Keith Hill, the Rochdale manager, accused Sheffield United of delving into football’s dark arts during Saturday’s match at Bramall Lane.
Hill, whose team were beaten 3-2, admitted he had been persuaded to substitute Andy Cannon after less than 40 minutes when the defender, having already been cautioned, came under increasing pressure from Nigel Adkins’ side both on and off the pitch.
“He’d been booked and there’s always an urgency from the opposition to work a player when someone in the back four has got a yellow card,” Hill acknowledged.
“I must say I don’t like it being said, whether it’s from an opposing technical area or a player: ‘He’s on a yellow card, he’s on a yellow card, he’s on a yellow card’, but it happens. In fairness, he wasn’t dealing with Che Adams that well and I didn’t want us going down to 10 men.”
Adams scored twice as United climbed to sixth in the table while Rochdale dropped to ninth.
Hill, despite lamenting Rochdale’s failings at the back, absolved his defenders of responsibility for the defeat.
“Our front five defend first and I’ve got sympathy with defenders at times because they always get looked at when you concede, but a goal has to start somewhere,” Hill, a former centre-half himself, said.
“For their first and second goals, our offensive players did not do enough to help them. We can’t be as charitable as we’ve been today and in recent weeks. It comes down to individual responsibility.
“Nothing changed in terms of of our set-up or preparation but there’s too much anxiety at this moment in time be it with regards to passing or from a reset position.
“We’ll have to reset ourselves because it’s such a tragedy to come here, score two goals and come away with nothing.”