It wasn’t the win he craved but Sheffield United manager David Weir still felt compelled to praise his players’ character following last night’s draw with Crawley Town.
The South Yorkshire club appeared to be approaching a crossroad in its season when Jamie Proctor edged the visitors in front during the early skirmishes of what proved a fractious opening period.
But a superbly executed goal from Marlon King, his first since arriving at Bramall Lane, averted the threat of a seventh consecutive League One defeat and possibly bought the former Scotland international some breathing space in the process.
Acknowledging “frank words” had been exchanged in United’s dressing room during the interval, Weir said: “We had a discussion and there were two ways it could have gone.
“But the group pulled together and responded in exactly the right way. It would have been easy for the lads, at that stage, just to lay down but I thought that was a big moment in respect that they stood-up to the fight.
“The boys showed out there that they would not accept a loss. We want to play football here but when you have that attitude and application as well, you can go a long, long way.”
Weir admitted United had been “really poor” before the break but the quality of King’s finish, especially when placed into context, was superb.
The Jamaica international was calmness personified as, after being released by Febian Brandy’s pass, he fended-off his marker before sweeping an angled shot beyond the advancing Paul Jones.
Having heard an earlier attempt by his team mate greeted by sarcastic cheers from a section of the home crowd, King had enough time to consider the possible consequences of failure.
But, demonstrating exactly why Weir offered him a route back into the English game following his departure from Birmingham City two months ago, the experienced centre-forward applied the finishing touches to a move which exposed the potential within United’s ranks.
“I’m not going to justify the first-half,” Weir said.
“Because it wasn’t good enough and that was the focus of what was brought up (in the dressing room).
“But we changed the dynamic, adapted and adjusted.
“The way we created the goal and the way it was taken was great.
“We aren’t happy to draw at home, don’t get me wrong, but hopefully that is a step forward.”
Having delivered markedly improved displays against much-fancied Preston North End and Wolverhampton Wanderers in recent weeks, United, who host Hartlepool in the JP Trophy on Tuesday evening, appeared intent on taking a giant leap back when Proctor, unmarked at the far post, was allowed to turn home Andy Drury’s 10th minute cross from close range.
Mat Sadler should have doubled Town’s lead soon after but wildly miscued before Neill Collins glanced wide from a corner and Jones gathered Brandy’s low drive.
Tony McMahon saw a fierce effort rebound back off a post as United, who replaced the injured Florent Cuvelier with Conor Coady, found their rhythm but, just as they sensed the contest was set to end in bitter disappointment, King took full advantage of a move instigated by the substitute and continued by Brandy.
With the 33-year-old among three members of Weir’s squad selected for international duty next weekend, his intervention underlined the risks United’s will face if Sunday’s meeting with Coventry City goes ahead as scheduled.
Town manager Richie Barker, whose side are now unbeaten in six, had mixed feelings about the final outcome.
“It shows how far we have come when we come away from a ground like this and are disappointed not to take more,” he said.
“But we reminded the lads at the break that no two halves of football are ever the same and, credit to Sheffield United, they pressed us much harder and much further up the pitch from then on.”
Meanwhile United, who handed new signing Simon Lappin a full-debut following his month long move from Cardiff City, extended Harry Bunn’s youth loan from Manchester City ahead of kick-off before allowing Chris Porter to join Chesterfield on a temporary basis.