Sheffield United: Chris Wilder demands a reaction from Blades players after Bristol City defeat … don’t back against them showing it at Preston North End

Two games. Two bitterly disappointing results. From Chris Wilder, the Sheffield United manager; two different reactions.

Thursday, 28th March 2019, 3:29 pm
Updated Monday, 1st April 2019, 4:22 pm
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder: Richard Sellers/PA Wire.

Back in early February, United threw away a three-goal lead at Aston Villa and Wilder, marching into the opulent Villa Park press room, declared his dislike of football at times.

From that evening until Saturday, almost two months on, United didn't concede a goal until Andreas Weimann, the Bristol City forward, netted a hat-trick to seal victory for the visitors at Bramall Lane.

All three of the Austrian's goals were preventable, if not solely down to individual error, and as the clock ticked towards 6pm journalists in Bramall Lane's media suite began to wonder what mood Wilder would be in when he eventually arrived.

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The content of the message he delivered to his players in the home dressing room below will stay in there, but as he spoke to the media his mood was conciliatory; this is a man who dislikes losing above almost anything but admitted that, actually, there's no shame in losing a game of football to a decent Championship team, especially given the huge strides United have made over the last three seasons or so.

Of more concern to Blades fans, and to Wilder himself, is where United are going, not where they have come from, and Saturday's defeat to City proved another interesting turn in the race for automatic promotion.

At one point in the day United were, as it stood, four points clear of rivals Leeds United who were toiling against Millwall; they ended the day two behind, with added importance now placed on Saturday's trip to play-off chasing Preston North End.

But those who are writing off United's promotion chances on the back of one defeat risk severely underestimating both the spirit and ability of Wilder's men, who have shown a very desirable habit of following a poor performance or result with a vastly improved one.

That aforementioned Villa draw, which felt like a defeat at the time, prompted a superb seven-match unbeaten run - with six wins and no goals conceded - and it goes without saying that a similar run at this stage would be most welcome in the Steel City.

"Any result could have happened [against City]," said Wilder.

"We changed the shape and then were the better side and looked more likely to score, which we did. But we knew they had some dangerous players.

"The goals were poor from our point of view, especially the second and the third. Has Jack [O'Connell] coming off affected it? Possibly. But then we had some chances to get a result.

"There's an awful lot of games to be played. And an awful lot of good sides to play. We said among the staff that possibly this was going to be the hardest one because they're good and because of the international break."

Next up for the Blades are Alex Neil's Preston North End and a return to Deepdale, the scene of one of United's poorer displays last season.

Backed by a superb number of travelling fans, Wilder will demand a reaction. Don't rule out one being forthcoming.