LISTEN: Adkins gets one over below par Blades as top six hopes falter '“ Hull City 1 Sheffield United 0

There was anger, opprobrium, angst and, at the end of it all, a result which does Sheffield United's hopes of qualifying for the Championship play-offs no good at all.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 23 February, 2018, 21:20

Nouha Dicko’s second-half goal condemned Chris Wilder’s side to defeat in a derby which, despite the manager’s cautious words beforehand, they really should have won.

The product of a fractious and uncharacteristically subdued performance, the outcome also prevented the visitors from climbing above sixth-placed Bristol City ahead of their trip to Cardiff City tomorrow.

Sheffield United players leave the pitch dejected after defeat to Hull City

“We didn’t deserve anything,” Wilder said. “Straight down the line, that just wasn’t good enough.

“There’s no spin from me. We were flat all the way through. Right from kick-off.”

Nigel Adkins, Hull City manager, could barely buy a win during his brief spell in charge at Bramall Lane.

But Wilder’s predecessor, whose uber-positive outlook and collection of catchphrases saw him become a figure of fun among the away contingent, insisted he took no personal satisfaction from stalling his former employer’s promotion push.

The frustration is etched on Chris Basham's face as a chance goes begging at Hull City

Instead, as the City faithful staged a series of demonstrations against owner Assem Allam and his son Ehab, it provided him with an excuse to discuss footballing matters rather than politics.

“That’s an important victory for us,” Adkins, celebrating a rare win since taking charge of the hosts in December, said. “It is something for us to build upon.”

Afficionados of Rugby League, which is also staged inside the KCOM Stadium, would describe last night’s contest as an armwrestle; plenty of endeavour but precious little invention or genuine quality.

Whether or not that was due to the condition of the playing surface or surreal atmosphere, only the players will know.

BLADES STAR MAN: Jamal Blackman

But it certainly made difficult viewing for Wilder who cut an increasingly exasperated figure on the touchline as game wore on.

It took Dicko’s finish, his seventh of the campaign, to raise United from their stupour and the action to take an apparently sinister twist.

Leon Clarke, who had scored four when these two sides met last, stopped as he was preparing to shoot only for the action to continue around him.

The centre-forward, stood at the end of the ground where City’s most diehard fans are housed, indicated he was reacting to a whistle but, if he did, it was one of those blown by the anti-Allam brigade rather than referee Simon Hooper.

Former Blades boss and now Hull manager Nigel Adkins

United, however, just did not do enough as they fell short of the high-standards they have set themselves since Wilder’s appointment.

Indeed, for the most part, City goalkeeper Allan McGregor must have wondered why he had bothered to bring his gloves.

“Everything we did fell below what we usually do,” Wilder said.

“It’s not them playing well. It’s us being poor.”

The calls for the Allams to relinquish their interest provided a screeching soundtrack to last night’s match between two clubs at opposite ends of both the division and popularity scale.

City, whose season has been derailed by a series of bitter off-the-pitch disputes, began the evening in 20th place and on the brink of civil war.

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Sheffield United players leave the pitch dejected after defeat to Hull City

United, who recalled John Fleck following suspension and fellow midfielder Ryan Leonard, started the match knowing a repeat of November’s victory over their rivals from East Yorkshire would see them move back into the top six.

With recent results ensuring their own boardroom issues have enjoyed only sporadic coverage, the visitors have been able to focus purely on football since achieving promotion last term.

That is not a luxury Adkins, who remains an unpopular figure in South Yorkshire, has been able to enjoy.

Indeed, on the eve of this fixture he was forced to plead with the more militant wing of City’s following to keep their protests peaceful.

“There’s a lot of things going off here,” Wilder continued.

“But I’m not buying that. If you do, then I’m going to use a word I don’t want to use. It starts with ‘b’ and ends in ‘s’.”

Despite their league position and Adkins’ decision to make wholesale changes, City made the brighter start.

Jamal Blackman, preferred to Simon Moore in the United goal, went a long way towards repaying Wilder’s faith with a fine early block to deny Evandro before the Brazilian robbed Lee Evans of possession only for Dicko, one of five new faces in the hosts’ first choice eleven, to find the side-netting.

It was a foretaste of a first-half which saw United and City promise much but produce little.

Time and time again, as the vitriol and then projectiles began to rain down from the home sections of the ground, openings were created only for poor touches or equally poor decisions to see them peter-out.

United thought they had plotted a course through towards McGregor during the early skirmishes of the second period but Billy Sharp and Lee Evans deliberated too long and City regrouped.

Just as Wilder’s men gathered momentum, Dicko snatched it away when he fired home after being left in acres of space from a 55th minute corner.

Blackman did his best but had been left fatally exposed by a disappearing defence.

Sharp, who moments earlier had drawn a decent save from McGregor, simply shook his head in disgust.

“Have the players maxed out?” Wilder said.

“I suppose we’ll find out.”

Hull City: McGregor, Irvine, Dicko (Campbell 72), Diomande (Grosicki 63), Evandro (Stewart 77), Larsson, Bowen, Dawson, Clark, Aina, MacDonald. Not used: Marshall, Hectoir, Toral, Tomori.

Sheffield United: Blackman, Baldock, Stevens, Fleck, O’Connell, Basham (Donaldson 80), Clarke, Sharp, Leonard (Duffy 62), Stearman, Evans (Lundstram 74). Not used: Moore, Freeman, Lafferty, Evans.

Referee: Simon Hooper (Wiltshire).

Attendance: 15,213

The frustration is etched on Chris Basham's face as a chance goes begging at Hull City
BLADES STAR MAN: Jamal Blackman
Former Blades boss and now Hull manager Nigel Adkins