Blades fans column: It’s a case of one step forward, two steps back at Sheffield United

Blades boss Nigel Adkins
Blades boss Nigel Adkins
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“Systems don’t win and lose you games, players do.”

I’ve quoted Brian Clough’s famous phrase many times over the years but never has its truthfulness been more in evident than this week. When Nigel Adkins brought in three teenagers and changed the formation at Doncaster it worked reasonably well, which was more than enough to beat a pitiful Doncaster team.

It was refreshing to see a proper winger taking defenders on and getting crosses in, and equally nice to see a midfielder – Louis Reed – making runs into the opposition’s penalty area.

Reed also overlapped on both wings and passed well, if simply. The outstanding player was Jose Baxter, who if he could play like that every week would not be playing for us.

Dean Hammond anchored things to allow Baxter and Reed the freedom to get forward.

But then come Tuesday night, with the same players (bar a centre half) and the same formation, United were not at the races.

The first ten seconds set the tone, as Bury waltzed straight through from the kick-off to win a corner thanks only to Chris Basham’s block.

Baxter tried, but nothing was working, Reed was not making the runs he had last Saturday, and there was little or no contribution from the front three.

It then became three formations in one game as it went from 4-4-1-1 to 4-4-2 and then 4-3-3. None of them worked against a team that had lost its last two games by a combined 9-0 and who hadn’t scored at home since December.

It doesn’t seem to matter which players Adkins picks from his squad or what system he plays, the team is utterly inconsistent. If one extreme of that inconsistency was excellence it wouldn’t be so bad, but it continues to lurch between mediocre and awful.