Sheffield United: Slavisa Jokanovic insists his team is moving in the right direction as he addresses Iliman Ndiaye's fitness
Slavisa Jokanovic insisted his Sheffield United team took another important step forward in its development following last night’s game against Preston North End, despite seeing the visitors claim a late equaliser at Bramall Lane.
United appeared on course to record their second Championship win in four days when substitute Sander Berge scored towards the end of the second period, after Daniel Johnson had earlier cancelled-out Morgan Gibbs-White’s strike.
Although Jokanovic conceded a lapse in concentration had presented Emil Riis with the chance to level deep into added time, he insisted United’s performance provided further evidence that the mental scars of last season’s relegation from the Premier League are now beginning to heal.
The Serb, whose side entered the contest on the back of a 6-2 victory over Peterborough, said the number of openings his players created against “physical” opponents highlighted their growing self-belief and confidence.
“I believe yes, there are signs of progress,” Jokanovic said, who handed on-loan goalkeeper Robin Olsen his debut after the Swede passed his Covid-19 protocols. “We are disappointed with the result of course but I am satisfied with the performance.
“I am a lot more comfortable and we are creating more things. We were flat (at the beginning of the season) from my point of view. But now we are much more brave and we are joining things together much better. The improvement is clear.”
Despite reaching the round of the EFL Cup, United failed to win any of their first five league outings following Jokanovic’s arrival in July. However, after also drawing with Luton Town before the international break, they now travel to Hull City this weekend unbeaten in three.
Jokanovic, who has previously led Watford and Fulham to promotion from the second tier, added: “The dressing room was really hurt afterwards, because like me they felt they played a good game and I agree. But now we must recover, build and go again. We are doing things right and want to keep on improving.”
Iliman Ndiaye, United’s 21-year-old midfielder, started the fixture after netting a brace against Darren Ferguson’s men but limped-out of the action during the closing stages. Jokanovic, who confirmed Ben Osborn was missing through illness rather than injury, revealed Ndiaye was withdrawn because of cramp. The Frenchman also suffered a bout towards the end of the meeting with Peterborough.
Ndiaye’s preparations for the campaign were interrupted by a contractual issue which has since been resolved.
“It was nothing serious,” Jokanovic said. “Iliman can not score two goals every week, as he did last time and this was a much more aggressive game than that one. His situation over the last two months is that he was working with me, coming in and coming out. That probably does not help. We need to check how he is but, in general, I think he played another good game.”
"Ben isn’t injured, he is just ill,” Jokanovic added. “The situation is simple and he hasn’t worked with us for the last two days but we hope he will be working with us in our next training session.”