Sheffield United: Boss Clough may be forced to tinker with tactics

Nigel Clough and his backroom staff look on as their side are soundly beaten at Swindon Town
Nigel Clough and his backroom staff look on as their side are soundly beaten at Swindon Town
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Manager Nigel Clough admitted Sheffield United may need to re-think their tactical strategy for the rest of the season, after Saturday’s 5-2 hammering at Swindon Town.

Clough blasted his below-par players after goals from Michael Smith (2), Jon Obika, Andy Williams and Louis Thompson sealed a comfortable win for the Robins, which ended United’s seven-game unbeaten run.

And, speaking ahead of tomorrow’s Capital One Cup tie at Leyton Orient, Clough admitted: “We want to move on a little bit from how we played last year, sitting with nine players on the edge of our box and then hitting teams on the break, with pace.

“But on the evidence of the last few games, we might have to go back to that style of play. We want to be more in the ascendancy and dictate the play, but maybe we’re not ready for that yet. We set up to stop Swindon playing from the back and, if we did that well, we would have stopped them causing us problems. But we didn’t, and they did.”

Clough, who saw James Wallace miss out due to injury, saw his side briefly threaten a comeback when goals from Marc McNulty and Ben Davies reduced the deficit to 3-2, before two further home goals compounded a miserable afternoon.

Clough will look for an instant reaction tomorrow evening at Leyton Orient in the Capital One Cup, before his side return to League One action against Gillingham on Saturday.

“We’ll assess the players this afternoon in training, but we haven’t really got too many options to change, really. It’ll be nice to get a settled side but we can’t do that at the minute, with injury and form. We keep lamenting the loss of John Brayford and Harry Maguire, who were a big part of the defence who kept so many clean sheets and looked solid.

“No disrespect to the lads who have come in, but they aren’t as good as those two.”

Wallace, meanwhile, missed out with a groin complaint. “He hasn’t played consistently for the best part of 18 months,” Clough added, “so he’s going to pick up knocks on the way. We need to build him up, a little like we do in pre-season. He might be fit for Leyton Orient but it’s unlikely we’ll risk him, as the form of little Louis Reed means we don’t have to.

“Louis may only be 17, but he put some of his senior, more experienced colleagues to shame at Swindon.”