Blades Match Report: Shrewsbury 1 Sheffield United 2

Michael Doyle with fans. 'Pic : Martyn Harrison.
Michael Doyle with fans. 'Pic : Martyn Harrison.
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SHEFFIELD United have issued plenty of positive proclamations and defiant statements of intent in recent weeks.

At Greenhous Meadow, against opponents fighting for their lives at the other end of the table, they finally translated those words into a result.

This was not a swashbuckling display but, given the occasion’s significance, it was impressively stoic.

United entered the contest having lost three and drawn two of their previous five League One outings and Michael Doyle, whose goal laid the foundations for a victory which lifts the visitors to fifth in the table, revealed afterwards that disappointing sequence had been the catalyst for a performance more befitting of a team regarded among the promotion favourites.

United, the midfielder confirmed, are ready to confront their failings rather than hide behind past glories and reputations.

“You always find out more about yourselves in adversity,” Doyle said. “You see a side of people that you don’t when things are going well.

“Lots of the lads have stood up and spoken about lots of things, been very, very honest about what we’ve been doing and where we’ve been going wrong which, as far as I’m concerned, can only be a good thing.

“That brings you closer together as a team and a group as a whole. Everyone knew how important it was that we came away with the points here and we showed exactly the right character.

“But we’re not going to get carried away. What we’ve got to do now is try and build on this and keep moving forward.”

Of course, as Doyle later acknowledged, it is still far to early to say with any certainty that United, who return to action at Bury tomorrow evening, are firmly back on track.

But, in front of Shrewsbury Town’s largest crowd of the season, they produced a resourceful display reminiscent of the purposeful shifts which seven weeks ago had propelled them to the top of the division.

Jamie Murphy, delivering his most creative contribution since arriving from Motherwell last month, flourished down the flanks while fellow winger Ryan Flynn and Dave Kitson also caught the eye.

But it was the rejuvenated partnership between Doyle, whose scrambled effort was quickly followed by a superb finish from the striker, and Kevin McDonald which laid the platform for United’s success.

Danny Wilson said a change in tactics and mind-set had been responsible for their sudden up-turn in form.

“Sometimes it’s too easy to conform to stereotypes, that Michael just sits deep and tackles while Kevin focuses on passing the ball,” he said. They can do both. If one goes forward then the other one covers. Simple.”

The United manager will also be pleased to learn the players have also attempted to fathom things out for themselves.

“We both know things haven‘t gone well lately,” Doyle said. “So if we’ve been criticised then that’s fair enough but nobody, and I mean nobody, has been more disappointed than me and Kev.

“We’ve worked on things and talked about things in training that we weren’t happy with.

“Kev is a quiet lad and you don’t always get much out of him but what he has got is an absolute burning desire to win.

“I thought he was outstanding in the second-half of our last game (against Coventry City) and he carried that on here.

“There were times when we could have folded but we showed real character as a group.”

“Our attacking players rival anything in this division,” Doyle added. “So if we can give them a platform then they’ll hurt people, and we did that by using the ball much better here. Take Jamie, for example. I thought he was excellent out there.

“He’s came into a side that wasn’t doing well and that’s always really difficult but the lads have helped him settle and you can see what a real asset he’s going to be.

“People are going to get tired chasing the likes of him and Ryan around all afternoon if we can give them the ball in good positions.

“When the team as a whole does well, that’s when you are going to see the best of your attacking flair players.”

Town, still three places above the relegation zone, seldom troubled United’s rearguard until Stephen McGinn floated home an expertly taken free-kick during the closing stages.

With Marvin Morgan nursing an injury and Ryan Doble, previously of Southampton, making his first start, they lacked the physical presence required to harass the likes of Neill Collins and Danny Higginbotham.

Nevertheless, Graham Turner’s men also demonstrated a durability which should serve them well in their battle for survival.

David McAllister, the former United midfielder, blazed wide moments before Murphy and Jonathan Forte combined to force the clearance which ricocheted off Doyle and past a helpless Chris Weale while Paul Parry forged some promising situations.

United, though, doubled their advantage when Kitson, who had earlier gone close with two headers, converted from 25 yards

McDonald and Tony McMahon both saw shots pushed around the post while Forte fired wide either side of the interval and had a penalty appeal turned down.

Wilson expressed concerns about the ease with which McGinn had converted - “even though sometimes you’ve got to admire the flight of the ball” - but preferred to dwell on more positive aspects.

“There were some excellent individual displays but I wouldn’t want to single anyone out because that was all about the group.” he said.