Alan Biggs at Large: Random events conspired to stop Sheffield United winning against Millwall
Two steps forward and two steps back is a fair summary of events at Sheffield United … and better that the steps forward are taken at the start of a season and the start of a match.
It’s too late to rectify the first but the second has to be a pressing priority after back-to-back home games that clearly highlighted it.While refereeing decisions had a major part in the 2-1 defeat to Millwall, after a win from behind by the same score against Stoke, the theme from both games was similar.Manager Slavisa Jokanovic recognises it, hence his substitutions including one in the first half on Tuesday. But doing something proactive about it is proving tricky.The Blades were outfought in midfield amid a pedestrian first half in midweek, compounded by a goalkeeping error that gave Millwall the lead.Jokanovic chose to bypass the problem with Iliman Ndiaye on for the strangely “absent” Conor Hourihane and United came alive.Without excusing the overall performance, I’m convinced they’d have won with goals to spare from their second half surge but for an unbelievable David McGoldrick miss, Morgan Gibbs-White’s red card and the referee’s failure to apply the same to Millwall’s George Saville.Random events conspired, including the sledgehammer of Jake Cooper’s 20 yard stoppage time winner as a player who has haunted Bramall Lane before.But you wonder, and not for the first time, if the final ball is played early enough. What you don’t doubt is the effect two players in particular can yet have on this campaign.Gibbs-White misses Sunday at Barnsley on Sunday but will again be a virtually unstoppable player after that.And Ndiaye staked a claim to be a regular starter with his bench impact against Millwall, only denied by a brilliant save with the game in the balance.These, for me, are the two players who can change the dynamic to give the long-standing core group some extra impetus.And it’s needed earlier in games rather than later.