The thing about families is that, despite them being quick to acknowledge their own faults, it is seldom appreciated when others point them out.
So, although none of Sheffield United’s players would dispute his assessment that they have under-achieved this season, it was no surprise to see Chesterfield defender Sam Hird’s pre-match comments provoke such an aggressive response.
Nigel Adkins’ side were in almost total control from the first whistle to the last and could well have prevailed by more. There was, as Spireites manager Danny Wilson later acknowledged with impressive candour, only one team which let themselves down badly here.
“What’s happened is in the past,” Che Adams, who scored the second of United’s three goals, said. “There’s nothing to be gained from beating ourselves up about it. We’ve just got to live in the present, improve and move on. I think we’re definitely doing that.
“Yes, we want to be much higher in the table, but we’re a tight-knit bunch and all we can do is focus on trying to win next time too.”
Chesterfield’s error-strewn display - former United boss Wilson accused his defence of “gifting” the visitors two of their three goals - undoubtedly contributed to the unequal nature of Saturday’s contest.
But, possessing a ruthlessness streak which has been conspicuous by its absence throughout much of the campaign, Adkins’ charges, who climb to ninth, punished every slip in spiteful fashion.
Adams, making his 50th appearance since arriving from Ilkeston 17 months ago, stroked the ball into an empty net after intercepting goalkeeper Tommy Lee’s clearance while the sight of wing-back Chris Basham terrorising Drew Talbot throughout confirmed the hosts had not only been out-fought but out-thought too.
“We’ve got a new system and it’s working well,” Adams continued. “The longer we use it, the better it gets, and the coaching staff have been really putting in the hours on the training ground. I think it suits everybody here, it seems to bring out the best in us and lets us all do what we’re good at. Hopefully it’s something we can build on going forward.”
Both fearsome competitors, Wilson, whose 23-month reign at Bramall Lane ended in April 2013, and assistant Chris Morgan, a former United coach, caretaker manager and player, will ensure Chesterfield present Doncaster Rovers with a much sterner test when at the Proact Stadium tomorrow evening.
“We gave them two goals and, no matter what anyone says about their position, you can’t afford to do that against a team with players like Sheffield United,” Wilson said. “But that’s what we did out there and there’s no getting away from it.”
Nonetheless, it would be doing Adkins and his squad a great injustice to suggest their margin of victory could be attributed solely to the opposition’s failings.
Alex Baptiste, who barely broke sweat before edging United in front, was again commanding at the back while Jay McEveley and David Edgar also went about their business with plenty of conviction but a minimum of fuss.
Further upfield, poor Talbot was completely overwhelmed by Basham while Dean Hammond, Ryan Flynn and Paul Coutts controlled the midfield. Coutts, now reaping the benefits of Adkins’ rigorous fitness regime, was instrumental in most of United’s best moves while Billy Sharp, who scored his 19th of the campaign during the second half, dovetailed well with the enthusiastic Adams.
“Usually, we’re very solid but we ended up chasing the game,” Wilson continued. “Perhaps others teams haven’t,but Sheffield United have got enough good players with the incision, if you like, to take advantage of that.
“You can’t give them opportunities like we did. So, yes, it’s very disappointing. But we’ll bounce back. We always do.”
After spending much of their recent history in a state of self-induced flux, United are finally making consistent selections and, as a consequence, achieving consistent results. Eleven of the 14 players who featured in the corresponding fixture last season have now either left or are unavailable for selection. But, after naming an unchanged starting 11 for the third match in succession, Adkins was rewarded by the sight of United completing a hat-trick of clean sheets following shut-outs against Walsall and Gillingham.
“I can’t emphasise how important that is,” he said. “We’ve not always been able to have that in the past, but it shows why we keep talking about fit and robust players.”
“I thought the lads in midfield showed their experience by really locking things down,.
“We pressed and pressed hard all the way throughout. The backline did well but all of that, the pressing, stems from the people up front. You just can’t do it if they aren’t the first line of defence.”
Baptiste, on loan from Middlesbrough, turned home when Edgar met Flynn’s corner before Adams doubled the advantage after Lee left himself stranded. The Chesterfield goalkeeper redeemed himself with fine saves to deny Flynn and Sharp during the closing stages while Matt Done also went close.
Sharp, however, had earlier converted Coutts’ low centre and was unfortunate not to have been awarded a penalty in added time. This time substitute Martyn Woolford was the provider, sweeping a delightful ball across Chesterfield’s six -ard box.
“Everyone who wears a Sheffield United shirt is good enough to play for the club,” Adams said. “The big difference I think now is that we are also getting a bit of luck and you always need that in football. The spirit has always been there behind the scenes but things are coming together now. We just want to keep on getting the wins.”
Chesterfield: Lee 6, Hird 6, Liddle 6, O’Shea 6, Novak 7, Raglan 6, Dimaio 6 (Slew 60, 6), Anderson 6, Banks 6, Talbot 5, Ariyibi 5. Not used: Ebanks-Blake, Humphreys, Donohue, Chapman, Simons, Orrell.
Sheffield United: Long 7, Baptiste 8, Basham 8, Edgar 7, McEveley 7, Hammond 8, Coutts 8, Flynn 7 (Cuvelier 75, 6), Adams 7 (Calvert-Lewin 83), Sharp 7, Done 7 (Woolford 88). Not used: Howard, McGahey, Whiteman, Sammon.
Referee: Graham Scott (Oxfordshire).