Leon Clarke’s first goal of the season wasn’t enough to earn Sheffield United all three points against Stoke City last night – but there were several encouraging signs from the 1-1 draw at Bramall Lane.
Here, our man Danny Hall offers seven talking points from the game. Let us know what you think in the comments section below, or on Twitter.
Chris Wilder was right
When he described United as ‘outstanding’ after the Stoke draw. Some of the football they played at times was right up there with anything they have produced since he arrived in 2016, one simple move that led to a chance for Leon Clarke sticking in the memory. That was a cross from centre-half Jack O’Connell!
Leon’s off the mark
For the season, and as he showed last year he’s a streaky scorer – nine goals came in November alone. Throughout his barren spell, his effort levels haven’t dropped but it was easy to suggest his confidence had; his goal against Stoke may have been simple enough, but could be the catalyst for better things to come.
That free kick
As good as the execution was – remember Oli Norwood’s similar effort against Aston Villa? – questions were inevitably asked when Joe Allen caressed in Stoke’s equaliser late in the game, beating Dean Henderson at his near post.
Replays though seem to exonerate the goalkeeper of any blame; he can be seen gesturing to his wall to move to the left. They didn’t, United seemed preoccupied with the prescence of Peter Crouch in the middle – perhaps understandably – and Allen struck.
Henderson seemed to remonstrate with Chris Basham, who was on the left of the wall, at the final whistle and had to be pulled away. Whether you apportion blame on the young stopper for the goal or not, there’s no doubting his passion and commitment to the Blades.
Holding out a lead
It was an issue late on last year – a costly equaliser against Millwall coming directly from the restart after United went ahead against their top-six rivals – and cost them again here, but what is the reason? Physical or mental?
What is for sure is that United seemed to lose their composure a little bit when they went ahead, with players like John Fleck – usually so calm on the ball – whacking it anywhere. The same United saw out victory over Hull before the break with a superb keep-ball move, so it can be done.
Basham goes into Saturday’s game against Wigan one booking away from a ban, while Enda Stevens, Kieron Freeman and Jack O’Connell are two yellows away from missing a game. With all four being key members of Wilder’s squad, it’s undoubtedly a worry in the back of minds… especially with that game coming up on November 9.
The Ben Woodburn situation
Can it be resolved? It’s the question on the lips of a lot of United fans, with Woodburn not playing for United since September 19 and appearing for Liverpool’s U23s at the weekend.
Woodburn certainly shouldn’t receive any preferential treatment because he’s on loan from a Premier League giant, but hopefully he can still play a part for United this season – especially given United don’t have effective back-up for Mark Duffy, who sometimes tires in games and seemed to be feeling his hamstring against Stoke.
Someone will take a tonking soon
Especially with the way United are playing. Just as they did against Aston Villa, there will surely be an afternoon before long when everything clicks into place and the ball drops in the right area in the penalty area.