James Shield’s Big Match Breakdown: The Star’s Sheffield United writer analyses today’s game with Nottingham Forest

The Star's Sheffield United Writer James Shield
The Star's Sheffield United Writer James Shield

Sheffield United surrendered their place at the summit of the Championship after being beaten by Nottingham Forest at the City Ground.

Here, after Lewis Grabban's second-half goal proved enough to secure all three points for Aitor Karanka's side, The Star's James Shield analyses the main talking points of the game.

Key Moment: Probably, on reflection, the key moment of this match actually came during the closing stages of last weekend's 4-2 victory over Wigan Athletic, which had lifted United to the top of the Championship. The yellow card Chris Basham received towards the end of the meeting with Paul Cook's side ruled him out of today's visit to the City Ground. It also, given the unusual way he performs his central defensive duties, changed the dynamic of Wilder's team. Not only at the back but, given Basham's willingness to run forward, further upfield as well. This subtle change, combined with Mark Duffy's absence due to injury, proved crucial against another team hopeful of securing promotion. 

Key Man: John Egan was not necessarily United's most eye-catching performer of the afternoon. But he was, in an understated way, one of their most effective. Made a series of vital but barely noticeable interceptions to prevent Grabban darting clean through on goal. He also marshalled the visitors' backline well as Matty Cash, who until the opener was Forest's most lively attacker, struggled to cope with the physical power of United's rearguard. In the end, the deftest of contacts, from Grabban, was responsible for breaking the deadlock. 

How the Game was Lost: Grabban's glancing header, midway through the second-half, proved enough to condemn United to defeat. In truth, the hosts' looked more lively going forward although they also struggled to create clear cut openings until João Carvalho's cross was turned home by the former AFC Bournemouth striker. Kieron Freeman could easily have let the ball sail out of play but, perhaps as a result of some poor communication, headed it away and the Portuguese collected. The rest, as they say, is history.

Referee Watch: If anything, Scott Duncan was probably a shade too lenient as he allowed Forest's Cash to get away with a series of niggly and wholly unnecessary indiscretions until finally, not to mention correctly, booking him for a reckless and potentially dangerous challenge on John Fleck. Mind you, given the way some of his contemporaries now officiate games, there are far worse faults to have. This was not a particularly difficult match to take charge of as, Cash apart, both sets of players behaved themselves pretty well.

Summary: There was no shortage of effort of application on United's part. But a combination of factors, including the slight change of approach caused by the absence of two key players, meant they lacked their usual fluency in attack. Forest took full advantage. This was one of those frustrating afternoon's when, try and they might, United struggled to create clear cut chances. Even more annoying, from their perspective at least, was the fact the goal Forest scored was completely preventable. Freeman endured an afternoon to forget against his home town club and was withdrawn during the closing stages, with George Baldock coming on. It was a rare off day for the United wing-back, who will hope to regain his place for Friday's Steel City derby. United can and, as Wilder will remind them, must do better though.