Delivering positive results, as the decision to once again rotate his squad demonstrated, is not Nigel Clough’s primary objective of this pre-season campaign.
Instead, as the Sheffield United manager explained before last night’s friendly at Northampton Town, improving fitness and experimenting with systems are of paramount importance.
Nevertheless, given momentum is also likely to be a factor when the scramble for Championship football begins next month, Clough will have been frustrated not to achieve all three after watching the visitors take a deserved first-half lead.
Andy Butler, a summer signing from Walsall, stooped to head home Ben Davies’ centre before Marc Richards, the former Chesterfield centre-forward, dragged Chris Wilder’s side level from the penalty spot.
Chris Basham prodded wide during the closing stages after combining with fellow substitute Bob Harris but the match finished all square.
Clough, whose squad continues its preparations for August 9th’s League One opener against Bristol City when Dundee visit Bramall Lane on Friday, included trialists Adam Nditi and Robbie Crawford in his starting eleven at Sixfields Stadium.
Nditi, a left-back, parted company with Chelsea earlier this year after graduating from their academy and showed glimpses of the skills which helped him lift both the Professional Development League trophy and FA Youth Cup during four seasons at Stamford Bridge.
Crawford, previously of Ayr and Glasgow Rangers, featured during the second-half of last weekend’s defeat by Burton Albion but saw his chance to impress curtailed by a hip injury sustained during the early skirmishes of what proved a well contested game.
Nditi was responsible for winning the 27th minute free-kick which allowed Davies to tee-up Butler after 27 minutes.
Having struggled to deal with set-pieces at the Pirelli Stadium, Clough will have been equally encouraged by the sight of United repelling the crosses which Northampton, and Daniel Alfei in particular, swept towards George Long as the half progressed.
Long’s foul on Richards allowed the Northampton striker to equaliser just before the hour but the United goalkeeper was spared any further punishment by referee Dean Whitestone.