‘Fire in your belly and ice in your veins’ was Chris Wilder’s favourite mantra at the beginning of the season.
But, after seemingly being consigned to the dustbin of history, the Sheffield United manager is expected to start trotting it out again as he attempts to haul his team back into the Championship.
Although Wilder was initially full of praise for his team’s performance during last weekend’s draw with Scunthorpe, he later identified areas where improvements could be made. A failure to maintain composure during the closing stages, as they chased the win their dominance deserved, was chief among them.
“Our punters know what football is all about,” Wilder said. “And they know they saw a group that gave everything. “Every 50/50 ball, every 50/50 challenge, we came out on top in 90 per cent of them. We dictated the game, and created the chances.
“With the amount of late goals we have scored (this season), and we were on top, I would have fancied us to have one or two chances if we could have kept a bit more composure.”
Five points clear at the top of table and fresh from dominating their nearest rivals in League One, Wilder hopes United will address that issue if Saturday’s game against third-placed Bolton Wanderers goes right down to the wire. Having failed to score on only four occasions since August, they will fancy their chances of creating chances. But, with the visitors from Lancashire boasting the division’s best defence, Wilder (pictured left) knows it is imperative they do not go to waste. Phil Parkinson’s side, despite trailing Scunthorpe in the rankings, are unlikely to be so easy to prise apart.
“We must have got into a dozen of those positions in the first half (with Scunthorpe), “Wilder, whose side fellow behind when Paddy Madden scored earlier in the second-half, said. “We will look at ourselves and say we need to do better.
“That has happened too many times to be a one-off. We were disappointed at half-time because I think we steamrollered the opposition in the first half. We made good players look very average. But the reaction to going a goal down did not surprise me, and I don’t think it surprised 26,000 of our supporters.”
Billy Sharp, who cancelled-out Madden’s strike by claiming his 21st of the campaign, is expected to partner James Hanson in attack when Wanderers arrive in South Yorkshire. Parkinson (pictured below) managed Hanson during his spell in charge of Bradford City and will hope to devise a plan capable of nullifying the threat they pose. But Wanderers’ hopes of repeating August’s league victory at the Macron Stadium were dealt a blow when it was confirmed Jay Spearing, who scored the only goal of that match, will miss this weekend’s fixture through suspension.
“We’re in a good position,” Wilder said. “But we’ve got to really try and drive it on.”