Chris Wilder, the Sheffield United manager, has warned it would be both unfair and inaccurate to attribute his team’s recent results to John Lundstram’s presence in midfield.
United visit Millwall this afternoon searching for their first win in three outings after being held to a draw by Birmingham City and losing to Fulham last week.
Although Wilder is bemused by criticism of his squad - they travelled to London yesterday third in the Championship table - suggestions the loss of Paul Coutts and Lundstram’s subsequent promotion into the starting eleven has been a factor caused him even greater consternation when the subject was raised during United’s pre-match media briefing.
“I think John has done great,” Wilder said. “The result against Fulham and Birmingham isn’t down to one person making that group very short, or moving the quality of performances.
“If you dissect the two games, we gave daft goals away, a couple of goals have gone in from long range, and we possibly haven’t punished the opposition in the final third. All the stats rack up in the last two games, we outpassed that Fulham team.”
“You see Manchester City score a 95th minute winner against Southampton to make it a non-event,” he added. “All we have not done, especially the Birmingham game, is not go on to win the game. That was disappointing.
“Against Fulham, we have played quality opposition and made some daft mistakes. But a lot of the other things have good.”
Lundstram, a summer signing from Oxford, was drafted into the side when Coutts broke his leg during last month’s victory over Burton Albion. A former Everton trainee and England youth international, Wilder is convinced the 23-year-old will prove a valuable asset for United.
“It took a few players an awful long time to get going,” he said. “Jack (O’Connell), the first four games of last season, a few things happened to him that were unfortunate and disappointing. Look at him now.
“There is no set time for people to get up and running. We just believe in the players that we sign, are good players who fit in with what we want to do.
“We believe John is a really good midfield player, who will get better every day he is at this football club. Whether it’s training with the players, or the opportunity to play in the first team.”
United travelled to London yesterday afternoon three points behind second-placed Cardiff City, eight months after lifting the League One title. City played Norwich last night. Millwall, who were promoted via the play-offs, are without a win in six matches but won the corresponding fixture last season.
“I just don’t think there’s a lot to criticise our performances at the moment,” Wilder said. “People will dissect anything to see where we are, that’s the game we are in.”