THEIR room for manoeuvre has vanished. Margin for error disappeared.
Sheffield United, who trail second placed AFC Bournemouth by six points and with a new manager at the helm, entertain Swindon Town tomorrow knowing another miscalculation could see the outcome of this season’s race for the Championship wrestled from their control.
So how do eleven highly trained but fallible individuals cope with intolerable pressure? Deliver a virtuoso performance after dropping several bum notes.
Rob Kozluk, the former United defender and England under-21 defender, revealed last night the secret lies in embracing the hullabaloo surrounding pivotal fixtures. And, he told The Star, why Danny Wilson’s replacement Chris Morgan possesses the credentials to succeed in his new role.
“Morgs is the type of character players will want to do well for,” Kozluk said. “Because of who is he and what he’s done, he instantly commands respect.
“Having been in a dressing room with him, I know the high regard in which he’s always been held. The lads there now will want to get promotion for themselves and definitely for Danny Wilson who has put them in a good position.
“But, have no doubt about it, they’ll also want to do it for Morgs. They won’t want to let him down.”
While some of the commentary following Tuesday’s defeat by Crawley lacked perspective - it was, after all, only the second time United have been beaten in 12 outings - the manner in which they succumbed nevertheless raises some issues for Morgan to address.
Away from home, United have largely gone about their business with confidence and purpose. At Bramall Lane, where they host fellow contenders Brentford three days after Town’s visit, those same players now appear consumed by nerves.
While Kozluk, now a player/coach with Ilkeston, can not comment on the reasons behind United troubling form, he said: “Let’s be honest, you shouldn’t need a team talk for these last five games.
“I’m sure the crowd will get right behind Morgs and, let me tell you, that does make a massive difference if you’re out there on the pitch. I can remember the night we beat Nottingham Forest in the (2003) play-off semi-final and we felt like we’d done the job even before kick-off because of the buzz around Bramall Lane during the warm-up.
“No one enjoys doing the ugly side of the game but it has to be done and when the crowd is behind you it creates such an adrenalin rush you could run all day.”
United, fifth in the table and two points ahead of Kevin MacDonald’s charges, drew 0-0 at the County Ground in November.
“It’s a huge game but I used to enjoy all the build-up to those,” Kozluk, a veteran of nearly 400 Football and Premier League appearances, said. “You don’t get near the first team at Sheffield United by accident. You get there because you’re a good player so just work hard, trust your ability and don’t be afraid to make a mistake.”