Nigel Clough vowed to confront the issues which threaten to undermine Sheffield United’s season after blaming their “frustrating” defeat by Gillingham on poor defending.
And Clough, who delivered a brutally frank assessment of the reasons behind a result which leaves his team 23rd in League One, revealed he will not think twice about bruising dressing room egos to ensure players are held accountable for mistakes.
United controlled long periods of Saturday’s contest at Bramall Lane but paid the ultimate price for gifting the visitors two soft goals and Clough said: “ I’ve never been one to shy away from saying what I think. If there are faults, then you need to talk about them too because, otherwise, you won’t improve.
“You can’t afford to concede in the manner we did out there. We know that and they know that so it’s something we’ll look at, work on and address.
“The frustrating thing is that, on the balance of the game as a whole, the very least we deserved was a point. But we didn’t get that because we gave away soft goals at the start of both halves.”
United, with Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad watching his first home game since becoming their new co-owner, fell behind in the seventh minute when Harry Maguire’s poor back pass allowed Gillingham’s Danny Kedwell to open the scoring before Chris Porter, claiming his second in as many games, deservedly drew them level.
However, another lapse allowed substitute Cody McDonald to restore the visitors’ advantage early in the second-half and Clough added: “Harry has been immaculate for us lately but he knows he made a poor decision for the opener out there. George Long has had very little to do for us other than pick the ball out of the net twice and that tells its own story.”
“In the first-half, despite conceding the way that we did, I thought we were good. Their second knocked the stuffing out of us a little bit but, once we got ourselves back together, again I thought we looked the better team.”
“It’s not about blaming people when you talk about mistakes,” Clough added. “It’s just being honest.
“Mentally, you have got to have the right attitude straight from the ‘off.’ The centre-halves can set the tone because, as a forward, you know exactly what type of game you are going to be in for after 10 minutes.
“Equally, midfielders have to make tackles and forwards have to score goals. It comes from everyone. We all help each other.
“If we can communicate better out there, then that’s what we’ll make sure we do. Because it’s only by being honest and open with each other than you improve.”
“And, like I say, we did enough out there to have taken something from that game. That’s why it’s frustrating. Because both of their goals were of our own doing.”
*United host Worcester City in the FA Youth Cup second round at Bramall Lane on Wednesday (kick-off 7pm).