Penalties teach Blades youngsters the need for more defensive discipline

Training get-together: Blades players welcome members of the Malta Down's Syndrome Association to an hour-long workout during their tour to the Mediterannean island
Training get-together: Blades players welcome members of the Malta Down's Syndrome Association to an hour-long workout during their tour to the Mediterannean island

FRANK Barlow, Sheffield United’s assistant manager, declared the League One club’s pre-season training camp in Malta as a success, despite admitting some players had to learn “pertinent lessons” about the art of defending.

United returned home last night boasting a 100 per cent record from their two meetings with local opposition and enter Tuesday’s visit of Doncaster Rovers unbeaten during the pre-season campaign.

But Barlow lamented the fact that both goals conceded en route to those successes over Sliema Wanderers and Hibernians were penalties and warned that United could pay a heavy price unless they address the issue.

Teenage centre-half Harry Maguire was dismissed during the first half of Wednesday evening’s 2-1 win in Paola.

“There have been a lot of positives but also one or two negatives that we’ve got to look at as well,” said Barlow.

“One or two of the younger lads in particular have learned some pertinent lessons on this trip but it’s better to do that as this stage than later on. Let’s hope they put them in the bag.

“We’ve conceded two penalties over here and in the modern game now you’ve got to be very disciplined to defend.”

Maguire now faces an anxious wait to discover whether he faces further punishment.However, The Star understands that while a ban can not be ruled-out completely, it is unlikely Maguire will be suspended as a result of his challenge on Brazilian Luis Edison Dos Santos.

“Forwards always want to come across defenders these days and if they go down then most referees want to give it,” added Barlow.

“On that score we don’t have any complaints about the decision other than, given that it was a friendly, he (the referee) could have just asked that Harry went off.”

New signing Chris Porter made his debut towards the end of the clash with Mark Miller’s side despite earlier suggestions that he would not pull on a United jersey until next week at the earliest.

Explaining the decision, Barlow said: “As a player, you never feel as if you’ve completely bonded with the group until you’ve been into battle with them and so that’s why we sent Chris on.

“It was only for a short time but he’s been working exceptionally hard the past few days and most of that work has been done on his own.”

United devoted much of their time on the Mediterreanean island to promoting off-the-field causes.

Youngster Andre Abela performed mascot duties against Hibernians after being nominated for a bravery award following his acts of kindness towards a cancer-stricken classmate.

Players including Chris Morgan, Johnny Ertl and Andy Taylor attended a village fete in aid of the Puttinu Carers Foundation which raises funds for children suffering from the disease while representatives of the Malta Down’s Syndrome Association enjoyed an hour-long training session with the first team squad.

“We were absolutely delighted to show our support for these two wonderful causes,” a United spokesperson said. “The Maltese people are always exceptionally friendly towards us and it’s our way of trying to give something back.

“I know the players felt very privileged and humbled to be involved.”