THEY are the most devastating attacking force in the division and often overwhelmed opponents en route to the League One play-off final last term.
But Danny Wilson, the Sheffield United manager, yesterday warned his squad must improve its overall game or risk seeing their promotion ambitions dashed for the second season in succession.
Wilson, speaking ahead of tomorrow’s friendly against Morecambe, admitted a detailed review of performances throughout the 2011/12 campaign has revealed several chinks in an otherwise formidable armoury which, unless they are addressed before next weekend’s visit of Burton Albion, threaten to undermine 12 months of hard work at Bramall Lane.
Identifying defending at set-pieces and a lack of match-craft as two areas of concern, Wilson told The Star: “If we think we are the finished article or take anything for granted then we’ll come unstuck without a shadow of a doubt.
“We’ve spoken to the lads about a few things we need to work on and get better at because the competition will be tough, possibly even tougher, this time around.
“We conceded too many goals from free-kicks and corners. That’s not a criticism of the boys at the back. It’s down to the whole group in general.
“And, just as importantly, I feel we could have done better from those positions ourselves.
“Likewise there were times, particularly against the better sides, when we were in control but didn’t kill them off.
“If we are on top then we’ve got to learn to make that pay.
“We were good going forward - the statistics tell you that - but they don’t paint the whole picture.
“If we are in the box seat then we’ve got to put it to bed.”
Tuesday evening’s visit to Rotherham underlined the weight of Wilson’s argument.
Although John Cofie’s sumptuous first-half strike saw United enter last night’s fixture at Hallam FC still
unbeaten during pre-season, their vulnerability was exposed when Harry Maguire turned Ben Pringle’s delivery beyond Mark Howard before an offside flag spared his blushes.
At the other end of the pitch, however, Wilson will have been encouraged to see the defender twice go close after connecting with centres from Ryan Flynn.
United, who average nearly two goals per game since the former Northern Ireland international’s appointment 12 months ago, return to competition proper when they host Albion in the Capital One Cup first round.
Seven days later they entertain Shrewsbury Town in the opening series of League One fixtures with Wilson acknowledging: “The test we had against Rotherham was the toughest (of the summer) so far and that was exactly what we wanted.
“We’ve still got things to do and there are still things we need to work on because we’re never happy.”