Sheffield United: How Blades star Mark Duffy believes Chris Wilder’s side can improve after play-off blow

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As he dissected a result that will likely prove the end of this season’s promotion push in hushed tones at the side of the St Andrew’s pitch, Mark Duffy also gave an insight into the approach that Sheffield United will take in their two remaining matches this season.

“We’ll go out and win them,” the attacker insisted, “because that’s what we’ve done in every game we’ve played since we got back in this division, and before that too.

“We’ve approached every game the same. We just have to learn from the experiences.

“At Birmingham, we took the lead but when top teams do that, they control the pace of the game and take the sting out of it, make the other team take chances and throw bodies forward before picking them off on the counter attack.

“Instead, we over-complicated things with flicks and tricks in the wrong areas, and then get done by a bad corner. That puts us on the back foot and, from there, it’s hard to get the momentum back.”

Duffy scored the opening goal on his return to St Andrew’s, a finish which prompted an emotional celebration from the former Blues man and brought him an early yellow card, before Marc Roberts’ sloppy equaliser from a corner. Former Sheffield Wednesday man Jacques Maghoma then scored the winner, leaving United three points behind sixth-placed Millwall with six to play for.

Mark Duffy of Sheffield Utd celebrates scoring the first goal at Birmingham - Simon Bellis

Mark Duffy of Sheffield Utd celebrates scoring the first goal at Birmingham - Simon Bellis

Crucially, however, Derby, Brentford, Preston and Bristol City are all between United and the Lions. Chris Wilder’s Blades host Preston on Saturday before travelling to Bristol City on the final day of the campaign.

“Mathematically, the play-offs aren’t gone,” Duffy added, “and we’ve just got to try and win the last two games and see where it gets us.

But we should be in there, we feel, with some of the performances this season. For whatever reason, we’ve just conceded some poor goals recently and if we could put a finger on why, we’d stop it.

“Whether it’s a lack of concentration or organisation or sloppiness I don’t know, but we definitely need to look at it.

“And it’s not just the lads at the back either, it starts at the front and we’ve got to make it harder for them to get the ball. It’s a collective thing, and something we’ve got to improve on.”

Just one year after promotion from League One, United will at least definitely finish in the top half of the Championship - not that that’s any comfort for Duffy and his Blades teammates.

“In my eyes, not finishing in the play-offs would be a disappointment.

“We don’t want pats on the back for finishing tenth, or wherever - we wanted to finish in the play-offs and with some of our performances over the season, we deserve to be up there,” he said.

“We put ourselves in an unbelievable position to get promoted, but we have let that slip.

“It is not down to anyone but ourselves. I would say this is possibly the lowest moment of the season because of what it meant, really.

“With Millwall losing on Friday night, a win would have put us in a brilliant position. But the truth is we didn’t deserve the three points.”