Blades fans column: Adkins rewarded in results for change in style

John Brayford
John Brayford
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The change in United’s style of play since the disastrous home defeat to Shrewsbury has been as noticeable as the change in results.

It has come about partly by chance - the injuries to Jamal Campbell-Ryce and Bob Harris and the suspension of Jose Baxter - but there must also have been a conscious decision by Nigel Adkins to pack his midfield and defence with as many big players as he has at his disposable.

For the first few months of the season Mark Howard would never kick the ball long from his hands or from the floor.

Every time he would roll it out to a defender, who would then play keep ball with his fellow defenders and never get anywhere.

The result was that sometimes - e.g. Port Vale away - United had more possession than the opponents but played poorly, as that possession was amongst the back four.

Now we see George Long and the defenders getting the ball forward far more quickly, giving Billy Sharp something to chase rather than standing impatiently waiting for the ball to reach him, apparently not knowing where to run, as he was doing earlier in the season.

With Jay McEveley at left back and Paul Coutts and Martyn Woolford in the wide positions, United have physicality all over the pitch.

Against Bradford, Coutts had his best game for United and, for that matter, so did Woolford, who has been pretty anonymous up to now. Dean Hammond is now also showing what he can do.

As a consequence the midfield is looking far more solid.

Perhaps the most important contribution has come from John Brayford.

Although he hasn’t added anything to the more physical nature of the team, United are unbeaten and have conceded two goals in five games since he returned.