Micky Adams took over the club he supported as a boy in December. Now, with the winless run stretching to 14 games , the Blades are staring relegation in the face and the Lane faithful are turning on the players
MICKY Adams admitted he is unable to predict the future when asked to assess Sheffield United’s survival prospects following this latest demoralising defeat.
Which, for the sake of the beleaguered manager’s sanity, is probably no bad thing.
Because, having seen Theo Robinson’s strike leave his side six points adrift of safety and without a win in 14 games, that future is starting to look very bleak indeed.
Rumblings of discontent on the terraces only added to the sense of impending doom.
“Morale is obviously going to be low among the players,” said Adams. “But don’t worry about me.
“I’m feeling it. Don’t get me wrong. I’m hurting inside but we’ve just got to get on with it.
“I’m disappointed to hear my players getting chanted at. Of course I am. But the frustrations are growing among the supporters.
“I’m one of them - a fan - and I’m also aware what a working class area this is. They want to be entertained. If they don’t think they are being entertained then they’ll voice an opinion.
“Footballers have got to realise - clubs in general have got to realise - that they’ve got a responsibility to lift the morale of working people and also those who are out of work by getting a result.
“Sheffield must be a depressing place at present. It certainly is at my house anyway.”
months of turmoil, both on and off the pitch, have had a debilitating effect upon the squad Adams inherited in December.
They entered this contest having been subjected to scathing criticism following a dramatic collapse at Scunthorpe earlier in the week which saw them start the afternoon languishing five points adrift of safety and five from the foot of the table.
Adams, the fourth person to occupy the Bramall Lane hot-seat this season, had fired most of the verbal barbs in a bid to provoke a positive response.
It was a gamble which appeared to have paid off as United seized control of the opening exchanges until the defensive frailties which have cost them dear of late granted Robinson the time and space to convert Daniel Ayala’s cross at the far post.
Fears that events four days earlier in Lincolnshire would suck the last ounce of fight out of a team teetering on the precipice of League One proved unfounded as United enjoyed the greater share of both territory and possession, particularly during a one-sided second half.
But, like a boxer unschooled in the nuances of the noble art, they pummelled away without ever really threatening to pick apart their opponent’s guard.
United, Bjorn Helge Riise and Stephen Quinn the notable exceptions, were all graft and no guile.
“I thought they deserved a volley after Scunthorpe,” Adams said. “But I can’t stand here now and say they deserve another one.
“They put in the effort. I think that was there for everyone to see. But the only thing that is really going to lift the boys is a win.
“I thought Bjorn was excellent. He’s a footballer.”
Derby, who were forced to omit Jamie Ward from their plans after signing the winger on loan from United, are not out of the mire themselves and travelled north also bereft of form and confidence.
But in Shaun Barker, who despite carrying a painful injury superbly marshalled Nigel Clough‘s back four, they possess a player capable of providing the type of leadership United lack.
Twice the former Blackpool and Rotherham central defender was on hand to help hack efforts of the line as United, with Nyron Nosworthy frequently on hand to help his two colleagues, pressed forward.
“I thought the lads at the back were excellent,” Clough said. “Barker was immense and Daniel told me afterwards that he’s had to deal with more balls in one game than he would have to do in an entire season back home in Spain.
“We’ll only know how important that victory is going to be at the end of the season. Sitting here right now though it certainly feels like an important one.”
United, who are now five places behind Derby in 23rd, saw Ched Evans and Richard Cresswell go close in quick succession before the decisive moment.
A long-range free-kick was only scuffed clear and when Robbie Savage found Ayala in space on the edge of the box Steve Simonsen, who later denied Robinson with a flying save, was powerless to prevent him sliding a low cross into the unguarded net.
Evans twice blazed over the bar as United rallied before the interval while Matthew Lowton, whose raking pass had created the second of those chances, skewed wide moments after the break after more good work by Riise.
The Norwegian, who had earlier tested Frank Fielding with a powerfully-struck set-piece, provided the full-back with another opportunity late on but Lowton’s attempt was saved.
“If I’ve got a criticism then it’s the fact we didn’t test their keeper enough,” Adams, who is still searching for his first victory since being appointed as Gary Speed‘s permanent successor, said. “The effort was certainly there but we conceded early and ended up chasing the game.
“That can be an easy thing to do but we just couldn’t get anyone on the end of it.”
I’M hurting inside. Don’t get me wrong. I’m feeling it. But (morale wise) you don’t have to worry about me. I had a pop at the lads last time out but I don’t think they deserve one today. I couldn’t fault them for effort. That was there for everyone to see.