Chris Wilder, the Sheffield United manager, admitted his team must learn to take more of their chances or risk missing out on the Championship play-offs following last night’s draw with Cardiff City.
United appeared destined to climb back into the top six after taking the lead against Neil Warnock’s second-placed side but conceded a 92nd minute equaliser when Anthony Pilkington cancelled-out Leon Clarke’s first-half strike.
Despite insisting they “deserved more” and had been denied a “cast iron” penalty when Sol Bamba upended Lee Evans before the substitute’s equaliser, Wilder acknowledged that failing to turn opportunities into goals has cost United dear in recent weeks. They are a point behind Middlesbrough, who occupy the fourth and final play-off berth, ahead of Saturday’s visit to Barnsley.
“I’m struggling to work out how we’ve not taken more points lately, I really, really am,” Wilder said. “There it is, though, the cruel reality of Championship football. I’m not going to deny how disappointed I am and the boys won’t either because of how they’ve just performed against City who look set to be in the Premier League next season.”
“It was a penalty,” Wilder, referring to Bamba’s challenge on Evans, added. “The ball hasn’t really moved. Their boy hasn’t got anything on the ball and it was in the box. You’re hoping he sees it and especially the linesman who is looking right down the barrel of a gun at it. But we’ve had enough to take the game from one goal to two.”
Clarke’s 16th goal of the season saw United take a deserved lead against opponents who had arrived in South Yorkshire searching for their ninth straight win. But after substitute Clayton Donaldson had struck a post and referee Michael Oliver inexplicably refused to punish Bamba’s foul on Evans, Pilkington pounced in added time.Warnock, the last manager to lead United into the top-flight, admitted the visitors had been forced to “dig deep” and “show big hearts” in order to take something from the match.
“That could be the best point of the season,” he said. “We’re really pleased with it because Sheffield United have beaten some of the top teams here. I think you’re looking down to 10th for the play-off positions; everyone up to there is in with a real shout and that’s the way the Championship should be.”