Sheffield United: After being bullied by Luton Town, a big two weeks waits The Blades
At the beginning of the season, when it still seemed as if mentality would decide the outcome of their bid for promotion back to the Premier League, Slavisa Jokanovic told his players to forget all about their two year sojourn in the top-flight and embrace the Championship.
If results since then hadn’t already convinced them they are no longer among the elite - or even the club’s failure to back the Serb in the transfer market - the visitors departed Kenilworth Road with no pretensions whatsoever about their standing within the game.
Inside this antiquated stadium which stands as a tribute to football from a bygone era, United struggled to contain a Luton Town side roared on by a passionate crowd which cheered every header, half challenge and tackle as if it was a title winning strike.
“I can’t be satisfied,” Jokanovic admitted, after watching his side secure only their second point of the campaign. “I didn’t enjoy it and, I have to be honest, I thought they were closer to winning than us.”
In terms of raw ability, the match should have been a no-contest. United, with five internationals at their disposal and a £22m signing in midfield, remain one of the division’s most glamorous names despite their position in the table.
But what Luton lack in profile, they more than make up for with passion. Nathan Jones’ men had bite, tenacity, passion and a real desire to compete. With a couple of notable exceptions, United lacked the same snap. Which meant their quality was suffocated under the orange and blue avalanche which spent most of the second period tumbling towards Foderingham’s goal.
Captain Billy Sharp, who had travelled to Bedfordshire searching for his third goal in as many outings, cited poor starts as one of the reasons behind United’s disappointing form of late. It was an issue Rhys Norrington-Davies and George Baldock did their best to address, with the latter turning the former Luton loanee’s centre over the crossbar during the early skirmishes. Baldock was later forced off with an injury which will be assessed by United’s medical department during the international break.
Oli McBurnie, who probably owed his place in the eleven to David McGoldrick’s sore back, hooked wide midway through the opening period before the dynamic of the match changed.
The home crowd, failing to spot that an offside flag had been raised, erupted when Fred Onyedinma fired home before Foderingham’s blushes were spared by the crossbar. Elijah Adebayo robbed him of possession as United tried to pass their way out of their own six yard box, but Harry Cornick hit the woodwork rather than the back of the net after being teed-up by the former Walsall attacker.
For all their faults, United did wrestle back the momentum as the fixture wore on. Ben Davies, still the only new player to arrive at Bramall Lane since Jokanovic’s appointment, started a move which ended with substitute Luke Freeman seeing a shot blocked. But some poor decision making in the final third meant, not for the first time in recent weeks, United failed to translate possession into opportunities.
"We needed to show more, we needed to create more,” Jokanovic admitted, ahead of the two week break. “There is much to work on.”