Nigel Clough has warned his players risk undermining their bid for promotion this season if complacency creeps into the Bramall Lane ranks, writes James Shield.
The Sheffield United manager delivered his verdict despite watching them extend the club’s unbeaten run to six games courtesy of a dramatic victory over Colchester in midweek.
Although late strikes from Ben Davies (2) and Ryan Flynn saw the visitors overturn a two goal deficit at the Weston Homes Community Stadium, Clough later acknowledged that aspects of United’s performance had fallen “well below” the required standard.
Tracing their slow start to the match back to a “poor” training session on the eve of Tuesday’s contest, he told The Star: “At the very highest level, the professionals who are at the very top of the game, come in to training after a brilliant result and look to drive themselves and their team mates on even more.
“That’s what they do. That’s what they’re all about and makes them what they are. That’s the attitude we are trying to instil here.
“We came in after a good win (versus Rochdale) and it was poor. We carried that on into the game itself.”
“We can take confidence from what happened,” Clough added. “It kept the momentum going and also the unbeaten run but we still want the lads to put it into context.
“They can’t ignore the fact they played badly. And we won’t let them either.
“They weren’t spared from the reality at half-time and they weren’t at the end either.”
Nevertheless, Clough, whose team returns to action at Swindon Town this weekend, admitted circumstances beyond United’s control had contributed to their display against Tony Humes’ side.
Jose Baxter (hamstring), Jamal Campbell-Ryce (calf) and Jamie Murphy (dead leg) were all absent through injury while the former England international revealed midfielder Chris Basham, an unused substitute at the Weston Homes Community Stadium, is nursing an ankle complaint.
“We had some very influential players out,” Clough said. “But although that’s bound to have an effect, it shouldn’t have been as great as we saw out there for 70 or so minutes.
“But the one thing the lads did do was show some character. They didn’t give up and once the first goal went in there was a chance.”