Sheffield United: Damned by Lane indifference ... Blades 0 Scunthorpe 2

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The atmosphere inside Bramall Lane could hardly be described as toxic.

The atmosphere inside Bramall Lane could hardly be described as toxic.

David Edgar gets in a header. Pictures: Sport Image

David Edgar gets in a header. Pictures: Sport Image

Rather, barring a few calls for heads to roll in both the boardroom and the bootroom, complete indifference was the order of the day.

That, given this is a stadium where opponents once feared to tread, represented possibly the most damning indictment of Sheffield United’s performances en route to their lowest league finish in three decades.

It was certainly an uncomfortable experience for Nigel Adkins who, after goals from Tom Hopper and Paddy Madden propelled Scunthorpe to their first victory here since 2010, again found himself explaining why he should remain in post.

“We’ve not achieved what we set out to do today or over the course of the season,” Adkins said.

Billy Sharp up against Murray Wallace

Billy Sharp up against Murray Wallace

“There are lots of things we’ve learnt. Now we have a period of time to make sure we come back bigger, better and stronger.

“There’s lot of work to do in order to make sure we are prepared for the next one.”

If Adkins is allowed to continue next term - and, given reports of discontent among the club’s hierarchy, it remains ‘if’ - he knows there must be no repeat of the lack-lustre fare produced yesterday.

The average lifespan of a United manager in recent years is a little under 10 months and, with predecessor Nigel Clough unceremoniously sacked after failing to deliver promotion, Adkins must wait to discover whether his employers believe yet another “change in direction” is required.

Che Adams battles for possession

Che Adams battles for possession

They were the exact words used to explain why the former Derby County chief, now preparing for Championship football with Burton Albion, was deemed expendable 50 weeks ago.

“There’s a lot of frustration and that’s understandable,” Adkins said. “This club has been at this level, in League One, for far too long now and it will always be like that until we get out. I’ve come here to get us into the top two so nobody is more frustrated that it hasn’t happened than me. But, when you get knocked down, you always have to pick yourself straight up again.”

“There are lots of things that have to be structured correctly behind the scenes,” he added. “We have moved a lot of players on and we have a clear plan to keep progressing.”

Chopping and changing has not had the same devastating impact at Glanford Park where Graham Alexander returned home having won seven of his nine fixtures since replacing Andy Dawson and Tony Daws.

Paul Coutts wins the ball in the air

Paul Coutts wins the ball in the air

Nevertheless, United’s on-loan defender Alex Baptiste, who confirmed he will now rejoin his parent club Middlesbrough, cautioned against adopting a similarly capricious approach.

“You need a bit of luck and a togetherness,” Baptiste, reflecting on his promotion-winning campaigns with Blackpool, said. “But most importantly, a structure going all the way through. You need to get that structure right because there will be highs and lows throughout a season.

“But if you decide and stick to it, then you usually won’t go far wrong. I can only speak from what I’ve encountered personally, but that’s how it’s always seemed to work.”

Scunthorpe, whose play-off hopes were dashed by Barnsley’s victory over Wigan Athletic, ended the afternoon in seventh. Industrious rather than inventive, they initially offered little going forward but did demonstrate huge desire to deny United time and space.

There could be no excuse, however, for the careless manner in which Dean Hammond surrendered possession before Hopper’s strike, and the midfielder was duly withdrawn at half-time.

Another comedy of errors, this time following a Jay McEveley throw-in, then presented Madden with the opportunity to double Scunthorpe’s advantage. He was not to be denied, although his shot did beat George Long only after taking a deflection off Baptiste.

Martyn Woolford

Martyn Woolford

“Two errors cost us,” said Baptiste. “The mood in the dressing room is just one of disappointment. The club, the players and the fans feel they should be in the Championship and quite rightly so.

“I’ve given the best I can, so have the rest of the lads. If the manager can bring the right people in then next season United can do it.”

Billy Sharp had earlier gone close as 11th-placed United huffed and puffed without ever really threatening to prise apart Scunthorpe’s rearguard. The centre-forward shot wide after exchanging passes with Che Adams but, six minutes before the interval, Hopper calculated his angles perfectly after Madden had profited from Hammond’s slip. Sharp tested Luke Daniels’ handling. Then, just past the hour, Madden doubled Scunthorpe’s advantage.

“We will reflect on what happened and why,” Adkins said. “And we will work hard on putting it right.”

Sheffield United: Long 5, McEveley 5, Edgar 5, Baptiste 5, Basham 6, Done 5, Hammond 4 (Whiteman 46, 6), Coutts 5 (Reed 78), Woolford 5 (Cuvelier 62, 6), Adams 6, Sharp 6. Not used: Sammon, McGahey, Kelly, Ramsdale.

Scunthorpe United: Daniels 7, Clarke 6, Mirfin 7 (Goode 86), Wallace 7, Townsend 7, Williams 7, Dawson 6, Ness 6, Adelakun 7, Madden 6, Hopper 7. Not used: Laird, Vose, Anyon, King, Burdett, Wootton.

Referee: Michael Bull (Essex).

Attendance: 21,445.

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