Nigel Adkins has conceded defeat in the race for automatic promotion.
The Sheffield United manager made the admission after last weekend’s defeat by Wigan Athletic left his team 14 points behind second-placed Walsall with less than 20 matches of the League One campaign remaining.
And Adkins, who accepted poor decision-making had contributed to the pre-season title favourite’s demise, admitted their hopes of qualifying for the play-offs will also be under threat if they fail to “go on a run” between now and the end of the season.
“Being realistic, looking at the front two now, the gap is growing too much,” Adkins told The Star.
“The ambition with 17 games to go, if you add everything up, is that we probably need to win 11 or 12 to make sure we get in the play-off positions.
There’s still scope for us to do that, but we need to get on a run, yes.”
Asked what United need to do to achieve that target, Adkins added: “Quite simply, take your chances and don’t give silly goals away. It’s not rocket science.”
United, who enter Saturday’s derby against Doncaster Rovers five points behind sixth-placed Milwall, have drawn six and lost three of their previous 13 league outings.
Losing to Wigan marked a miserable end to what Adkins acknowledged has been a “frustrating” week at Bramall Lane following the club’s failure to secure any of its January transfer targets.
The former Southampton and Scunthorpe chief, who will attempt to address that situation when the emergency loan window opens tomorrow, insisted United had “gifted” Wigan their opening goal when Chris Basham upended Yanic Wildschut soon after the re-start. Will Grigg, who later missed another penalty kick, duly converted from the spot before Conor McAleny extended the visitors’ lead.
“The turning point was the penalty,” Adkins said. “We gifted them the penalty. It was a poor decision from ourselves with the challenge, there was no need to make it, there were three or four players around him.
“It was endeavour from our player to get back, it was a sliding challenge. It was desire to make a challenge but he didn’t need to do it. It was a poor decision as we had other players in there.
“Following on from that, from our throw-in, we cheaply give the ball away and the lad scores a good goal. It changed the game. I thought it was a very close game, both goalkeepers had very little to do.”