I WOULD like to have had a penny for the thoughts of onlooker Kevin McCabe as Sheffield United stole three much-needed points at Bramall Lane on Sunday.
If I’m right it could be a win win. The fact victory against Coventry wasn’t pretty, wasn’t inspiring and certainly didn’t instil a feeling that the Blades automatic promotion hopes have been rekindled, may have just convinced joint club owner McCabe that a major rethink is needed.
He and Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud might now be of a mind to dig a little deeper into their pockets than planned during next month’s transfer window if Championship football is to return next season. Despite a 1-0 victory against high-fliers the warning signs All the early season optimism is now but a distant memory.
Had United produced the kind of performance everyone is desperately waiting to see, McCabe may have returned to Brussels believing that everything is in place to achieve that goal.
As it was, Coventry arrived second in League one, unbeaten in their last 11 matches, and left looking battered and bewildered as to how the match had slipped from their grasp or a point at the very least.
But despite their dominance, slip it did and Unitedites didn’t care how ugly it was, not from their vantage point. Defeat would have made the table grim reading, putting the Sky Blues, already in the last automatic promotion place, 12 points in front and the Blades trailing the last play-off spot by seven with a difficult Christmas period ahead. Having reduced that to nine and four, it looks infinitely better.
There was some good and very bad amongst the ugly. Defensively United, for the majority of the match were solid. Neill Collins and David Edgar were commanding centre-backs. Fullback John Brayford looked the quality player he is playing intelligent balls down the right flank. George Long has made the No1 shirt his own.
Jay McEveley proved yet again, however, why manager Nigel Adkins made a big mistake appointing the 29-year-old as club captain. He’s very limited in the football brains department. A man who needs to be led, not lead. As predicted by ViewFromTheJohnStreet.Com, he has been found out and now is only a starter as cover for injury.
Deputising at left-back for Bob Harris, he showed a total lack of responsibility and composure to inflict a dreadfully late challenge on Coventry’s Ruben Lameiras. A straight red and a three-match ban was expected but incredibly, he escaped with a booking in the 23rd minute. United should have been reduced to 10 men for three-quarters of the match and given Coventry’s clear superiority, it would almost certainly have ensured the points went the opposite way.
Chris Basham, in midfield, was guilty of blatant cheating which resulted, shamefully, in getting a fellow professional sent off in with only a couple of minutes left. He and Sam Ricketts went for a 50-50 ball, Ricketts boot caught the sole of Basham’s boot. The United man rolled over in mock pain and stayed down clutching his leg. Ricketts was dismissed, Basham got up and jogged away. Job done.
Martyn Woolford’s midfield contribution was minimal and it came as no surprise when he was replaced by Stefan Scougall during the second half. It’s hard to be critical of the starters up front, Conor Sammon and Matt Done. They were isolated and chances were few.
Aside from that, Coventry had two good penalty appeals waved away and squeezed the ball over the line which Long clawed back which none of the officials were able to see.
The manner of United’s 84th-minute winner said it all, inadvertently coming of substitute Billy Sharp’s left shoulder.
Manager Adkins bigged-up the performance as you would expect from a man whose team hadn’t won in the league since October 20, but he wasn’t blessed with a choice of superlatives. “You’ve seen the lads have had a right go out there and have been so committed,” he said. “That’s the very least we expected from them.
"We played against a very good footballing side and we had a game plan." Well, that's good to know. I hate it when teams turn up without a game plan. "The lads worked very hard and we were solid, resolute and committed which was great to see."
Having a go is the very least United fans expect from their team, too. That’s what they get paid for but have sadly fallen short too many times this season. Anyone who thought this was anything but the bare minimum with several helpings of good fortune along the way, is kidding themselves.
Hopefully Mr McCabe wasn't one of them.