Blades Roll Over Late…..as Usual.
Saturday 5th November
Predictably frustrating, United had weathered the storm of long ball, physical intimidation and fought their way to a solid point, then like a switch as soon as the game clock ticked into the final ten minutes, a moment of craziness from an experienced player threw away the point.
Danny Wilson said that United have "got to the level of this division" that is certainly not the case. Four of the last five games have clearly proved that United are completely devoid of the ability to close out a game. Stevenage demonstrated exactly how this should be done in the remaining ten minutes by slowing the game down, taking the ball into the corners and going to ground at the mere hint of contact.
For much of the first half United were forced to match the home side`s aerial attack. Horrible to watch but Stevenage`s team of giants are well drilled, work hard for each other, play at a high tempo and close down the opposition as a unit, and pressure the match officials with a constant barrage of sniping and questioning every decision. Reminiscent of the old crazy gang at Wimbledon. Coupled with a well drilled back four who squeeze play high up the pitch at every opportunity, they know how to play at this level.
Wilson rightly brought Simonsen back for this tough game and despite a few ironic cheers when the keeper caught a couple of early balls, the sell out travelling 1500 Blades fans got behind him, especially after a brilliant double save at the feet of two attackers when one on one, which would have killed the game after 65 minutes.
Both sides had first half chances, inevitable as the ball spent so much time being lumped into the boxes, Collins and Maguire headed more balls in this match than the last half dozen games put together. Lowton slid a shot inches wide, Clarke had a shot deflected wide, a Phillips cross fizzed across the six yard box as United gradually tried to get the ball down out of the sky.
With a couple of minutes remaining in the half, a Stevenage corner found its way to central defender ROBERTS on the edge of the box who was allowed to turn and fire past Simonsen.
Three minutes into the second half Longs shot came back off United`s bar, then Bostwick had a shot blocked, followed by Lowton and Phillips both having efforts blocked, then Quinn should have done better with a header before Simonsen`s double save kept United in the game.
United promptly went down the other end and leveled the score. Lowton was fouled on the edge of the area and EVANS hammered the free kick into the bottom corner of the net.
Jean François replaced the struggling Williams and was promptly booked. DW really has to sort out this lad`s discipline.
Then with United under pressure, Quinn`s lazy pass let in Wilson whose direct run was halted by Jean-Francois inside the box and LAIRD rolled the penalty past Simonsen. United had given away far too much possession throughout the game, each time Stevenage punished them with more balls into the box.
The home side then effectively closed out the game for the last ten minutes. Hopefully the Blades players will be made to sit and watch the video of how a well drilled team ensures they hold on to the points.
United`s central defenders were solid and missed very little, Collins had his best game for some time, but both full backs were poor. Williams had a nightmare and was subbed, Lowton looks good going forward but his defensive qualities and positioning was once again all over the place.
Doyle and Monty in central midfield simply does not work. Neither have any capability of creating anything for the strikers. Cresswell tried to compensate by putting in his usual hard working shift, but it is not enough. Billy Clarke was subbed early in the second half with Evans coming on when surely he should have replaced Cresswell. Clarke is always likely to come up with something different.
United`s set piece play continues to frustrate. I would like to see the stats on how often a United throw-in went straight to the opposition. It was usually the case that the ball was thrown high, not to feet, giving Stevenage`s giant defenders the advantage.
United give the ball away far too easily - which is probably the reason McDonald didn`t start - and until they start to retain possession better, put a foot on the ball and cut out the suicide last ten minutes, I`m afraid there are going to be many more frustrating afternoons for the fantastic army of away fans.