Match Analysis: Sorry Sheffield United slip to a deserved FA Cup defeat as Chris Wilder fumes about their display against Barnet

Debutant Kieran Dowell during the FA Cup defeat by Barnet : Simon Bellis/SportimageDebutant Kieran Dowell during the FA Cup defeat by Barnet : Simon Bellis/Sportimage
Debutant Kieran Dowell during the FA Cup defeat by Barnet : Simon Bellis/Sportimage
Sheffield United know better than most the talent which exists within non-league football. After all, eight members of the squad Chris Wilder selected for this FA Cup tie either started their careers or honed their skills below the fourth tier of England's footballing pyramid.

But neither the United manager, who cut his coaching teeth at Halifax and Alfreton, nor Barnet's coaching staff could have envisaged quite how this third round fixture would unfold.

"They were better, 100 per cent," a clearly furious Wilder said. "They were better in every single part of the game and we were lucky it wasn't two or three more. What we served up there is not acceptable for either the club or for me. That doesn't represent, in any way shape or form, what we are about."

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Shaquile Coulthirst, whose penalty condemned United to defeat, encapsulated the drive, desire and purpose which enabled Darren Currie's side to progress. Once a youth team player with Tottenham Hotspur, the 24-year-old striker has endured a nomadic career since leaving White Hart Lane and his display, against the Championship's third ranked club, could earn him yet another move during the transfer window.

Barnet were as impressive as Currie'a matchday attire and, speaking afterwards, the nephew of United legend Tony paid them a deserved tribute.

"I'm proud of them," he said, resplendent in dranpipe suit trousers and slim-fit white shirt. "But a little bit wet too because the boys doused me in water when we got back to the dressing room."

It quickly became apparent, despite starting the afternoon as clear favourites on paper, that United would have to work for whatever came their way on the pitch. Indeed, a few dangerous moves from Kieron Freeman and Kieran Dowell apart, it was Barnet, ranked 14th in the National League, who made the brighter start.

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Indeed after Jack Taylor, a former youth team player at Chelsea, had drilled just wide of the far post, Coulthirst thought he had broken the deadlock when he headed home from close-range following another Barnet break. On that occasion, the offside flag spared United's blushes before Richard Stearman came to their rescue with a perfectly executed tackle to deny the ex-Peterborough centre-forward a clear shot on goal. But Stearman was left hopelessly exposed when Ephron Mason-Clark hunted down a Coulthirst pass and could only bring the teenager down. He escaped with a yellow card but Simon Moore, one of 10 changes Wilder made for the contest, could not keep out the resulting spot-kick.

But the sight of Kean Bryan, desperately calling for support whenever he received possession at the back was the most enduring image of the first-half. United were too slow, too careless and too lacking in urgency while the opposition darted this way and that to provide their team mates with a wealth of options. There were mitigating circumstances, including United's unfamiliar line-up. But none big enough, as Wilder acknowledged, to explain the performance. 

"We've changed it up before and either won or gone out through the front door," he said. "That for me, and I'm struggling to explain why, was about arrogance and people wanting to do their own thing."

Despite outling his respect for both Currie and Barnet's director of football John Still in his matchday programme notes, Wilder still felt comfortable enough to make sweeping changes for this first ever meeting between the two clubs. Two of those, midfielder Dowell and defender Bryan, were making their United debuts after leaving Everton and Manchester City respectively.

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It was therefore perhaps inevitable, with Currie unveiling a tried and tested eleven, that Barnet settled best. As United's rearguard attempted to establish clear lines of communication, they attacked with purpose, ambition and intent; three things United lacked throughout.

Midway through the opening period, after Taylor and Coulthirst had already gone close, the latter edged them in front following Stearman's foul on Mason-Clark. Down on the touchline Wilder, who had already spent much of the game locked in conversation with his assistant Alan Knill, ordered United's substitutes to begin warming-up. If it was a signal designed to provoke a response from those in action, it did not have the desired effect.

Barnet were only a Marvin Johnson clearance away from possibly extending their lead soon after the interval as Medy Elito waited to pounce inside the six yard box.

Freeman drilled wide when Dowell prised apart Barnet and Sharp drew a save from Mark Cousins after being introduced from the bench before the goalkeeper turned a Clarke header onto the crossbar. But Barnet, to Wilder's obvious annoyance, we rarely troubled or stretched.

"I won't forget that," he said. "And I won't sweep it under the carpet either."