Nigel Clough, the Sheffield United manager, warned his team they must perfect the art of winning ugly after describing last night’s defeat by Peterborough as an “opportunity missed” in the battle for automatic promotion from League One.
With MK Dons, Swindon Town and Preston North End all dropping points, United appeared destined to move within seven of second place when Matt Done fired them ahead midway through the second-half.
But two late goals from the visitors condemned Clough’s fifth-placed side to a first home defeat in the competition since December. United’s misery was compounded when it was revealed midfielder Ryan Flynn is expected to be absent for several weeks after injuring a hamstring.
“When you go one nil up, especially at home, you’ve got to just be ready to grind it out,” Clough said.
“It’s not always going to be pretty or eye-catching and you can’t always play well but that’s what you’ve got to do.
“We should have seen that game out, no question about it, even though we effectively finished it with 10 men.”
Clough, who dismissed claims United are poised to sign Derby County defender Shaun Barker on loan, was referring to the problem Flynn sustained after making his third and final substitution.
Done, scoring for the fifth time since arriving from Rochdale on transfer deadline day, had earlier given United a second-half lead before Jack Payne and Connor Washington pounced in the 88th and 90th minutes. United enter Saturday’s match against Fleetwood Town 10 points behind Preston who trail leaders Bristol City by the same margin.
“It’s still early but Ryan will probably be out for a while,” Clough said.
“A few weeks at least we’d have thought. It’s a shame for him, and us, because he’s only just come back.
“I do think the schedule caught up with us a little bit towards the end and the subs who did come on in midfield should have energised us more than they did. But, although it doesn’t feel like any consolsation, at least the damage inflicted didn’t turn out to be too great.”