Losing Start for Speed
Sunday 22nd August
Most Blades fans who weren`t at The Riverside will have watched the game on Sky at home or in the pub, so no need for a match report, here is a general overview of the game as I saw it.
The first impression was walking into the stadium and thinking for a moment that we had got the kick off time wrong! With six or seven minutes to go before kickoff there appeared to be about eight thousand inside the ground, evidence if any were needed that football is set for a difficult season ahead with attendances. Just under half the seats occupied for a team who are favorites to win promotion tells its own story about admission prices, Sunday lunchtime kick offs and live TV coverage. The travelling Blades fans couldn`t believe how easy parking was right next to the stadium, every cloud had a silver lining!
The Unitedites gave Gary Speed a warm welcome during the warm up, and continued to chant his name throughout the game, it was great - and unusual - to hear encouragement for a Blades manager, let`s hope it lasts.
Nosworthy slotted in at right full back, Ertl moving to central midfield where he had an outstanding game alongside Monty. Nosworthy struggled with lack of fitness throughout the game, eventually being replaced by Quinn with 15 minutes left.
Both teams were tentative in the first half; it took a Boro side lacking in any invention or creativeness 20 minutes to get into United`s box as both keepers were under worked. The new manager`s influence began to show as United clearly played the ball to feet whenever possible, Britton being much more involved and gradually more influential. Simonsen took every opportunity to throw the ball out to retain possession. At the back, Morgan and Bartley won virtually everything in the air as Boyd and Kink struggled to make any impression.
Monty stuck to McDonald like a second skin and Ertl impressed throughout the game with some strong positional play, holding the ball and almost always finding a player with his pass. For me, the new central midfield partnership of Monty & Ertl was very encouraging for the future.
Out wide, Ward sometimes flattered to deceive. His pace and direct running can cause opposing defenders real problems, but he is frustrating with set pieces. His corners were constantly poor, either failing to clear the first defender or floating harmlessly into the keepers arms, wasting the efforts of the big men to get into the box. I really hope new coach Carver will bring something new to United`s set piece play. Corners and free kicks must be more than just ways of restarting the game.
Boro posed few problems throughout, Boyd`s goal coming from Morgan`s misjudging of McDonalds high flick on, the striker slotting across Simonsen with ease, Morgs with head in hands.
Up front, Evans really has to be a bit stronger under the challenge. Cresswell worked a shift as usual, but never looked like opening his account.
Overall, United deserved a point, despite rarely threatening the Boro goal. Morgan`s only mistake cost the winning goal but there were encouraging signs in several areas for the future. Confidence is pretty low right now, a win is needed next week, but there are early signs of what Speed will hope to bring to his team, certainly the ball spent more time on the floor, there was more patience to build through the team, and the pass and move now just needs a bit more of the move.