Nigel Clough acknowledged Sheffield United had been taught a valuable lesson ahead of next month’s FA Cup semi-final following their defeat by Swindon Town, writes James Shield.
Despite being angered by referee Keith Hill’s decision not to award Kieron Freeman a penalty before Louis Thompson’s winning goal, the United manager blamed a result which almost certainly spells the end of his team’s League One play-off hopes on their desperately slow start.
Admitting the visitors, who enter tomorrow’s home game against Brentford seven points behind sixth-placed Peterborough, had been the architects of their own downfall, Clough said: “That’s what happens if you decide to waste half of a game. Football matches last for 90 minutes, not 45.
“When we play with the intensity we can do and which, in fairness, we’ve shown throughout most of the five months we’ve been here, there are few teams in this division who can live with us.”
“That could be it (for the play-offs) but there are still enough matches left and we’ll see what happens,” Clough added. “It’s going to be a big ask now but we won’t be giving up, you can be sure about that.
“But there’s no doubt now about what the most important game we have left is.”
United, who face Hull City at Wembley on April 13, fell behind when Miles Storey opened the scoring before Michael Doyle levelled after the interval. However, Swindon substitute Louis Thompson pounced at the death after Conor Coady forced Wes Foderingham to produce a superb save.
Clough said: “We stepped up second half and there was only one team in it. They couldn’t live with us.
“We just asked them to play in the same manner as they have lately. With a little bit of tempo, contact and aggression.
“Then again, if we’d have got one of the three penalties we should have got then it could have been different.
“I can’t understand why none of them, or at least one, was given. I really can’t.
“We have to mark the referee on three areas. Believe it or not we can’t give him a zero.”
Asked whether Hill’s mark would total ‘three,’ Clough replied: “Yes.”