Keeper Steve’s super show as new boss Adams takes first step towards Blades survival with clean sheet at old club
AIDY Boothroyd insists he is not overly bothered whether his team win, lose or draw so long as they deliver consistent performances.
With Sheffield United locked in a desperate battle for Championship survival, that is not a luxury Micky Adams enjoys.
But, despite departing the Ricoh Arena still searching for his first win since taking charge of the visitors four games ago, the 49-year-old returned home convinced they had just taken an important step forward in the scramble to avoid the drop.
Having identified a porous back four as one of the biggest threats to United’s hopes of competing in the second tier next term, Adams was delighted with the application they showed to keep Coventry City at bay during a furious start which saw Boothroyd’s side win 15 first-half corners.
But while debutants Joe Mattock and Shane Lowry put themselves on the line when required, United were still indebted to Steve Simonsen as they recorded their first goalless draw of the campaign.
The former England under-21 international produced a series of splendid saves to frustrate the hosts with an excellent double block to deny Lukas Jutkiewicz and Gary McSheffrey the pick of a memorable bunch.
“We’re all delighted,” Simonsen said, “Everything we’ve spoken about during the build-up has been about getting back to basics. That’s what we’ve been working on and that’s what we did.
“We are in trouble. No-one here is dancing around that fact.
“We were under the cosh to begin with but we defended really, really well and that’s got to be a pre-requisite for anyone in our position. We’ve shown that we can stand up to that type of pressure.
“I thought I had a pretty decent day while the rest of the lads just got on with grinding a result out.”
Simonsen, proving himself to be master of the understatement as well as man of the-match, also foiled Freddy Eastwood and Carl Baker as City pressurised United’s young and new-look rearguard. He enjoyed a huge slice of luck after the interval when, having palmed McSheffrey’s free-kick on to the woodwork, the ball bounced off his back before nestling on the roof of the net.
But not even Boothroyd, who labelled Simonsen’s performance “terrific,” sought to argue his good fortune was undeserved.
“I don’t know how that one stayed out, to be honest,” Simonsen acknowledged. “But when it did that’s when you really start to believe there was no way they were going to score.”
Ensuring that confidence remains intact is one of Adams’ most pressing concerns over the coming weeks. Had Stephen Quinn not spurned an excellent opportunity to snatch victory during the closing stages then his task would have appeared a whole lot easier.
But Adams, who spent 24 months in charge of United’s opponents before waving goodbye to Warwickshire four seasons ago, seemed quietly satisfied with final outcome.
“That was a hard-earned point but when we had to defend I thought we were excellent,” he said. “In fact, we probably had the best chance in the end but that would have been nicking it.
“What Coventry do is try and identify your weak spots and then keep hammering away at them. But we didn’t have any weak links out there. Everyone stood up to be counted when required.”
City started the afternoon bottom of the division’s form table without a win in six.
Having survived their onslaught, United posed some questions of their own, with Ched Evans testing Keiren Westwood with a delicate toe-poke and Quinn going close.
But Boothroyd, who saw McSheffrey blaze high and wide at the death, cut a defiant figure afterwards.
“We created enough to have won five games let alone one,” he said. “But although I’m disappointed with the result I’m pleased with the way things are going.
“People can get too hung up about winning and losing.”