James Shield’s Sheffield United Column: Time to take a deep breath and count to ten

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Disappointing, yes. A drama of Shakespearian proportions? Most definitely, no.

Sheffield United’s last two results League One can hardly be described as inspiring stuff.

But, as they enter tomorrow’s Yorkshire derby with Bradford City hoping to avoid their third straight defeat in the competition, some of the hysteria provoked by last weekend’s reverse at Notts County beggars belief.

Modern football, doubtless influenced by rolling news channels, social media and radio phone-in shows, is all about knee-jerk reactions. But only by taking a more considered look at performances, assessing returns over a group of fixtures rather than a couple of games, is it possible to paint a more accurate picture of what is actually going on.

United have been on an upward trajectory since Nigel Clough’s appointment three months ago. Which is just as well given their wretched start to the season. Inevitably, though, room for improvement still remains.

The visit of Phil Parkinson’s side marks Clough’s 16th match at the helm and, over the course of that period, United average 1.33 points per game. A near two fold increase on the figure returned between August and October.

They are 13th in the form table, compared to 21st when he arrived and two places higher in the division itself. All fairly encouraging, no matter what the prophets of doom say.

Where United must still shape-up, however, is away from home where they have scored fewer goals than any of their rivals and are without a comfortable victory (a winning margin of more than one) since March.

No wonder that, in 17 away days, United can claim only six clean sheets with one of those coming in the JP Trophy and another in the FA Cup.

Clough and his staff can take credit for orchestrating four, so their first team squad are clearly becoming more difficult to beat, but will not want reminding that November’s triumph over Bristol City at Ashton Gate still represents its only league success beyond Bramall Lane this term.

United, for various different reasons, were heading for the drop before there was a change at the helm. Big on reputation but low on results. They should not be a club battling against relegation but that, unfortunately, is exactly what they are which means some difficult to swallow scorelines are guaranteed.

*Twitter: @JamesShield1