A Scandinavian view on the Blades
|Posted by Bergen Blade on September 22, 2015 at 6:05 PM||comments (0)|
Supporterklubben feirer sitt 25 års jubileum med Fellestur og forhåpentligvis opprykksfeiring i Sheffield!
Vi har nå gjort vårt valg av dennes sesongens fellestur. Søndag 8. mai kl 12.30 møter vi Scunthorpe hjemme på Bramall Lane. Før og etter disse 90 minuttene skal vi finne på mye moro!
Vi kommer tilbake med mer!!
Som alltid, vi planlegger og bestiller reisen selv, og møtes i Sheffield når det passer. Supporterklubben er behjelpelig om noen trenger hjelp. Sjekk også vår https://www.facebook.com/events/529486883875271/" target="_blank">Fellestur-event på Facebook.
Vil benytte anledningen til å ønske DANSKER, SVENSKER og HELT NYE deltakere særlig velkommen! Ikke noe å nøle med, ta med dama, far din eller en kompis om du vil, dette blir gøy!
|Posted by Bergen Blade on September 16, 2015 at 3:20 PM||comments (0)|
Harriott finds Sordell in a central position 30 yards out. Edgar and Collins can't decide who's going to close him down (1st defender) and who's going to drop back (2nd defender). This means neither gets close enough to challenge him and neither drops deeper. Which means that
Sordell plays Moncur through and he scores.
What we should have done:
Collins and Edgar must establish who's going to be first and second defender.
As Collins is originally closest to Sordell as he receives the ball I think he should have got closer to him, while Edgar dropped back. Collins could have prevented Sordell to turn, and if that failed, Edgar could have swept up the through ball. TWO ways of rescuing the situation, even before discussing if Basham or Baxter should have tracked the runner.
McEveley takes a throw in not far from the corner flag. Garvan picks up the dropping ball, plays a 1-2 with Sordell. He then plays Moncur through. Moncur beats Howard again.
It is not offside. McEveley hasn't had time to catch up with the rest of the players, as shown here:
There are a few things that goes wrong for us:
Then this becomes the situation:
Again the man on the ball is poorly closed down. He can pick his pass. It is vital that we do not leave space behind our defence. But what happens?
Edgar also breaks out of the defensive line to close down Garvan. This means there are nobody to sweep up the through ball.
What we should have done:
Edgar, knowing that McEveley is preventing an offside, and having seen Collins already breaking out to challenge Sordell, should have remained in his deep position, or dropped a bit deeper. This could have enabled him to intercept the pass, or challenge Moncur.
Colchester's move start with a throw in in their own half. At this stage we are going for the win and leave more players forward.
There are a few random things happening, but it ends with Sordell running on the ball. We only have two players back, Collins and McEveley. Sordell decides to shoot from long range and it takes a lucky deflection which beats Howard.
What we should have done:
To avoid conceding we should have got more players back. But, as said, at that stage we were going for the win.
|Posted by Bergen Blade on August 14, 2015 at 6:35 PM||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:
|Posted by Bergen Blade on August 11, 2015 at 7:35 AM||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
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
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
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 - - - - - - - - - -
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
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.
Gillingham notes as I watched it:
|Posted by Bergen Blade on August 8, 2015 at 7:20 AM||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
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:
Lykke til med dagens kamp!!
|Posted by Bergen Blade on July 6, 2015 at 11:15 AM||comments (0)|
League One, club by club transfers, summer 2015
In: Marc Roberts (Halifax Town, free), Marley Watkins (Inverness Caledonian Thistle, free), Alfie Mawson (Brentford, free)
Out: Luke Berry (Cambridge United, undisclosed), Dale Jennings (MK Dons)
Released: Nana Boakye-Yiadom, Martin Crainie, Kane Hemmings, Leroy Lita, Jean-Yves M’Voto, Rhys Oates.
In: Jarrett Rivers (Blyth Spartans, undisclosed), Colin Doyle (Birmingham City, free), Kyle Letheren (Dundee, free), Brad Potts (Carlisle United, undisclosed), Clark Robertson (Aberdeen, free), John Herron (Celtic, free), Mark Cullen (Luton £180k).
Out: Tom Barkhuizen (Morecambe, free), David Perkins (Wigan Athletic, free), Peter Clarke (Bury, free)
Released: Andre Blackman, Tomasz Cywka, Steven Davies, Nathan Delfouneso, Joel Dielna, Gary MacKenzie, Tony McMahon, Jacob Mellis, Nyron Nosworthy, Darren O’Dea, Elliott Parish, Jeffrey Rentmeister, Saer Sene, Francois Zoko, Robert Grant.
In: Steven Davies (Blackpool), Josh Morris (Blackburn, free), Tony McMahon (Blackpool, free)
Out: Jason Kennedy (Carlisle United, free), Matthew Dolan (Yeovil Town, free), Andrew Davies (Ross County)
Released: Andy Halliday, Matt Urwin, Aaron McLean
In: Callum Reilly (Birmingham City, free), Calum Butcher (Dundee United, free), Darius Charles (Stevenage, free), Timmy Thiele (Borussia Dortmund, free), Tom Naylor (Derby, free), Mark Duffy (Birmingham, free)
Out: Adam McGurk (Portsmouth, free)
Released: Stefan Maletic, Mickael Antoine-Curier, Joe Doyle, Lee Bell, Ian Sharps, Jimmy Phillips
In: Peter Clarke (Blackpool, free), Leon Clarke (Wolverhampton Wanderers, free), Tom Pope (Port Vale, free), Jacob Mellis (free)
Out: Nicky Adams (Northampton Town, free), Jimmy McNulty (Rochdale, free)
Released: Joe Thompson, Pablo Mills, Chris Sedgwick (retired)
In: Sylvan Ebanks-Blake (Preston North End, free)
Out: Jimmy Ryan (Fleetwood Town, free), Gary Roberts (Portsmouth, undisclosed)
Released: Charlie Dawes, Jack Broadhead
In: Richard Brindley (Rotherham United, free), Kieran Bailey (West Ham United, free), Matthew Briggs (Millwall, free), George Elokobi (Oldham, free)
Out: Sean Clohessy (Leyton Orient, free)
Released: Magnus Okuonghae, Sanchez Watt, Jabo Ibehre, Kevin Lokko.
In: Chris Stokes (Forest Green)
Out: Blair Turgott (Leyton Orient, free), Adam Barton (Portsmouth, free)
Released: Frank Nouble, Andy Webster, Shaun Miller, Simeon Jackson, Al Bangura, Danny Pugh
In: Billy Bingham (Dagenham & Redbridge, free)
Out: Vadaine Oliver (York City, free), Matt Tootle (Shrewsbury Town, free)
Released: Anthony Stewart, Liam Nolan, Billy Waters
In: Thorsten Stuckmann (Preston North End, free), Andy Williams (Swindon Town, free), Gary MacKenzie (Blackpool)
Out: Kyle Bennett (Portsmouth, free)
Released: Jamie McCombe, Theo Robinson, Abdul Razak, Reece Wabara, Dean Furman, Stephen Bywater, Lewis Ferguson, Alex Peterson, Aron Gordon, Alexander Head, Jack McClaren
In: Declan McManus (Aberdeen, free), Amari’i Bell (Birmingham City, free), Vamara Sanogo (unattached, free), Jimmy Ryan (Chesterfield, free)
Out: Mark Roberts (Cambridge United, free), Tom Davies (Accrington Stanley, free), Steven Schumacher (Stevenage, free)
Released: Stephen Crainey, David Ball, Jeff Hughes, Liam Hogan, Stewart Murdoch, Matty Hughes, Joe Burgess, Josh Green, Mason Springthorpe, Richard Wright, Andre Street, Adam Nditi.
In: Ryan Jackson (Newport County, free), Elliott List (Crystal Palace, free), Emanuel Osadebe (Tottenham Hotspur, free), Ben Williamson (Port Vale, free), Bradley Garmston (West Bromwich Albion, free), Rory Donnelly, Max Ehmer (QPR, free)
Out: Leon Legge (Cambridge United, free), Gavin Hoyte (Barnet, free), Joe Martin (Millwall, free)
Released: Danny Galbraith, Joe Martin.
In: Joe Martin (Gillingham, free), Jordan Archer (Tottenham Hotspur, free), Tony Craig (Brentford, free)
Out: Matthew Briggs (Colchester United, free)
Released: Nicky Bailey, Dylan Casey, Richard Chaplow, Alan Dunne, Carlos Edwards, Sofiane El-Bekri, Ricardo Fuller, Denzel Gerrar, Jake Goodman, Magaye Gueye, Justin Hoyte, Stefan Maierhofer, Angel Martinez, Danny Shittu, Josh Siafa, Callum Webb, Martyn Woolford.
In: Lee Croft (St Johnstone, free), George Green (Everton, free), Jake Cassidy (Wolverhampton Wanderers, free)
Out: George Elokobi (Colchester, free)
Released: James Dayton, Amari Morgan-Smith, David Mellor, Genserix Kusung
In: Jack Collison (Ipswich Town, free), Joe Gormley (Cliftonville, undisclosed)
Out: Bobby Olejnik (Exeter City, free), Chrisitan Burgess (Portsmouth, free)
Released: Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, David Norris.
In: Remie Streete (Newcastle United, free), Sam Kelly (Norwich City, free), Sam Foley (Yeovil Town, free), Anthony Grant (Crewe Alexandra, free), Ben Purkiss (Walsall, free)
Out: Tom Pope (Bury, free), Ben Williamson (Gillingham, free), Chris Lines (Bristol Rovers)
Released: Chris Robertson, Alex Nimely, Kaid Mohamed.
In: Donal McDermott (unattached, free), Jimmy McNulty (Bury, free), Lewis Alessandra (Plymouth Argyle, free)
Out: Stephen Dawson (Scunthorpe United, free)
Released: Febian Brandy, Sean McGinty, Jack Muldoon
In: Stephen Dawson (Rochdale, free), Jack King (Preston North End, free), Scott Wiseman (Preston North End, free), Isaac Assenso (Leeds United, free), Charlie Goode (Hendon, free), Scott Laird (Preston North End, free), Luke Williams (Middlesbrough, free)
Out: Sam Slocombe (Oxford United, free), Matt Sparrow (Lincoln City, free)
Released: James Severn, Marcus Williams, Miguel Llera, Eddie Nolan, Callum Howe, Billy Kee, Jennison Myrie-Williams, Gary McSheffrey, Isaiah Osbourne.
Released: Michael Doyle, Ben Davies, Iain Turner, Jason Paling, Sam Berry, Kyle Scarisbrick
In: Martin Woods (Ross County, free), Mat Sadler (Rotherham United, free), Abu Ogogo (Dagenham & Redbridge, free), Shaun Whalley (Luton Town, free), Darren McKnight (unattached, free), Matt Tootle (Crewe Alexandra, free), Junior Brown (Mansfield Town, free)
Out: Aaron Wyldig (Morecambe, free)
Released: Andrew Robinson.
In: Anthony Wordsworth (Ipswich, free), David Mooney (Leyton Orient, free)
Out: Barry Corr (Cambridge United, free)
Released: Lee Barnard, Conor Clifford, Mads Ibenfeldt
In: Brendan Ormonde-Ottewill (Arsenal, free)
Out: Massimo Luongo (Queens Park Rangers, undisclosed), Ben Gladwin (Queens Park Rangers, undisclosed), Andy Williams (Doncaster Rovers, free)
Released: Harry Agombar, Josue Antonio, George Barker, Jack Barthram, Matthew Jones, Cameron Belford, Wes Foderingham, Darren Ward, Connor Waldon.
In: Neil Etheridge (Charlton, free), Jason Demetriou (Anorthosis Famagusta, free)
Out: Malvind Benning (Mansfield Town, free), Richard O’Donnell (Wigan Athletic, free)
Released: Ben Purkiss, Jake Heath, Ashley Grimes.
In: David Perkins (Blackpool, free), Richard O’Donnell (Walsall, free), Donervon Daniels (WBA, free), Max Power (Tranmere, tribunal)
Out: James McClean (West Bromwich Albion, £1.5million), Rob Kiernan (Rangers, undisclosed)
Released: Gaetan Bong, Kim Bo-Kyung, William Kvist, Marc-Antoine Fortune, Ali Al-Habsi.
|Posted by Bergen Blade on May 13, 2015 at 5:15 AM||comments (0)|
Managers are often interviewed right after matches and it's sometimes difficult to get measured and carefully thought out answers from them. Pre match interviews are also often influenced by a wish to not give too much information away.
But now our season is finished and we didn't achieve what we aimed for. Many fans are wondering what went wrong and many are doubting the management's ability to get it right next season. It would be good to find a setting where Clough was given the chance to share some honest thoughts and give some insight into their decisions this season.
But a Q&A session with fans would probably get too heated at this stage. A Radio Sheffield interview may also be affected by the journalist's history with Clough and critical questions may be taken the wrong way and bring 'defensive' answers - not what's needed. A chat on BladesPlayer may be too cozy though, fans would see through it if we treated it like a simple PR exercise to quickly silence critical views.
So while the ideal setting for Clough speaking to fans remains unclear - let's do a fake one! Here's how Nigel Clough - maybe - would explain one of our main problems this season:
Q: We've had problems at centre half this season, and many fans wonder why we didn't sign a specialist or two in January?
NC: It is something we looked at all season. As you know we brought in Paddy McCarthy in October, but it didn't quite work and we wanted more in terms of composure and passing also from our centre halves. In McCarthy's last five games we had two 1-1 home draws vs Oldham and Notts County, then lost at home to MK Dons, then drew 1-1 at Fleetwood and lost 1-2 at Port Vale.
Something wasn't quite working and when we tried moving Chris Basham back there we played better. Him and McEveley were in great form and showed their class, even against Premiership opposition, against some top class strikers.
As the January transfer window shut Basham and McEveley were still our first choice. Kennedy had made a successful come back in the reserves and finally looked ready to play a part. We sent Harrison McGahey out on loan to regain his match fitness, hoping that playing regularly would mean we'd have another good and ready option towards the end of the season. We also had Brayford and Alcock, and Collins was rejoining training at that stage too. Despite this we bid for three more centre halves in the January transfer window, but ultimately the deals fell through.
When we couldn't get any of them we thought we'd go with what we had, although another one did reject a loan move a bit later. Remember that we brought in nine players between November and February. We were reluctant to add even more, if we could avoid it, as too many new players can bring instability. The ones we did bring in all played a part though.
What happened later was that McEveley injured his shoulder, Kennedy suffered a set back with his knee, McGahey struggled for form at Tranmere and Collins also looked rusty after his long lay off.
We'd hoped we'd cope physically in midfield without Basham, but we struggled there too. We maintained a hope that James Wallace would recover to play a part at the end of the season, but then he broke down again. We brought Coutts in to add strength to midfield, but he too needed more time to get up to speed than we hoped. Doyle still got stuck in, but couldn't quite help us dominate the midfield area the way we wanted to. We've worked ever so hard with Baxter, but covering enough grass in midfield remained a problem for him, Scougall was injured, Reed lost his form and Holt brought goals, but didn't really help us win the midfield battle.
This meant we were desperate to play Basham in midfield, but our injury problems at centre half meant - most often - that we couldn't.
In hindsight we do wish we'd moved on to the next name on our centre half list, but we did think we had enough to cope.
Q: How do you plan to avoid similar problems next season?
NC: We'll be looking at bringing in three new centre halves this summer. Experience, aggression, determination, height and strength is what we're looking for. This should release Brayford (eventually) and Basham to play at right back and midfield respectively, and make us physically a lot stronger, and bigger, as a team.
We've learned a lesson this season about the need to hold our own physically. Also when plan A, B and C collapses and you have to field a plan D that will also hold their own. We will not be pushovers next season. We're fed up with conceding headers, let alone trying to think of good corner routines when you've got no six footers in the box!
Collins will go this summer. We'll be looking at sending McGahey out on loan for the first six months. We won't be relying on Kennedy, but he'll meet for pre season training and see how his knee reacts. If he's ok, he'll challenge with the other three for a place in the team.
* Basham won't play at centre half next season, says "Clough"
|Posted by Bergen Blade on April 24, 2015 at 7:25 AM||comments (0)|
In the summer I think Clough was hoping this would be his first XI:
Alcock Collins Butler Harris
Flynn Basham Wallace Scougall Murphy
On paper it wasn't not too bad.
For much of the summer we hoped to hold on to Maguire, but even when he left we had big, strong, experienced centre halves. A steady eddie at right back was brought in to replace Brayford, but Clough always hoped he would get Brayford in eventually. To compensate for the (at least temporary) loss of Brayford's attacking input he tried to get Freeman as an option, and he also brought in JCR at right wing, who would be able to create things without the support of an attacking right back. McEveley was signed to provide cover at both centre half and left back, and if chosen in the latter position we'd have a physically very strong back four, with good aerial ability. We also had McGahey and Kennedy.
* Key man James Wallce's season has been ruined by injuries
Wallace was going to be our talisman, playmaker and leader in central midfield. Creative and good on the ball he was going to offer more than Doyle going forward, but he's also the type who can stuck in. Basham was signed, to many's surprise, to replace Coady. Not as good on the ball, but fit enough to get into the box and it was hoped that he'd get his share of goals, and he also offered more height and power. In theory this should have helped get even more out of Flynn, Scougall and Murphy who all did very well the previous season. Further creative input was available from Baxter, Reed and Ben Davies.
Higdon was also going to offer us more height and strength in this positon. O'Grady remained a target, as did Steve Davies. McNulty was signed and Baxter and Porter were also options that we saw worked ok last season.
So there was reason to hope that we'd be able to put out a team that would have no problems in holding their own physically, while also having some attacking flair that should have been enough to beat most League One sides. We also knew that we had money to improve the squad along the way.
By the start of the season the centre half situation had changed. Collins and Butler both fell out of favour. McCarthy was signed on loan, but circumstances weren't ideal and Basham looked better when he played there. So Basham and McEveley became our first choice centre halves, with that also implying that we lost the option of McEveley at left back and Basham in midifield. In those positions we had to play smaller, weaker players. We started to struggle at set pieces, offensive and defensive, and were bullied in midfield.
In midfield Wallace's season never got going. Scougall and Flynn also had recurring problems with injuries. Doyle returned, and Reed played a lot. Baxter was often used in midfield roles that didn't suit him. Despite these players being good enough for the level we played at, we lost our balance and against opposition teams that were really up for a fight, we looked small, slow and weak.
Up front Higdon struggled and didn't even offer the physical element that we relied upon. Porter hardly got any time on the pitch and soon disappeared. Baxter was tried up front again, but it didn't work as well as last season. McNulty took his chance though, but playing him, a goal scoring all rounder, meant that we again lost height and strength and this was a huge problem for us.
January transfer window
Cup games apart, we had struggled to find any sort of rhythm by the turn of the year. The shape of the team had been changed completely from what we planned originally, so we had a lot to address in the January transfer window. Kieron Wallace and Adams had joined a while before and then Brayford, Freeman, Coutts, Holt, Done and (later) S. Davies were brought in and more or less thrown into the team at a time when we played Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday, i.e. hardly any time for real training and for these new guys to adapt.
I think fans (and the management) underestimated the disadvantage of making signings mid season, compared to pre season. It is easy to just look at the options that are suddenly available and expect the team to suddenly click. By contrast, Bristol City had most of their signings ready in July, and they hit the ground running.
The attempts to use the new players immediately brought further inconsistency. Not all of the signings helped fix our problems with height and strength and we've continued to start games with only a couple of six footers. Niggles and knocks to seemingly half the squad make us look vulnerable as we approach the end of the season.
Optimism, after all
The good thing is that our end of season schedule isn't as tight as it has been. This may give us more time for knocks and niggles to heal, and more time to prepare and train well. If we do get fifth we should have a decent chance to again field a stronger and well balanced team for the Play Offs.
It will be time to forget what's happened this season and mobilise everything we've got and show that our maximum level, after all, is higher than the other teams.
* Difficult season, but Blades may still celebrate at Wembley in May
|Posted by Bergen Blade on March 19, 2015 at 6:35 AM||comments (0)|
The Blades' mediocre performances of late continued at Walsall, where we took an early lead and then tried to defend it for pretty much the rest of the game. It ended 1-1.
The formation was the same as the one we used a Bristol City. A midfield diamond with wide forwards in Murphy and Done. But the latter two tracked back even more, like wingers, and it's the closest I've ever seen to a 4-6-0 formation.
A few people described last season's formation as 4-6-0, but that was wrong. Even though Baxter wasn't playing as an orthodox centre forward he was still the focal point up front and was way ahead of the rest of the midfielders when we were defending. Yesterday he spearheaded the midfield diamond.
When we attacked I think the plan was for Baxter to thread the ball through to Murphy and Done. It's difficult though when they had so much defending to do and the opposition goal was 80 yards away when we won possession. It was quite extraordinary to watch.
In theory it makes it more difficult for the opposition, when a team drops deep and have many players behind the ball. But sometimes individual players can lose aggression and concentration when there's plenty of teammates around to cover for you most of the time. Maybe we exaggerated and had simply too many players back. Maybe our players fell into the trap of thinking 80% effort and focus would be enough.
We certainly gave Walsall enough time and attempts to find us out. Eventually we paid the price when they got their accuracy and movement right. They'd put on an extra striker and it was him that got their equaliser. They had two chances prior to this and hit the post just after they scored, so Clough's comments of them not troubling us at the time wasn't correct.
To an extent, these tactics may be understandable when we're struggling and confidence is low. Maybe they are similar in mindset to the tactics of Clough's first few matches, which were also extremely defensive, with Clough arguing that "they had to knock the losing mentality out of the players".
It's hugely disappointing to find ourselves back to that stage, but we can hope that it will gradually pay off, like it did last season. Two away draws is, after all, something to build on and if we can win two or maybe all three of our next matches we may hopefully be on the right track again.
|Posted by Bergen Blade on February 23, 2015 at 5:55 AM||comments (0)|
I think many United fans are generally too critical of the level we're playing at. There may not be many big teams in League One this season, but the general level of football is probably the best ever in my opinion.
Even teams like Coventry, with one win in ten, short of confidence and struggling in general, can field a well balanced, well prepared team that are set up to make it hard for us and cause us problems.
When teams come to the Lane we shouldn't expect them to look fabulously entertaining. Playing away, especially against the better sides is a lot about defending, stopping us, upsetting our rhythm.
Coventry did that well at the start of the game. Playing a fairly narrow 4-4-2 and pressing us high up the pitch, they made it hard for us to get our passing moves going. To avoid losing the ball in dangerous areas we resorted to chipping the ball up field, but our wingers had their full backs breathing down their necks, while Baxter and Done couldn't get hold of the ball. We were basically outnumbered and outmuscled in their half.
Coventry's central midfielders, Fleck and Barton, are very comfortable on the ball and with Doyle and Coutts sitting deeper in our 4-4-1-1 starting formation, we didn't have any ball winners to challenge them. As mentioned they had a fairly narrow formation with solid, hard working wide men in O'Brien and Williams, who both have experience playing centrally. Their two forwards also got behind the ball and closed us down in midfield.
* Photo showing how our attacking players were outnumbered at the start of the game.
To change the early pattern of the game, Clough tried to invert our midfield triangle, meaning Baxter went deeper while Coutts and Doyle pushed higher to get more aggression higher up and hopefully stop their central midfielders dominating unchallenged.
I felt that we were actually coming into the game more before Baxter's sending off. While the above Coventry plan may seem perfect, it is very hard to keep it up for the full game. Without the sending off I think we gradually would have taken over more control of the game and eventually our quality would have given us more chances.
Then Coventry scored and we had to try carving them open with ten men. Coventry dropped deeper after they took the lead and for the last hour we dominated possession. With just one central striker this isn't easy though. Their second was also a blow which would have made a lot of teams lose faith. We sacrificed JCR at half time, and then Coutts, and the main difference was that we got more running and energy going forward through Basham and Freeman.
I think we kept going and did well in difficult circumstances and in the end were rewarded.
When I saw the line up I thought that it was probably Clough's current favourite line up, with the probable exception of a fit Flynn. Although we went into the game high on confidence, belief and form, the early stages showed that it won't be easy to win most of our remaining games. Teams will have a plan of how to stop us and how to punish any mistake we make.
We will have to be at our best, but I'm personally relieved that the performance vs Coventry was better than I feared and I think it would have been another win if we'd kept 11 men on the pitch.