Chris Wilder wants his Sheffield United side to be more ruthless in front of goal after Tuesday evening’s defeat at fellow promotion-chasers Fulham.
On-loan striker Aleksandar Mitrović, who cost Newcastle United £13 million before joining the Cottagers on a temporary basis, put the Blades to the sword with a clinical first-half brace before Tom Cairney made it 3-0 following the break.
But United strikers Billy Sharp and Clayton Donaldson saw good openings go to waste in the early exchanges of the game, while Chris Basham forced a smart save from home goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli.
Boss Wilder, whose side are three points behind sixth-placed Middlesbrough with a game in hand, said: “It was a tough night.
“We’ve come up against experienced top-end Championship players and Premier League players as well. With that comes the quality they possess.
“It was difficult for the players, whether to press or drop off, and on nights like this you’ve got to take your chances when they come. A bit of quality has undone us.
“Mitrović is a top player. Even if he’s not at Newcastle, he should be playing for another Premier League club. He’s got that quality.
“We were going to make a change, just before half-time, because they started to overload us out on the wides.
“We thought ‘let’s get to half-time’. We had an opportunity to go 1-1 but ended up 2-0 down.
“And from then on, it’s a real uphill battle. I felt for the players, 3-0 down with half an hour to go, because that’s a tough gig.”
Top scorer Leon Clarke missed the trip to the capital with a tight hamstring, after being taken off in the previous game against Reading, but there was some good news on the injury front as David Brooks made an appearance from the bench at half-time after being sidelined recently with back and shoulder problems.
Jamal Blackman also recovered to take his place in goal after also being forced off with injury at the Madejski Stadium, but fellow loanee James Wilson again missed out with an ankle issue.
Wilder, whose side travel to Portman Road to face Ipswich Town this weekend, said: “With Leon, I’m hopeful he’ll be back for the weekend.
“Willo was close too. It was good to see Brooksy out there again too. He gives us something a little bit different.” Blades: P62