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Wilder's tactics so far

Posted by Bergen Blade on August 15, 2016 at 5:45 AM Comments comments (0)

By all accounts, Chris Wilder's preferred formation at Northampton was 4-2-3-1. After joining the Blades he stated that he had a preferred system, although he didn't actually say which one. But he did reveal he would be signing players to fit the system, not vice versa. After the Blades seemed to play most pre season games with a 4-2-3-1 system most Blades assumed that would be Wilder's preference.



In the final pre season game vs Derby we lined up like this:


On paper, and to some extent in the pre season matches, it looked exciting. The three players behind Sharp had been roaming, swapping positions and playing fast, exciting football and all looked like goal threats. A wingless formation, the width was supposed to come from the full backs, which Wilder suggested would be the best in the division. Fleck was the new playmaker, backed up by the work rate of Basham. In Adkins' teams only the two strikers looked like goal threats, but in the above team goals looked like they could come from all over. Done, McNulty, Duffy, Sharp, Adams, Calvert-Lewin, Scougall all looked able to get goals, and further signings were expected to improve us even more.


But then we signed Leon Clarke. After originally looking for a target man type striker as a plan B, a cheap (?) squad player likely to be used from the bench, Wilder suddenly found himself having signed one of the top scorers from last season. With Billy Sharp (21 goals last season) and Clarke (18 ) it became too tempting not to use them both. Clarke gave the team some added height and strength, which the above team admittedly lacked.


But so far it hasn't worked. At Bolton I think Wilder still would call his formation 4-2-3-1, with Clarke in a bit withdrawn role behind Sharp. But with Clarke included it becomes natural, or tempting, to make use of his target man qualities. Goal kicks and free kicks from our half were aimed at him, as was the odd long ball. For throw ins he came to flick it on. For crosses he had to be in the box. His role became very similar to that of an orthodox target man and vs Rochdale our formation looked very much like a narrow 4-4-2.


I was concerned of how this would tweak player roles. There was little of the clever link up play that had been seen by the likes of McNulty and Scougall in pre season. Vs Derby McNulty also worked hard defensively, helping out the often outnumbered Fleck and Basham centrally, but also tracking back to cover for Done and Duffy on occasions.


With Clarke and Sharp now playing effectively up front together, Done and Duffy have been forced to drop deeper and work harder defensively. This has reduced their attacking impact. Duffy hasn't had enough skilful teammates to interplay with and when Done has got into the box he hasn't been able to get on the end of things.


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With two experienced *star* strikers up front I think it has become too tempting for the other players to look for them too early, too often. Vs Rochdale this saw us play a lot of long balls, rather than trying to build penetrative attacks with the pace and movement that Wilder's teams are known for. It became too predictable and easy for Rochdale's defence to deal with.




Opposition teams:



The opposition teams deserve some credit for stopping us. Bolton, Crewe and Rochdale have all lined up with 4-5-1 formations and tried to prevent us getting space to play in and run into. We have generally started well, pressing high up the pitch, but after 20-25 minutes the opposition have started to get into the game more. Do we tire? Is the style too physically demanding? Or do we struggle to counteract their counteraction, i.e stuff like this:


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Both Bolton and Rochdale seemed to win a lot of throw ins down our left after hitting long balls up to this area. Even though they didn't always win the header, they were able to put us under so much pressure for the second ball that our players often just cleared it out for a throw in. The likes of Done and Fleck aren't the biggest and struggled with the bouncing balls in this area of the pitch. Bolton and Rochdale were able to stop our momentum, slow the game down and give their defence a break. Simple tactics, but effective.



These long balls also made it more difficult for us to press high the way we want to. When we tried, the opposition would often just play it backwards, until another long punt upfield came and this became the pattern of the game. No matter how much Done tried, and ran, he rarely got close enough, followed by having to get to get back to defend again. Frustrating!



Our answer to this was to go longer ourselves, especially vs Rochdale, and so the game became very scrappy. The team isn't quite equipped to play this way and it's not Wilder's style. We don't look happy defending deep. We'd need more solid wide men and more pace up front for a 4-4-2 to work, but maybe it will be easier to return to the formation and set up we practiced in the summer.



Some things for Wilder to consider



  • Drop Sharp or Clarke
  • Find a number 10 that contributes offensively and defensively
  • Find a more constructive midfield option than Basham
  • Get that pacey forward signed
  • Look for even more quality to counteract destructive tactics
  • Stick to your principles
  • Certainly return to them if new things don't work

How will we line up for the big Kick Off?

Posted by Bergen Blade on August 3, 2016 at 3:40 PM Comments comments (2)


Another season is about to start, and the Blades will make another attempt at getting promotion from League One. It's been a pretty busy summer at the Lane and Bolton away is our first away game. How will Wilder compose his team?


I think he may go with the line up that started in the last major pre season game vs Derby, which was this:



This means we'll line up with 4-2-3-1.


In goal George Long will start. Having let go of Howard, Long is now backed up by teenager Aaron Ramsdale, but if Long doesn't start well, we should expect a more experienced option to come in before the window closes.

Wilder will encourage the full backs to go forward and be our main providers of width. We're hoping John Brayford will rediscover the form he showed when he first joined us on loan. A full pre season should hopefully help. Chris Hussey will be our left back, having arrived from Bury. He's well known for his excellent crossing and quality set pieces. 


At centre half we have another two new arrivals. Jack O'Connell has arrived from Brentford and James Wilson from Oldham. Both are mobile centre halves, something Wilder thinks will help us play a high pressing game. O'Connell never got a real chance at Brentford, while Wilson hasn't been able to realise his potential at Oldham. They should both be hungry and eager to do well, but they haven't had a long time to work on their partnership. 


 In central midfield new signing John Fleck will be our new playmaker. He's a small, but strong player with good passing ability. Alongside him, Chris Basham is likely to start and he'll work hard up and down the pitch, getting tackles in. Basham lacks creativity, and Wilder is looking for someone to provide more competition in this position, but Basham is currently the first choice alongside  Fleck.


The three players behind the main striker (surely Sharp) are likely to contain Matt Done and Mark Duffy in wide roles, although they won't play as old fashioned wingers. Done is especially expected to get into the box and get on the end of things. Duffy is a clever, creative and skilful player and will try to set up chances for the other teammates. In the central attacking role Marc McNulty looks like starting. He's done quite well in this role in pre season, and it's good for him that he's not just a back up for Sharp as a striker. He's got decent all round qualities and is another goal threat.


Other options for the no 10 role is Stefan Scougall, Che Adams and Leon Clarke, but McNulty started vs Derby and didn't do badly. Scougall is back in the mix after being completely frozen out by Adkins. Although he's done well in pre season, I think he'll start on the bench. Che Adams has attracted a lot of interest this season, but as I write he remains a Blade and should also be on the bench vs Bolton.


Billy Sharp is newly appointed captain and it would be a shock if he wasn't  to start up front.


* Will Leon Clarke start, and if so, in which position?


Leon Clarke is a new signing and Wilder may be tempted to include him. In that case he has to decide whether to play him in the withdrawn role behind Sharp, or switch to 4-4-2 and play Clarke and Sharp up front together.


Personally I feel the balance of the team looks better and more exciting in a 4-2-3-1. Wilder tried Clarke and Sharp together for 10-15 minutes against Derby, but had to change it again as we started being overrun. A formation switch will affect the roles of the likes of Done and Duffy and may reduce their attacking impact.


Anyway, we look far better equipped for a decent sesaon than what we did a year ago. I think we will create more chances, entertain more and score more goals, and Wilder will not put up with non performing individuals or tactics that's not working in the way that Adkins did.

Wilder's playing style

Posted by Bergen Blade on May 13, 2016 at 6:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Chris Wilder is the new Blades manager after the club wasted little time in finding a replacement for the departed Nigel Adkins. Wilder has done a great job at Northampton, saving them from relegation and building a Championship winning side on limited resources. Most Blades will be interested in what differences will we see on the pitch at the Lane. 

In terms of playing style Wilder seems to favour 4-2-3-1, but has also used 4-4-2. Northampton have played with high tempo and look to create and choose forward passing options, with quick forward movement into space as soon as they win the ball. Their counter attacking has been a strength. From what I've read, Wilder's playing style seems similar to Leicester's this season.


This article from last summer at Northampton also gives away some clues:



Chris Wilder says his recruitment efforts at Northampton Town this summer have attacking football in mind.

The Cobblers boss, who made former Bury midfielder Nicky Adams his second new signing ahead of the 2015/16 season on Friday, wants his side to play in an eye-catching fashion as he plots promotion from League Two.

Winger Alfie Potter, who was most recently at AFC Wimbledon, was Wilder's first capture and he believes that both new additions will fit in with his philosophy.

"We know the way we want to play, we want a high tempo, high intensity, attacking style that excites the fans," said Wilder to the official site.

"That is the way we play, energetic, forward running with talented players, and we need depth, quality and options to do that for 50 plus games a season.

"We are still developing the team and maybe the fact we have got Nicky has raised a few eyebrows.

"We have worked very hard to get this deal [Adams] done. A lot of work goes on from a lot of people here and we have got it over the line. We know a lot about him, he has won promotions and we feel that is important.

"He knows how to win and he has desire and ambition.

"We are still looking to add and I think a lack of depth let us down a little last season and we want to rectify that this time around.

"I'm delighted with the first two additions.

"They were key men we targeted and we have signed two players who are a good age and suit the way we want to play.

"Technically, mentally and physically they are very good, they have pace, they are creative and it has been a good few days for us."



 I watched Northampton once this season, the cup game against Northwich, in which they struggled, but came back from 0-2 to win 3-2. It was a good cup tie and their enthusiasm was matched on the day, but you could still see what they were aiming to do.



Forward movement is key and while the two central midfielders hold back a lot of the time the front four are continuously trying to find good positions off the ball and making penetrative runs. Full backs overlap as well, especially Buchanan on the left. All players looked fit and mobile. Being an attacking side they struggled a bit when hit on the break.



There was nothing to suggest we'll play "hoof ball".



Personally I'm a lot more optimistic about next season now. Let's hope Wilder is able to identify the right type of players that fits into his system, but also have a bit more ability than what was the case at Northampton. A lot of Blades managers have been tempted to go for names, ex-players and pedigree, but Wilder seems to have a very modern, effective football philosophy and should have confidence in that and add players that suits the style.

What player changes will take place?


Quite a few. That would have been the case with Adkins as well, as many players are out of contract. 

I think Wilder will be signing a target man. He's used one at previous clubs, and the Blades have missed aerial strength and someone to get on the end of crosses this season. I wouldn't rule out Sharp spearheading the attack either, and Northampton did play 4-4-2 in some games. Wilder will also have to bring in a couple of new centre halves, a left back and a couple of strong central midfielders who can play-make as well.

In the 4-2-3-1 the three players behind the striker seem to have played with a lot of freedom, roaming around and making penetrating runs, buzzing around the striker. I think at least a couple of creative, mobile players will be signed for these positions, but maybe Done and Adams could figure as well.


Poor tempo at Bury

Posted by Bergen Blade on February 17, 2016 at 3:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Our starting line up at Bury was:




Brayford Edgar Basham McEveley


Reed Hammond


Calvert-Lewin - - - - - Baxter - - - - - - JCR





With Basham coming in for Collins it was pretty much the same team that beat Doncaster.


There are some good things on paper with this side.


  • Quite robust and experienced back four
  • One attacking full back supporting an inside forward (DCL) in front of him and a more holding type behind the out and out winger in JCR.
  • In midfield there's the exeperienced holding guy with a ball player in Reed.
  • More pace out wide and up front
  • Creativity and a midfield goal threat from Baxter
  • Generally a decent mix between experience and youth
  • Height/strength maintained


So why didn't it work at all? We added pace and had three players in midfield, which many of us have wanted. I think our two biggest problems were:


  • Lack of running/work rate/aggression, tenacity in midfield
  • Poor tempo


Before I watched the game I posted this on a message board, on JCR :


"Quite often the tempo of our attacks is so slow that by the time we actually get the ball out wide to him, the opposition have all their defenders back, waiting, ready to deal with the cross, if it comes in. I think also JCR at times slows things down himself before he takes his man on. Maybe he sees his job as to be available out wide, beat his man and knock it in, then hopefully there will be a teammate on the end of it. But I think he'd be more effective if he was more often part of a wave; quicker attacks where he could run onto the ball, attack his full back and cross before the opposition defence got back and before the movement into the box had stopped."



There were a few examples of this, including this one:



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Brayford's inside run and pass out to JCR has created some space, but it takes a long time before a cross comes in and we are lacking players in the box.




Our counter attacking wasn't good enough. I think us not being strong enough in midfield is the main cause of this, but even when we did have the chance we often chose not to take it. Here we win the ball when Bury have three or four players forward, but waste the chance to counter attack. There are too many passes and the long punt up to an isolated Adams is easy to deal with for their defence:


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Even Baxter, from his position behind Adams, gets back to playmake, rather than making attacking runs into space. Counter attacking is more than trying to kick it upfield for a quick striker to chase. We need determination to make use of these situations, and more players who can run on the ball, and off the ball, quickly and often.



Another example of many passes in our own half, then a chip up to a lonesome Che, who's really got a thankless task to do something about those passes:



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Finally, I'll include one better attempt: Here we win the ball when Bury have many players high up. DCL immediately (!) runs (!!) on the ball and hits a great through ball to Adams, who has timed his run well.



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Unfortunately Che's first touch makes him lose momentum, but he's still able to hit another through ball, to Baxter who's made a long off the ball run (!!!), but a challenge from behind sees him fail to control the ball.



We tried to up the tempo in the second half, but Bury were happy to drop deeper and soak up the pressure. In the end we had a very attacking side on the pitch, but still struggled to create much.



Huge clear-out expected this summer

Posted by Bergen Blade on January 31, 2016 at 2:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Regardless of how this season ends, it looks likely that there will be a huge clear out at Bramall Lane this summer. Many players are out of contract. Some are completely out of the favour, and others are probably considered past their best and therefore unlikely to be offered a new deal.

* Adkins should be prepared for a busy summer.

Let's have a look at how the squad could look like before any new signings are made, using this colour code:


  • Green - Likely to challenge for first team spot
  • Orange - Likely to be back up
  • Red - Unlikely to feature much, may go on loan?




George Long - Contracted till June 2016 * Reckon he'll be offered a new deal as Adkins seems a fan

Aaron Ramsdale - Contracted till June 2017(?)

Jake Eastwood - Contracted till June 2017(?)


Likely departures:


  • George Willis - Out of contract. Not a teenager anymore and seems no nearer to making his debut.
  • Mark Howard - Out of contract. Displaced by Long after an unconvincing spell. Has also had some injuries and we're likely to look for a new goalkeeper.





John Brayford - Contracted till June 2018. Will stay unless he is considered too expensive.

Harrison McGahey - Contracted till June 2016 + optional year extension * Although he's not figured, we may decide to take up this option due to his age

Keiron Wallace - Contracted till June 2018. Young, quite versatile and therefore a useful squad player.


Likely departures:

  • Kieron Freeman - Contracted till June 2017. Not figured since Brayford returned and needs to leave to find first team football. Should attract offers, if not permanent, then long term loan.
  • David Edgar - Rather inconsistent loan spell. Not likely to return.
  • Neill Collins - Out of contract. Past his best.
  • Terry Kennedy - Out of contract. Too many injuries, and Adkins isn't as big a fan as Clough was.
  • Jay McEveley - Out of contract. Getting on a bit and unlikely to remain.
  • Bob Harris - Out of contract. Struggled with injury this season. Must impress this spring if he's going to be offered another deal.




Chris Basham - Contracted till June 2017

Dom Calvert-Lewin - Contracted till June 2018.

Paul Coutts - Contracted till June 2017

Louis Reed - Contracted till June 2018 * If someone comes in for him I wouldn't be surprised to see him leave

Ben Whiteman - Contracted till June 2017 (?)

Martyn Woolford - Contracted till June 2017 *May remain, but wouldn't be surprised to see him transfer listed due to not impressing

David Brooks - Contracted till June 2017(?)


Likely departures:

  • Jose Baxter - Out of contract. Started the season as a first choice, but Adkins is struggling to fit him into his 4-4-2 formation.
  • Jamal Campbell-Ryce - Out of contract. Past his best.
  • Florent Cuvelier - Out of contract. Back from injury, but still not in the squad.
  • Connor Dimaio - Out of contract. Not been given a chance to impress.
  • Ryan Flynn - Out of contract. We have an optional extension on him, but has been mostly a cover player under Adkins.
  • Callum McFadzean - Finally out of contract. Hasn't developed as hoped.
  • James Wallace - Out of contract. Sent on loan by Adkins despite being fit and team struggling.
  • Stefan Scougall - Contracted till June 2017. Out of favour and likely to be encouraged to move.
  • Dean Hammond - Loan ends. Obviously an Adkins favourite and being available on a free transfer in the summer, there is a chance he may be signed. He hasn't impressed though and looks past his best.






Matt Done - Contracted till June 2017 + optional year extension. Struggling to impress under Adkins.

Billy Sharp - Contracted till June 2017.

Che Adams - Contracted till 2018. He may attract offers.

Jake Wright - Contracted till 2017(?).


Likely departures:

  • Conor Sammon - Loan ends. Not a big hit and unlikely to be offered a contract in the summer.
  • Diego De Girolamo - Contracted till June 2017. Can't afford wasting another season and must actively try to find a new club.
  • Marc McNulty - Contracted till June 2017. Adkins prefers Sharp, and they are probably too similar to play together. Portsmouth will probably try to sign him.




Adkins has so far failed to make a squad, mostly signed by previous managers, play the way he wants to. At the moment he's turned to a very defensive playing style and the biggest, strongest and most experienced players within the squad. In the summer he will be allowed to start again, and shape the squad the way he wants to. It is likely that many will depart the Lane, even if they do - somehow - bring us promotion this season.


From the above list - 7 players are likely to remain to challenge for a first team spot. 6 more to provide back up. Several signings will have to be made. Basically, a new squad will have to be built.





Vre sjanser p Old Trafford

Posted by Bergen Blade on January 5, 2016 at 4:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Sheffield United var et meget godt cuplag under Nigel Clough.



Som underdogs hadde vi typene som var flinke til å jage, dekke rom, løpe mye demme opp, frustrere. Med Doyle som rutinert anker bak rappfotede terriere som Louis Reed og Stefan Scougall klarte ikke lag som Southampton, QPR og Tottenham å spille oss ut. Samtidig contret vi bra. Reed og Scougall hadde løpsstyrken til å være med fremover, backene fulgte på, og på kantene hadde vi spillere i Murphy og JCR som hadde ferdighetene til å runde selv Premiership-backer.



Det var i ligaen at Clough-lagets svakheter kom til syne. Forrige sesong fant vi aldri noen god angrepsrytme. Vi var generelt ikke så gode til å styre kampene, og slet både med å bryte ned forsvar som lå dypt, og å handtere lag som jaget oss på egen halvdel. Fysikken var et problem.


Nigel Adkins har vært gjennom noe av det samme denne sesongen. Han startet optimistisk med å spille en åpen, offensiv fotball. Det gav oss en del mål å juble for, men omtrent like mange baklengs å ergre oss over. Det var etter det ydmykende 2-4 nederlaget hjemme mot Shrewsbury at Adkins tok grep og la om stilen helt.



Siden det har vi stort sett spilt med de elleve største og sterkeste og mest rutinerte spillerene vi har. Med en taktikk som i stor grad gikk ut på å vinne krigen og holde tett bakover, fikk vi bedring i resultatene. I de siste par kampene har laget også skapt litt mer fremover, selv om forsvaret raknet på ny mot Peterborough (2-3).


Kan en slik taktikk funke mot Manchester United på Old Trafford? Mens tredjedivisjonsdommere ikke alltid drar opp gule og røde kort for beinknusende tacklinger, kan det bli annerledes på lørdag. Spillere som McEveley og Hammond kan nok ikke klinke like tøft til i duellene, og hvis vi må senke aggressiviteten noen hakk, har dette laget nok å spille på? Vil vi henge med i svingene mot teknisk overlegne stjernespillere? Kan vi kontre og skape sjanser uten fart og særlige individuelle kvaliteter?


Vi får se. Det er ikke helt sikkert at Nigel Adkins spiller med samme ellever som forrige helg. En Done eller Adams kan også tilføre fart og gi oss en kontringstrussel. Adkins kan også finne på å gjøre flere rokkeringer, ettersom vi har en - egentlig - viktigere kamp allerede på tirsdag, mot Wigan, en skikkelig sekspoengskamp. Kan han finne på å skifte ut hele laget på lørdag? Han har gjort det i tidligere cupkamper, og er nok fristet, men man skal huske på at Old Trafford-kampen er en gulrot av dimensjoner. Det spørs om Adkins vil nekte sine foretrukne menn denne sjansen.


Så er det litt diskutabelt om hva som er vårt beste lag, og hvilke 11 som er best egnet til å gjøre en ok figur på Old Trafford.


Jeg frykter det verste. Men man vet aldri, og det er lov å håpe på det beste. Uansett, er det alltid fantastisk å ha en live TV-kamp å se frem mot! Lykke til på lørdag!!




What Adkins learned this week

Posted by Bergen Blade on October 18, 2015 at 2:50 PM Comments comments (0)



Nigel Adkins is learning things about his squad every week. All season he's been making tweaks, adjustments, changes in selections, roles and formations to try get the balance just right and to get the most out of his players. I'm still hopeful he'll get it right eventually.


Against Oldham he started with this line up:



Freeman McGahey Collins Wallace


Baxter - - -- - - Scougall

Adams - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Done





There are a few good things about this team on paper. Basham has got a few decent defensive attributes, height, tackling, hard work. You'd think he'd be good at protecting the back four, making headers and tackles in front of the centre halves and making their jobs easier. On paper the 4-3-3, easily transformed to 4-5-1 should give us an extra man advantage in the middle of the park, compared to our 4-4-2 formation which Adkins played in his first couple of months.


Going forward the starting eleven also looks quite exciting. Full backs who both have something to offer going forward. The creativity of Baxter combined with Scougall's running on and off the ball in advanced midfield. Pace and goal-scoring ability out wide and an experienced poacher up front.


So why didn't it work?


We really struggled in midfield first half. Several times Oldham played straight through us. Adams and Done did not get back as much as required, and this meant Scougall and Baxter struggled to get close enough to the Oldham midfielders.


Basham also struggled to sweep up behind them. Despite his defensive attributes, he lacks experience in this position and didn't seem to know whether to get stuck in, or to hold a sweeping position. It takes a football brain to get these things right, as shown by Stuart McCall in his first season with us, and on occasions by Michael Doyle.


An example of us not getting close to Oldham:


Basham in the holding role was also a problem from an attacking perspective. He's not composed on the ball enough to come short, get the ball from the defenders and distribute with neat passes. Adkins knows this, so we don't use Basham in that manner. Instead we were more direct and our attacks were often chipped balls from defenders down the channels to our forward trio, neither of whom managed to get hold of it, or hold it up, and it soon came back.


We got the equaliser. A fine run by Scougall and superb shot by Done. It didn't come as a result of us playing particularly well though.


After 35 minutes Adkins made the change which did change the pattern of the game. Basham and Baxter swapped positions.


From that point we took over the midfield. Basham got closer to the Oldham midfielders who could no longer distribute forward without being closed down, we won more second balls, more tackles, more free kicks and got more situations in the box. Scougall's chasing became more effective too. Baxter showed on a couple of occasions that he is capable of reading the game well, and from a defensive point of view he's more suited to this role, rather than chasing around.


Oldham produced very little after this.


Consequently we got chances. Sharp hit the post first half, then in the second half:


  • 4' sitter for Collins
  • 4' Sharp plays Che through on goal, goes to ground after clashing with the goalkeeper
  • 11' Che sends Done clear, finish just wide
  • 14' Baxter reads game well, intercepts, runs on ball, shoots over
  • 15' Red card for Oldham - this also affects the pattern of the game for a messy ten minutes
  • 24' Sharp sitter after cross from Wallace
  • 27' Sharp cross, Scougall sitter, but hits post


With no reward we sort of ran out of steam after this, a powerful Adams shot the closest we got.


I think fans have been too harsh after the game. It was probably worse, and a lot more disappointing watching it live. Especially when they got down to ten men and we still fail to score, it can be extremely frustrating. Sammon came on and didn't do well. I've seen a few ridicule the fact that he came on to play on the left, ignoring that he came on and helped rescue the game from that role a few weeks ago at Bradford.


I'd like to see Adkins stick with the side that played from the 35th minute, as there is decent balance and good attacking potential in that XI. I don't expect us to suddenly turn into world beaters, but if those eleven can learn more about each other and develop a better understanding I think there's good reason to hope for improved performances both offensively and defensively.


Morecambe player report

Posted by Bergen Blade on August 14, 2015 at 6:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Morecambe - Blades 0-1

*Collins scores the winner


Think it was a decent game, certainly much better than I thought having listened to the radio.


Our formation was 4-4-1-1 with McNulty playing deeper than the main striker who was Sammon:



Freeman Edgar McEveley K.Wallace

Scougall Basham J.Wallace Woolford




Howard 5 - Not very convincing. Flapped at some crosses, lost an easy loose ball, was slow to get down when their free kick hit the post. His body language, the fact that he looks a bit more commanding than Long will probably make him a first choice on Saturday.


Freeman 9 - Excellent offensively and defensively. Constantly on the run forward, trying to contribute and help us create chances. Skilful and neat, combining well with Scougall, Wallace and McNulty in particular. I've seen people criticise his final ball. Don't agree with that, but often the problem was that Morecambe had so many players back that it was hard to find someone free in the box. There was one massively overhit cross at the end, and my suspicion is that a lot of people thought "he's been down that side a lot, but we haven't scored, i.e. his balls in haven't been good enough. Defensively he was also covering behind the centre halves a few times, although he was probably lucky to escape a sending off in the first half when his risky last ditch tackle saw him get very little of the ball.


Edgar 7 - Solid debut where he won every header. Also looked suprisingly good on the ball for a centre half. There was especially one touch and direct pass to Wallace that was superb. Some good passes apart from that too. There was one occasion on a defensive corner where he was blocked, therefore losing his man, and then desperately pulling him down. Think that would have been a penalty if the referee had seen it. Just before half time his man (Edwards) was allowed a free shot as well, not sure why Edgar lost him there.


McEveley 7 - Lost two headers first half and there was the odd pass that didn't find a team mate, but generally solid, calm and composed game. A few important blocks and challenges.


K.Wallace 6 - Doesn't look outstanding and I don't think he's a long term answer. I think he lacks pace and will struggle with quick and tricky wide men. He was in control most of the time vs Morecambe though and as he's a six footer he does make us a little bit stronger aerially.



Scougall 8 - Excellent and every bit as positive as in his first season. Took some time to get going, but eventually made himself available, found space, ran on the ball and tried penetrative passes. Linked well with teammates and Morecambe struggled to get near him, let alone stop him. Should gain confidence from this match as he looked to really enjoy it.


Basham 6,5 - Often looks a bit awkward and he is limited as a holding playmaker. Morecambe soon realised that it was his partner that was more important to close down, and thus Basham was often given a bit more time on the ball. As he's often a bit unsure of what to do, this slows our tempo down. Gave it away dangerously once or twice, but also won a lot of headers and got some challenges in. Agree with those saying he looks a bit lost in a central midfield duo though. Last season he was a ball winner/box to box man, so it's going to take a bit of getting used to for him to do this new role. I'd let him continue with Wallace for now though.


J.Wallace 8 - Excellent on the ball many times, lots of creative passes and through balls. Delighted to see him back and do so well. Was well closed down at the start of the game, but gradually started having more impact. Can get rid of a marker, run on the ball and spot runs into the box. Good corners too. At times (especially first half) he and Basham struggled to cover enough space behind them and that could be a problem in a 4-4-2. Clough would have gone mad if he'd seen the amount of times Morecambe found space between our defence and midfield. Disappeared later on and looked tired before he went off. Wallace must be a starter though, let's hope he stays fit.


Woolford 5 - Sadly I still haven't seen him play well, and it's time to let him start on the bench and see if he can come in and have a greater impact from there. Lacks pace for a wide man and doesn't seem exceptionally skilful. I think Adkins would like to see him chip in with goals, but he didn't threaten nor set anything of note up in this game.



McNulty 7 - Played behind Sammon and looked good when he got on the ball. His touch was good and he linked play a lot better than what he did last season. I think his fitness is improving after some reports of him looking heavier than before in the summer. He fluffed two good chances of scoring though. A third attempt looked a sure goal, but was blocked by a defender throwing himself at it.


Sammon 5,5 - You could see why he doesn't score many goals. Finished poorly when he got the chance. A second half back post header from a cross was his best effort. Worked pretty hard and is a good athlete and played a couple of decent passes. A better team player than goal getter.



Adams 6 - Came on at half time for Woolford and played on the left. More involved than MW, but not as impressive as in pre season. Their right back was a competitive, stocky guy, who didn't look easy to get past. Couldn't really make use of his pace, but had a couple of shots and won the corner that we scored from.


Collins came on and scored the winner, great header from a corner. Reed came on right before the end.





As I said I think it was a decent game with some great performances and some mediocre. In the second half there looked to be a gulf in class and at times we almost got too much time and space on the ball - until we got the ball in the box! Morecambe dropped very deep at times and defended well in their box. If one of our earlier efforts had gone in I think we would have scored more.


Higher tempo may have helped break them down, but it's not easy to just switch that on. It could be necessary with a better playmaker than Basham (but then we'd possibly be overrun). No doubt Harris/Murphy would strengthen our left hand side, which wasn't great vs Morecambe. We must also look at which forwards will be our strongest and make sure we maintain enough pace in the side as we try to fix other things. In any case I think it was a definite step in the right direction.



Boring notes from the game:


  • Basham limited as a defensive playmaker
  • 4.25 Great Freeman run, almost sitter for McNulty - airshot
  • McNulty deeper than Sammon, 4-4-1-1?
  • Edgar looking comfortable on ball, good touch for a ch
  • Team looking a bit bigger and stronger. 6-7 six footers
  • Looking to Scougall to link play
  • Freeman good start
  • Our centre midfielders very well closed down, hard for us to use them
  • 15 mins M clean through, but Freeman gets a tackle in
  • Then good run and shot from McNulty
  • James Wallace corner looking good
  • Nice play Freeman-Wallace-Scougall, but poor cross from latter
  • McEveley takes out linesman
  • 20 mins Basham and Wallace struggling to cover enough space.
  • 20:30 typical Basham mistake
  • Good ball from McNulty to Sammon, but challenged - corner kick
  • Howard loses simple ball
  • Edgar is blocked at def corner, then probably fouls, but ref don't see it
  • Good ball from Wallace to McNulty, poor shot
  • Some decent, creative passes from Wallace
  • 25' M free kick hits post. Howard slow
  • 27 Superb ball from Wallace, Freeman's cross stopped
  • 28' Another dangerous corner from Wallace, flicked on at first post
  • 29 Great ball from Wallace to McNulty who sends Sammon clear. Poor finish wide
  • Edgar winning every header
  • 32' Freeman covering very well again
  • Once more good play from Wallace, getting forward
  • Freeman brilliant 1-2 with McNulty (superb chip). Volleyed shot wide
  • Well done Scougs, K. Wallace, McNulty
  • Superb defensive challenge from Freeman again
  • 41 Decent attack, but midfield then fail to get back to stop break, leading to dangerous M shot
  • Howard flaps at cross, dangerous, but shot blocked
  • 45 Edgar loses his man at corner, free shot



2nd half

  • Superb start by Scougall, run and sending Adams clear
  • Wallace-McNulty - good cross, Sammon header saved/blocked
  • 3' Scougs can't connect well enough on through ball
  • Good start
  • Wallace very close to sending Sammon clear again, looking excellent
  • Edgar free header from Scougall's corner, but poor connection
  • Great link play from Freeman, Scougs, Wallace.
  • 9' Unlucky Freeman cross
  • Blades dominating, good spell
  • Scougs looking good, bright, eager to find space, run on the ball and make penetrative passes. Not always got the accuracy
  • Sammon shot wide after Scougs winning back possession
  • Great possession play and good cross from Freeman
  • 19 McEv taking one for the team, booking after we lost balance
  • Scoug's task to block free kicks
  • Freeman cross, McNulty first time shot, far over. McNulty doing well though, finding space, distributing well.
  • 24 Blades finding a lot of space, looking far superior
  • 26 Freeman cross massively overhit (bumpy pitch??)
  • Another Sammon effort, doesn't look like a great finisher
  • McEve turned (clever, well done by M player)
  • Good effort at through ball from Sammon
  • Bash winning most headers in midfield
  • Wallace quieter as the match went on
  • Adams shot saved
  • Another McNulty shot blocked, looked a sure goal
  • Freeman alone against two M players, manages to stop the pass
  • 44 not great free kick from Adams
  • Adams wins the corner we scored from
  • Lot of game play, but Morecambe always good at having enough man back to block/prevent free shots


Gillingham analysis

Posted by Bergen Blade on August 11, 2015 at 7:35 AM Comments comments (0)


The Blades got off to a nightmare start as we lost 4-0 at Gillingham in the opening game of the season. I've had a look at the video of the game.


I won't focus too much on the goals, as that's been covered well in various forums already, but let's look at our shape and formation and why it became such a difficult game for us.



Our starting formation was a normal 4-4-2, like this:



Freeman Collins McEveley McFadzean

Woolford Basham Baxter Murphy

Adams Sharp​


We got off to a poor start, where Gillingham were all over us and pressed us high up the pitch. The ball didn't stick up front and just came back again and again. This put us under pressure and Gillingham won a few set pieces, from which they looked very dangerous. They got their early goal following a long throw.


We wanted to play it short from goal kicks, but with their aggression we had to avoid it. Long's clearance was blocked after Freeman returned a short goal kick and he started kicking it long after this. Problem was that every long ball came back immediately, as their defenders were all over Sharp and Adams. After 11 minutes I don't think Murphy had touched the ball, and two minutes later Adkins changed our formation, matching their diamond, like this:



Freeman Collins McEveley McFadzean


Basham Woolford


Adams Sharp​



This helped a little in terms of avoiding them running straight through us as we matched them man for man centrally, at least in numbers. However they kept being very aggressive and were still first to most second balls and their athletic full backs were overlapping and putting a number of driven crosses in. Our full backs were too deep to stop these crosses, our not-so-wide midfielders were too central. In terms of their chances, most came from set pieces though.


* Adams struggled against aggressive opponents


Second half


Sammon came on for Baxter at the break, with us changing to this odd looking shape, though basically still a diamond:



Freeman Collins McEveley McFadzean


- - - Woolford - - - Murphy

Adams - - - - - - - - - -

Sammon Sharp​


We had some early pressure, before they starting breaking again. Reed and Scougall came on, meaning we finished playing like this:




Freeman Collins McEveley McFadzean


Reed Scougall


Sammon Sharp​


Collins headed in their third goal from a corner, which was won following a great run by their impressive young midfielder Osadebe.


Gillingham finally looked a bit more tired and started defending deeper. With our narrow formation we failed to penetrate, although we had a better spell ten minutes before the end. Just before full time they scored a brilliant fourth.






People are too hard on individuals. We came with a game plan, but looked shocked by their aggression and appetite for the game. They got an early goal which further helped their morale while it ruined ours. We made a tactical change, which didn't help much. Instead, it created more problems, upset our shape which we worked on in pre season, and we never really regained our composure. Our midfield was our main problem.


In hindsight, against their diamond I would have changed to 4-5-1, like this:



Freeman Collins McEveley McFadzean

Adams Basham Baxter Woolford Murphy



It would have given us a trio centrally, while also having wide midfielders who could have helped our full backs and stopped some of the crosses. On the attack we would of course have sacrificed a striker, but I think that was necessary to get into this game. As they didn't have wingers either, there would have been potential to stretch them by attacking with two players down each side.


Of course set pieces would have remained a problem, but maybe there would have been fewer of them if we'd coped defensively as a team and had a better shape about us. People may cry out for two new centre halves, but they weren't the main problem.



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Gillingham notes as I watched it:


  • Starting in regular 4-4-2
  • Ball not sticking up front, Gillingham more aggressive and looking dangerous at set pieces
  • Early lead after throw in
  • Trying to play out short, Gillingham won't have it
  • Long clearence hit their player
  • Murphy not seen the ball yet, 11 mins
  • Gillingham first to every second ball, gets it out wide, crosses comes in
  • Back four looking ok in open play. Midfield struggling.
  • 13 mins - switch to diamond, same as their's
  • 16 mins - decent move, Sharp shoots wide. Freeman run, Basham through ball
  • Centre halves nothing wrong so far
  • Gill defence exceptionally aggressive, outmuscling our players
  • Just can't get our passing going. Struggling to get things going even from throw ins
  • Gill continue to cause havoc at set pieces
  • 28 mins Freeman shot side netting
  • 30 mins Baxter almost reaching JM with through ball
  • Few chances apart from set pieces. G chip after throw in
  • Long's kicking poor.
  • JM tries to run, but is stopped and not getting help from ref
  • Gill full backs getting crosses in
  • Long misses cross, McFadzean gives a corner. Goal from corner. Freeman losing his man.
  • Looking all over the place in midfield, can't close them down


Second half


  • Sammon on for Baxter. Bash holding JM and MW in front of him. Che roaming in the hole
  • 4 mins chance after corner
  • Some early Blades pressure
  • More even. Dangerous Gill free kick after 12 mins
  • Sammon losing every header so far, can't get up for them
  • Again Gills are all over us, pressing very hard, leading to miscontrols and difficult passes
  • Breakdowns for Gills who bombs forward with pace every time
  • 18 mins, example of Gills corner where they manage to find a player who's marked by a small Blade, ie McFadzean, header wide
  • 19 mins Sharp effort blocked/forced wide
  • 23 mins, Reed and Scougall on for Woolford and Adams
  • 30 mins, Gills now defending deeper
  • Good work from Reed, good cross, JM went down
  • 36 mins own goal by Collins. Gills got corner after great run by no 16 Osadebe
  • 40 mins Blades chance, Murphy through
  • 41 mins, another chance, best spell, few crosses from both sides
  • Freeman protesting after obvious yellow card
  • 48 mins, great long shot 4-0





Posted by Bergen Blade on August 8, 2015 at 7:20 AM Comments comments (1)

Da er dagen endelig her, Sheffield United sesongåpner borte mot Gillingham. Forhåpentligvis blir dette starten på en stor sesong. Optimismen og forventningene er store, og pre season har vært solid.


Manager Nigel Adkins har vært et friskt pust, og med sin positive væremåte og smittende entusiasme har han bygget opp igjen optimismen til Blades-fansen. Målet er klart, fem sesonger I League One er mer enn nok, og vi skal rykke opp.


Dagens motstander, Gillingham, er et hardt arbeidende kollektiv, ledet av en ambisiøs manager i Justin Edinburgh. De har ikke de største ressursene, men vil være på hugget og gjøre alt for å ødelegge starten for oss.


Vi starter trolig i 4-4-2. Jeg tipper at laget som startet siste treningskamp mot Hull får fornyet tillit:


Freeman Collins McEveley McFadzean

Scougall Baxter Basham Murphy

Adams Sharp


Forsvaret har vært solid i pre-season, men har kanskje ikke blitt stilt på de store prøvene. McFadzean er the come-back-kid etter at mange trodde hans United-karierre var over. I Harris' skadefravær får vi håpe at han er klar for oppgaven. På høyre back har Freeman storspilt i pre season. Han har betydelige offensive oppgaver og med sin gode teknikk og energiske spillestil har han mye å bidra med. Mange vil være skuffet over at Collins og McEveley starter sesongen på stopperplass, men de har vært veldig solide i pre season. De er begge gode med ballen i beina, har masse erfaring og har virket mer aggressive enn på lenge i sommer.


På midtbanen er det litt uvant å se oss operere med en firer igjen. Murphy fortsetter og kommer nok til å spille omtrent som han har gjort. Han var frisk og lett i beina mot Hull og Newcastle. På motsatt side står det trolig mellom Scougall og nye Woolford. Sistnevnte er venstrebeint, og ingen av de er typiske høyrekanter, og vil ventelig trekke mer innover i banen, mens Freeman skal holde mer bredde. Selv når JCR har spilt har høyrekantens oppgave vært å skape ting ved å gå mer inn sentralt. Scougall hadde en skuffende fjorårssesong, og det gjenstår å se om han finner seg til rette i den nye formasjonen. Han har vært litt opp og ned i sommer, noe som likevel er bedre enn Woolford som til nå ikke har vist god form.


På sentral midtbane har Baxter fått en ny vår, og endelig virker han fit nok til å spille på dette nivået. Vi får håpe han fortsetter hardtreningen, og ikke dabber av etter en lovende pre season. Han er den som skal styre vårt offensive spill, fra en litt dyp posisjon. Ved siden av seg får han Chris Basham som ballvinner.


På topp knytter det seg stor spenning til Che Adams, samt den gjenvendte sønn Billy Sharp. Adams har sett uhyre lovende ut i sommer, mens Sharp også har sett ut som en bedre spiller enn sist han var her. Jeg tipper de to starter, mens Sammon, Higdon og McNulty sitter klare til å bidra fra benken. Synd med Matt Dones kragebeinsbrudd, jeg hadde også sett frem til å se ham på topp.


Spørsmålene vi håper å få positive svar på i dag er:


  • Har Adkins gjort rett i å satse på Collins/McEveley som stoppere?
  • Vil sidebackene holde mål defensivt?
  • Vil midtbanefireren være kompakt nok til å hindre motstanderen rom?
  • Finner Scougs/Woolford seg til rette på høyrekanten?
  • Får vi involvert Adams og Murphy nok i det offensive spillet?
  • Klarer vi å produsere sjansene som Sharp skal sette?
  • Har vi matchvinnere på benken som kan komme inn og bikke kampen i vår favør?


Lykke til med dagens kamp!!