Sheffield United: Clough lays down defensive law

Sheffield United defender Jay McEveley � copyright : Blades Sports Photography
Sheffield United defender Jay McEveley � copyright : Blades Sports Photography
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Nigel Clough has challenged Sheffield United to rebuild their reputation for watertight defending, writes James Shield.

Clough, the United manager, issued his directive ahead of this weekend’s visit to Bradford City after warning that a lack of clean sheets, particularly away from home, could undermine the club’s bid for promotion.

“We are scoring goals away from home,” Clough said. “But we shouldn’t have to sacrifice that to be more solid.

“We got three at Colchester, two at Swindon and two at Chesterfield and yet we only won one of those games. It might mean one or two adjustments in the back four because we can’t just keep conceding goals.”

United kept 17 clean sheets in League One competition last season but, following Saturday’s draw with Leyton Orient, have registered only three so far this term.

“Although we have generally been pretty tight at Bramall Lane, you should be tighter on the road,” Clough acknowledged. “We are not playing 4-3-3 or 4-4-2, we are playing with a holding midfielder, five across the midfield at times, and still conceding goals.

“It’s not been a case of us going all-out, attacking and getting caught on the break. The goals haven’t come like that.

“We have been back in our positions. Maybe there’s a little complacency that we are back in position, that we have got bodies back, so we are okay.

“That’s how we have conceded quite a few of our goals and that’s something we are working on all the time.”

Meanwhile, United’s Jamie McDonagh was on target for Northern Ireland under-19’s during their 3-0 victory over the Faroe Islands yesterday.

McDonagh scored a penalty as Stephen Craigan’s side cruised home in their European Championship qualifying dead rubber at The Oval.

“These players are at a stage where the next step is crucial,” Craigan said. “Can they play for their clubs?”

*Twitter: @JamesShield1