. He also simply will not use his right foot as evidenced in the first half when he spun round twice before trying to clear the ball instead of just using his right foot.

Williamson 7.5/10 – Thought he was our best midfielder and looked a threat going forward with a few decent shots and got beyond the attackers which is a rarity for our midfielders in recent times. He made the first with an excellent free kick and scored the second. His corners/free kicks were a mixture with some good ones, drive in and then some really poor ones not beating the first man. Hopefully he can stay fit and not get suspended and would be a key player next year and maybe one we won’t necessarily have to move on.

Riise 5/10 – Not very good today. Seemed slow to the ball and actually pulled out of 3 or 4 challenges he should have won. He also was wasteful in possession and just did not seem at it. Not surprised he was taken off. Been one of our better signings/loan players in a really bad bunch and a talented footballer who really could play Premiership if he improved his stamina/consistency.

Quinn 7/10 – He was deservedly given player of the year (as much to do with the others being so spectacularly poor and us having no stand out player really) for a decent season and excellent second half to the season. Today he did some good things and linked well at times and was energetic but also he was sloppy in his final ball too. He always does look to go forward and this has been a change in his game where as previously he seemed to pass backwards or simply pass the buck. He is now taking responsibility and showing maturity. I think a Championship club will take him in the summer.

Montgomery 6.5/10 – Up and down. Fought hard and tackled well and once again incredible effort but his play on the ball was relatively poor. His passing was mixed again today (sure I will get slammed for that again but 3 or 4 simple passes were simply telegraphed or aimless) and also lost his man Mellis a few times. His hands to his head when Mellis blasted over said a story over whose fault it was for losing his runner. Sad to see him go if he does move on as I feel he is an asset for his club. You know what you get but you accept this and surround him with players who have the strengths he does not. Unfortunately, his mistakes and weakness has been magnified in recent times but I cannot applaud his efforts and sheer guts for thus club over the 10 years or so he has played for us and he will be a loss if he does go which I expect.

Henderson 6.5/10 – Had a few headed chances that maybe should have done better with and a few other half chances. He tried hard today if everything did not come off. A player that defenders worry about due to his strength and heading ability but also needs to forget about grappling for the ball and tussling with his man. I watched him quite a bit today and noticed that when he pushes/shoves (after he has normally been held himself) he stupidly commits the foul when the referee is looking/ball near him. He is not clever at all with how he initiates/makes physical contact.

Slew 6/10 – Not quite as good today as he had shown in other games and probably did not make the best decisions when he did have/receive the ball but still showed his movement and got across the line. His pace worries defenders and he has good movement off the ball though. Very raw but a piece to build around.

Subs –

Evans – Looked lively when he came on and seemed to show he did care but went down after a fairly innocuous challenge and it seemed quite serious judging by the time he had treatment and then had to be stretchered off and taken to hospital for x rays on his ankle. Not a great moment for him and the club as he is one that undoubtedly will be moved on and if he has a serious injury it does complicate matters.

McAllister – Showed his ability to get on the ball and also try and have shots on goal as he had a decent effort blocked. Think he will be a player who will play a lot of games next season and has shown some promise.

Cresswell – Forgot he was even still with us. Came on for the final few moments and played left side.

Officials – Graham Salisbury. He was ok for the most part despite a lot of fans feeling he did not give us more. We had a few half hearted appeals for penalties which were not penalties in a million years and a few other decisions that maybe could have gone for us but overall I cannot recall many major decisions he got wrong. He booked people on both sides rightly and allowed play to go on when he could. Maybe, Henderson could have got a few more fouls and it was amusing when he penalised young Maguire for a nothing challenge (50/50) on Gray after our striker has been manhandled a lot of the game. Henderson was as guilty though at times forever grabbing and pulling his man. I would have liked the ref to have had words with both earlier as it became painful to watch them (him and Foster) tussling when the ball was nowhere near them.

Crowd/Atmosphere – United fans were really good today; in fact excellent. They were a few groans for a few misplaced passes and concern when we went behind but for the most part kept behind them and urged them on as much as they could. It was the noisiest it had been for some time. The fact the fans continued to sing and back them and support them right till the end.

Indeed how they acted and behaved at the end actually made me proud to call myself a Blade. The chant of ‘We love United we do....’ as the clock ticked down on the game and the season was moving and then at the end to see a lot of the fans staying and clapping the team (being honest they really did not deserve it for an awful season and basically failing to merit the vast wages they pick up) and staying loyal to their club was quite moving and a totally different reaction to ones suffered at other clubs in recent years (granted last day defeats often harder to take and ours had been coming for a while). The fact there was no pitch invasions and just dignified applause was a surprise and a pleasant one at that. Well done Blades fans. The club don’t deserve such wonderful supporters and I think even the players/directors must have been embarrassed at what they saw at the end of the game after such mistakes and pitiful performances they have put in on and off the pitch.

Barnsley brought a really good following (a lot more than previous seasons) and of course they enjoyed being the team to confirm our fate. No problems with that of course but the lengths they went to in this was a bit pathetic and were a contrast to our fans in their classless reaction. The fans literally seemed obsessed with us going down and them confirming our relegation. The flags they made (with printed words about us going down and an Argentinean flag with Tevez emblazoned on it), their own version of the greasy chip butty song (with words about sending us down) and the plastic pigs were a tad embarrassing. They seem to feel like we regard them as big rivals but sadly we do not. They do not have a ‘rival’ to so speak so I guess we are the next big thing. It did remind me of years ago when we were floating around the middle of the league and Wednesday were going down and our fans seemed more bothered about them than our results which used to annoy the hell out of me. Of course we would do the same in terms of enjoying relegating rivals/neighbours but the extent they partied and went so berserk was actually a little sad. They brought more fans today than they have for the previous three seasons for a meaningless game and to see some of the fans with such hatred in their eyes at united fans as the Police marched them down Bramall Lane were quite bizarre.