Can League One David’s regularly beat Goliath?

Blades Boss  Danny Wilson
Blades Boss Danny Wilson

IT’S become a familiar refrain at Shirecliffe this season.

Echoed around the media room inside Sheffield United’s training complex like a shepherd’s yodel across the Swiss Alps.

Danny Wilson has said it. Ryan Flynn, Neill Collins and countless other players too.

Teams, perhaps sub-consciously, try harder against United. Regard games against Wilson’s side as something of a cup final which they enter, quite frankly, with the attitude they’ve got nothing to lose.

Which, by its very inference, can potentially create a problem for League One’s most glamorous club.

But do the facts and figures of the season so far support this theory? Or is it a figment of the squad’s imagination? An emotional crutch designed to help them cope with disappointment?

Initial responses will probably depend upon your feelings towards Wilson and his charges.

But what can not be disputed is that there are some real ‘David and Goliath’ clashes in England’s third tier.

Nothing to rival Division Three of the Scottish Football League, where Rangers’ average attendance this term is more than four times the rest of the competition combined. But you could still fit the typical match day gates of Crawley, Colchester, Bury, Scunthorpe and Stevenage, some of whom have taken points off United since competition resumed in August, and have 2,182 seats to spare.

Despite not being completely foolproof, perhaps the best way of judging whether clubs do invest more effort into clashes against Wilson’s charges is to analyse their next result.

United have failed to win on 14 occasions throughout the 2012/13 campaign. Fifty-seven per cent of those who have denied them victory (although Doncaster have done it twice) have then immediately suffered the same fate.

And five of those have been defeated despite enjoying more of the ball than they did against United.

And, curiously, exactly half of the 14 are now languishing in the bottom half of the table. A figure much higher than most folk would probably imagine.

Only Scunthorpe, when Flynn and his captain Michael Doyle received red cards, recorded a possession level of above 50 per cent.

Opponents certainly have to work hard to beat United. The fact they’ve tasted defeat over the course of 90 minutes only three times in five months tells you that.

United’s possession average is 46.6 per cent during those fixtures compared to 52 per cent when they’ve drawn.

On home soil, where they entertain Yeovil Town tomorrow, those visitors who have shared the spoils have achieved a percentage of 47.

Only one, Tranmere Rovers, bettered the 50 per cent barrier and went on to concede five goals six days later.

It is telling that Oldham Athletic are the only side to take something from a fixture with United this season and then follow that result up with a win who are below 12th in the rankings.

So Wilson might take some sort of perverse comfort from the knowledge that Gary Johnson’s side are 10th.