Sheffield United: James Shield’s Weekly Column

Away specialists: Michael Doyle celebrates his goal at Oldham.
Away specialists: Michael Doyle celebrates his goal at Oldham.
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FOOTBALL is absolutely full of them.

Phrases players, managers and commentators alike believe explain the secrets of the game.

But which, on closer inspection, are actually emptier than a politician’s promise.

“You’ve got lay down a marker,” is one. “Promotion is won or lost at home,” another.

The latter, of course, has been reverberating around Bramall Lane almost since the start of the season.

And, with MK Dons set to visit South Yorkshire tomorrow, was a central theme of Danny Wilson’s media briefing at Shirecliffe yesterday.

That Sheffield United have struggled to hit the same heights in front of their own fans they have achieved on the road this term is indisputable.

But while performances at home exert greater influence over the prevailing terrace mood because that’s where the overwhelming majority of supporters watch their respective teams in action, no one has ever really explained why a win inside your own stadium is more valuable than one away.

They are, after all, both worth the same amount of points. And, curiously, both second placed Sheffield United (41 per cent) and League One leaders Doncaster Rovers (44 per cent) have struggled at Bramall Lane and the Keepmoat Stadium respectively.

Of the division’s top seven teams, Yeovil Town (61) and Brentford (55) boast the highest percentage of victories on home soil. Swindon Town (44), Tranmere Rovers (44) and Bournemouth (50) make up the numbers.

Like the table itself, the picture becomes even more confused when you examine the percentage of home matches where these clubs have taken points.

In this calculation, United’s position (82.3) among their main rivals for the Championship is more favourable with only Brentford (88.8) and Bournemouth (83.3) returning better figures.

Doncaster are on the bottom rung of the ladder both in this regard (66.6) and also average points from total home outings (1.5) yet they still hold pole position.

Brentford (2), Yeovil (1.94), Bournemouth (1.83), Swindon (1.66) beat United (1.64), together with Tranmere (1.61).

United, who average exactly two points per contest on their travels, have made much of the fact that performances under pressure is among the best measure of a team’s promotion credentials.

Since February they average 2.28 points per game. The same figure as Yeovil with Tranmere registering a meagre 0.57, Bournemouth 1.28, Swindon 1.71, Doncaster 1.28 and Brentford 1.57.

In meetings between clubs positioned first to seventh United also rank favourably. They have returned an average of 1.4 points from nine games. Swindon an impressive 1.8 from eight, Bournemouth (1.6 from nine), Yeovil (1.45 from 11), Doncaster (1.25 from eight), Brentford (1.0 from nine) and Tranmere (0.8 from nine).

Yes, these statistics paint a confused picture. But, when viewed in tandem with the table, they do bust a few of football’s most enduring myths.

*Twitter: JamesShield1