Blades on red alert as Adams aims to halt slide

Micky Adams.
Micky Adams.

Boss cites lack of discipline as main reason for team’s downfall

Micky Adams is demanding an improvement in discipline after pinpointing a potentially lethal cocktail of “damning” statistics underlying Sheffield United’s slide into crisis.

Across a season of steepening decline, United have;-

Run up the most sendings-off of any Championship team.

Committed the most fouls per game.

Conceded the most goals from set-pieces.

Taken together, this is a deadly combination that the Blades boss believes goes some way to explaining why the club is in turmoil. Considering that he also acknowledges a lack of goals, the beleaguered Adams is wrestling with major problems at both ends of a team he has tried to patch up with loan signings.

“Basically, the discipline of the side has not been good and those statistics are quite damning on us all,” Adams told the Telegraph, having taken over a side that has accumulated an astonishing eight red cards this season.

“It’s a problem if you are giving fouls away and then can’t defend the free-kicks. If you are not going to defend set-pieces then it’s best not to give fouls away in dangerous areas. We have to look at everything, including combinations and systems of play. But it’s not the system that’s costing us goals.”

It is of little consolation, but the figures at least reflect that United have remained competitive. Maybe overly so at times because it’s a fine line. All the current run of three successive defeats - among 12 games without a win under Adams and 14 in all - have been by the odd goal.

“It’s just the story of my time here and the story of the season,” he said. “We’ve been there or thereabouts in every game.

“But we’ve not scored enough goals. One thing we can’t have a go at the team for is not being competitive. Whether we’re not good enough is another matter.”

Results across a season - under four different managers - tend not to lie about the quality or lack of it in a squad.

Adams must hope his players, many of whom have dipped below previous standards, rediscover some pride - and quickly.

He expects to have striker Sam Vokes, on loan from Wolves, and left back Joe Mattock back in contention this weekend.It goes without saying that Saturday’s trip to Portsmouth, followed by the visit of Nottingham Forest on Tuesday, is another crucial phase.

United are seven points from safety and can’t afford to see the margin grow if they are to have a realistic chance of pulling clear over the last ten games.

Adams, as he has repeated, has no intention of resigning even though he understands why the question keeps being asked. Equally, the board have given no outward sign of withdrawing their support.

However, the fundamental issue of what United will do if results don’t improve - whether they will go short-term or long - remains unresolved.

Adams knows results rule in the end - but it’s through little or no fault of his own that he seems to be entering a defining few days so early in his reign.