Set-pieces key for Blades, says Adkins

Sheffield United's Neill Collins celebrates scoring his sides third goal against Rochdale
Sheffield United's Neill Collins celebrates scoring his sides third goal against Rochdale
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As a keen thinker and fervent student of the game, it can come as no surprise that Nigel Adkins can confidently quantify one of football’s more intangible offerings.

“We’ve calculated that around 30 per cent of goals in football come from set-plays,” the 50-year-old said, shortly after being confirmed as Sheffield United’s new manager earlier this year.

“Of course, there are other aspects of play that we want to work on, too, but all together they add up to a formula which will, hopefully, help us win games.”

Adkins’ calculations proved almost spot on on Saturday, as Neill Collins’ header from Jose Baxter’s corner gave United all three points in an otherwise-quiet encounter with top six rivals Rochdale at Bramall Lane.

The timing of the goal - coming just minutes after Lewis Alessandra had dragged Dale level - was important. But the method by which it came wasn’t lost on Adkins, either.

“Credit must go to [coach[ Andy Crosby for that,” Adkins, speaking ahead of this weekend’s trip to Oldham, admitted.

“We work hard on set-plays in training and we know that Rochdale set up with a zonal marking system, so we identified that before the game as an area we could maybe exploit.

“And it worked; it was a routine straight off the training ground. A good corner, three players attacking it and a textbook header by Neill to win us the game.

“You have to give Rochdale credit; they made it difficult for us and pegged us back twice, before an important header got us back ahead.

“That shows the importance of set-pieces; we keep highlighting that to the players that it’s important to get the basics right, on a consistent basis.

“We analyse everything from free-kicks to throw-ins, and spend a lot of time working on them, going into detail.

“But then you’ve got to go out and execute that and, credit to the players, they did that on Saturday.”

Che Adams, meanwhile, was named in the Football League’s Team of the Week after his brace against Dale.