Kevin Gage’s Blades Column: Why Sheffield United’s victory over MK Dons left me feeling a bit deflated!

Kevin Gage Column
Kevin Gage Column
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Another three points… Check. Another home win... Check. Unbeaten run continued… Check.

All good then. Yet for some strange reason, I will own up to leaving Bramall Lane after Saturday’s match feeling a bit deflated!

To feel like that after a win is nonsense, I know, but the only thing I can put it down to is my own level of expectation from this team at the moment.

That and the fact that all the other top teams won as well, including Bradford - with a dubious last-minute penalty down at my old club, Wimbledon!

Perhaps after the comprehensive victory over Port Vale, followed by two brilliant away performances, I arrived at the Lane on Saturday afternoon, for what appeared to be a run-of-the-mill home tie against lowly MK Dons, expecting another breathtaking display of attacking football and a shed load of goals.

The reality turned out to be somewhat different as in truth we never really hit the heights of our previous performances during these past two months or so.

I’d said last week that I believed that this current team, playing the way they were, would get promoted. On Saturday however, we saw that any slight disruption to the team’s shape or personnel, in the form last week of Matty Done’s fractured jaw, could have the potential to severely jolt our promotion plans.

Fortunately it didn’t on Saturday and we got away with not playing anywhere near our best and yet still winning.

What is it they say about good teams?

It also showed that we are somewhat light at the moment in terms of cover for strikers as, with the best will in the world, Stefan Scougall is not a straight replacement for Done!

Done not playing actually threw us out of kilter more than I’d have imagined.

Without his constant looking to run beyond the defenders, we lacked an outlet, and so the play was condensed into the middle third for much of the afternoon.

Billy Sharp is not really geared up to do the Done-type ‘on the defender’s shoulder’ running beyond, and with Scougall playing and being more of a No.10 ‘floater’ than a runner, it lessened our options going forward.

It forced us to pass sideways and backwards and be more patient than normal, and probably more than Chris Wilder would want.

With Done missing and no obvious replacement, it might have been tempting for the manager to revert back to a typical 4-4-2 or 4-2-4 shape, but we stuck with the three centre-backs and tried to flood the midfield area.

It didn’t really work to be honest, and credit to the management staff for changing it halfway through the first half, moving Chris Basham into midfield.

That move got us playing a bit further up the pitch and we looked a better team for it.

Fortunately MK Dons, for all their nice, pleasing-to-the-eye possession in defence and midfield, had very little threat going forward and didn’t create much at all.

They flattered to deceive for most of the game, with not much style nor very little substance to go alongside it... a mirror image of the whole club, actually.

I was also told by two of their fans in the TC10 Suite before the game that they want Nigel Adkins as their new manager. A perfect fit, I’d suggest!

So, a potential banana-skin game resulted in a ground-out functional win for the Blades, in a game no-one will remember at all come the end of the season.

No-one, that is, except maybe for Scougall who went home with the Man of the Match plaudits, a goal, and the most unlikely assist we’ll see for a long time!

Paul Coutts had a few options available to him as he picked the ball up just outside the box and slightly to the right hand side.

Had I been in his boots, the very last option for me was to have tried to pick out the smallest man on the pitch at the far post who was surrounded by six foot centre-halves!

In truth it wasn’t even a viable option and I’d nearly completed the line “No… don’t find Scougall, he won’t win tha...” when I stopped myself mid-moan and roared with everyone else as Billy tucked away the chance!

Brilliant opportunism from Sharpy, and a remarkable effort from Scougs to win the header and hook the ball back.

It’s not, however, a move I believe we should actually work on in training though as it’s highly unlikely to come off again this season… or ever, in fact!

Lastly a word on our captain and talisman, Sharp. What a great season he’s had so far. Where would we be without him?

He’ll be the first to say his team mates create the chances for him, but he’s certainly taking them and delivering in front of goal.

Can we please wrap him up in cotton wall after every game and unwrap him very carefully so he’s always fit and raring to go for the next one?

Keep going Billy, and keep scoring please.

About 25/30 goals in a promotion season will do just nicely please.

Not too much to ask is it? I’ll even buy the cotton wool!

Kevin Gage owns The Manor House bar/hotel/cafe, High St, Dronfield, S18. @ManorHouse_S18.

Follow him on Twitter: @gageykev