Nigel Clough will not resurrect his plan to transform Sheffield United’s style of play until their League One safety is assured, writes James Shield.
The former Derby County chief has adopted a pragmatic approach since being appointed as David Weir’s successor six weeks ago, insisting that results must take precedence over performance.
But Clough, whose side climbed out of the relegation zone when they drew with Leyton Orient last weekend, confirmed United still aspire to deliver “positive, passing football” despite the club’s perilous predicament in the table.
“Ideally we don’t want to be negative, and I don’t think we are, but the nature of our games dictate how we will be going about things,” he said. “First and foremost, though, we want to win.
“Getting away from the bottom four is our only concern at the moment. Everything else, for the time being at least, comes second to that which I’m sure people understand.
“When, and only when, we do that will be start to look at other things.”
United, who are ahead of 21st placed Stevenage on goal difference, were forced to defend for long periods of Saturday’s contest at the Matchroom Stadium before Conor Coady edged the visitors in front. However Orient, who lead the competition with 27 games remaining, secured a share of the spoils courtesy of a late Dean Cox strike.
“We want to be solid but there’s no way you can go in to any game on the back foot,” Clough continued. “You couldn’t go to somewhere like Orient, expect to defend for 90 minutes and then come away with something.
“So it’s about getting that balance right. Making sure we don’t give anything silly away and looking to create and maximise our opportunities.”
United return to league action against promotion chasing Swindon Town on December 14. Having accumulated five points from their last three outings, Clough said: “The first thing we’ve had to do is try and generate a ‘don’t lose’ mentality. And, to be fair to the players, I think we’ve seen that in our last three matches.
“We’re unbeaten in three and have only lost two of the last nine which tells you something. The aim now, though, has to be to carry that on while still trying to improve.
“We’re pleased with the attitude the players have shown during recent games but there are still plenty of things we can do much better and become much stronger at.”