Monday, 4 November 2013


***Editorial Note- This piece was written on Monday the 28th October but had remain unpublished due to severe technical issues. 

After the midweek appointment of Nigel Clough it was time to get back on the pitch and see if the new gaffer could keep the momentum built by caretaker boss Chris Morgan going.
The first test came at home against Crewe Alexandra.

The Blades took to the field for the first time under the new gaffer and received a warm reception following the great result at Peterborough. The team line up had no real drastic changes there was an alteration of shape which would no doubt mean the approach had mildly been adapted as much as possible in the short time Clough had before match day. Simon Lappin stepped in to replace Fabian Brandy who was reportedly ill.

Before kick off the Bramall Lane announcer Gary Sinclair, asked those in attendance to show their appreciation for all the hard work and commitment from Chris Morgan. The eighteen thousand plus rose to their feet and delivered a deafening round of applause for the former United centre half, hopefully Chris knows just how much the fans thank him for again stepping in and injecting some belief and passion back into the team. Nigel Clough joined in with the applause and showed his respect. One thing that has to be noted is that if Nigel wants success at The Lane one man he needs to liaise with and seek advise from, especially when it comes to characters in the dressing room, is Chris Morgan.

The game itself had a fast and furious start, a few overzealous tackles and attempted killer balls, United had the majority of early play. Michael Doyle gave away an early foul making a strong hard challenge setting the tone that The Blades were ready to battle, something the team was lacking under David Weir. Doyle also tried to mimic his goal from the last home game on the ten minute mark, unfortunately this time the ball lifted
over the bar and into the travelling Crewe supporters. There was a moment of madness shortly after Crewe hitting a ball towards the right corner being defended by United, Tony McMahon was first to the ball and all he had to do was hit it up the park, maybe even play it across to George Long, but McMahon dwelled on the ball to long, allowing one of Crewe's wingers to put pressure on him and dispossess him of the ball, McMahon then gave away a foul, leaving The Blades in a vulnerable position unnecessarily. The ball was whipped in and met by the head of a Crewe midfielder and George Long had to pull of a very composed save to stop the day turning to tragedy.

The Blades looked very rigid early on, no doubt still adapting to the new game plan and the balls going forward were not of very good quality, teething problems the new boss will no doubt have to work on in the week. The Blades also found it a struggle to win any headers, or get to the second ball. All in all it was still an improvement from the Weir tactics but the new philosophy will take time to take to adapt to, and what The Blades needed desperately at this point was a confidence boost.  That Boost came as McGinn was
fowled near the corner flag resulting in a Blades free kick. McGinn himself hit the ball, all be it rather softly
bouncing in the area towards the near post, where Harry Maguire found space to place a cool header straight into the net. The centre half celebrating his goal as The Lane erupted into raptures, the torment of the first quarter of the season seemed to wash away and a rebirth of sorts seemed to breath new life into the team. The players started venturing out of position to win balls, to help their team mates, a cardinal sin under David Weir. They seemed to buckle down and finally seem interested in putting a collective 'shift in'.  Lyle Taylor nearly doubled The Blades lead, played to him on the edge of the area from the right wing he cleverly trapped the ball and changed direction, drawing the defenders away, then striking with his left boot he was denied only by a good one handed save from Phillips in the Crewe goal.

The Blades won them selves a corner before the half hour mark, McGinn again with the delivery, this time hit high and strong, lofted towards the back post where again Sheffield United starlet Harry Maguire was waiting. A free header across the face of goal before nestling into the goal, doubling the lead and Maguire establishing himself as Sheffield United's leading scorer so far in the campaign. The ground again erupted two
goals before half time and an attacking display, this is what the fans had wanted since the Notts County game. Captain Michael Doyle gave the ball away a few times with misdirected passes but Crewe were never really able to capitalise, the defence shutting up shop. Ryan Flynn was having a better game but again looked weak sometimes going forward. McMahon had a chance running forward with the ball splitting the Crewe defence, but he was brought down at the edge of the box, on this occasion the referee making a poor decision letting play continue. The pace slowed down and Crewe were relying solely on long balls along with desperate and poor through balls, which were easily mopped up by the back four, especially Maguire, who was then distributing the ball forward better than most midfielders. The half came to an end and The Blades were on track to getting another home win under the belt.

The second half started more brightly for Crewe who were now keeping the ball down as much as possible, they had a chance to pull one back, play switched to the wing where a smart curling lobbed ball was played
to the back post, but the Crewe forwards volley was hit over the bar. The Blades pretty much controlled possession from here, looking to break down Crewe, and when Simon Lappin played a glorious through ball Ryan Flynn had a burst of pace travelling down the right wing before making small cut inside past the Crewe defender tracking him and placing the ball into the nearside of the goal, three for United and Flynn showing he can in fact contribute, the roof blowing off Bramall Lane and putting United another step closer to three points. Marlon King almost made it a dream day for Nigel Clough the ball heading across the area, Many may think if King had hit the ball first time it would have been four, but his touch gave the keeper time to get out and block his effort. This would mark the last of Kings involvement for the day, the crowd again making a great deal of noise as Shaun Miller was introduced to the game. A corner from Crewe resulted in them hitting the cross bar as the visitors tried desperately to salvage some pride from the game.

Picture Courtosy of Dan Wynn
Crewe managed to grab a goal with just under fifteen minuets to go, a counter attack against the run of play lead to a through ball to Max Clayton, Neil Collins flailing as the last line of defence and kicking at air as well as George Long coming out without making himself big let Clayton slot home easily.  On the eighty first minute Connor Coadey came on to replace a very tired Taylor who had run himself into the ground, this was the story for most of the squad who were not used to playing this in your face win the ball style. The game had lost its momentum at this point which was frustrating, but the match was won and the team looked exhausted.  With the exception of Lappin being replaced by Cuvelier, the match had no real significant events in the final moments and after four minutes of added time The Blades and new chief Nigel Clough could celebrate a much needed three points. A rebirth of confidence and The Blades leaving the bottom four, one would hope that now the Blades can push on, and whilst no one is expecting us to climb the table so dramatically promotion is a possibility, we all expect us to build a strong foundation for next seasons promotion prospects.

Jonathan Gascoigne

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