Alan Biggs: Buoyant Sheffield United terraces can spark lockdown reversal

We all know how lockdown blighted the Blades arguably more severely than any other club. Can they now benefit from the reverse of that?

By Alan Biggs
Wednesday, 15th September 2021, 1:13 pm

What struck me most about last Saturday’s terrific turnaround display against Peterborough was how much the crowd influenced it.

And somehow I don’t think the deflation of Preston’s last-gasp equaliser in Tuesday’s 2-2 draw will last too long, given eight goals in two home games for a team that couldn’t score.

Of course, players have to take the lead on creating an atmosphere and Sheffield United’s 6-2 romp over Peterborough had Bramall Lane rocking.

Sign up to our Sheffield United newsletter

SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 11: Sheffield United fans react during the Sky Bet Championship match between Sheffield United and Peterborough United at Bramall Lane on September 11, 2021 in Sheffield, England. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)

But for me the tone was set earlier. Had you descended on the ground unaware of what had gone before you would never have known this was a team with only a single point - and a solitary goal - from its first five games.

The mood in the packed stands was upbeat, expectant. Supporters were there to cheer, not jeer.

What might have looked to be a pressure game for Slavisa Jokanovic’s side never once felt like it.

Okay, they did much to set the mood with an adventurous start but there were key moments that underline how much a crowd can help.

The first was after Jack Robinson’s mistake gifted Posh an equaliser against the run of play. That quietened things for a spell but did not signal a loss of belief on or off the field.

And the same was true at the start of the second half when the visitors almost snatched a lead. Cue a five-goal salvo that, from the assembled 27,000, created a soundtrack similar to the 2019 promotion season and subsequent storming campaign in the Premier League.

Generally I’ve noticed across the board that football supporters are revelling in the simple joy of being back in stadiums, so less inclined to moan and groan.

Certainly that was the feeling at the Lane and, with performances of that standard, the kind of bond that accompanied United’s upsurge can be rekindled.

Jokanovic must sense it, too, although it’s impossible also to exaggerate the impact of two-goal Iliman Ndiaye and the on-loan Morgan Gibbs-White, who also scored on his debut.

It’s difficult to recall two players making a bigger instant impression.

What they provided was something United sorely missed, simply an ability to go past opposing players, take them out of the game and punish them when openings appeared.

This gave the team a whole new dimension from the ponderous, pedestrian performances of before.

But the fans played a more than full part, underlining again the damage wrought by their absence.