Sheffield United: Slavisa Jokanovic puzzled by refereeing and disappointing Blades display in defeat to Millwall

Slavisa Jokanovic, the Sheffield United manager, refused to blame his team’s defeat to Millwall on referee Matthew Donohue despite admitting he “didn’t understand” the reasoning behind the official’s decision not to send-off visiting midfielder George Saville during the second-half of a controversial contest at Bramall Lane.

Wednesday, 20th October 2021, 8:08 am

United, who were reduced to 10 men soon after the interval when Morgan Gibbs-White received his second yellow card of the contest following a dive inside the box, appeared destined to take a point until Jake Cooper pounced in added time.

But Jokanovic, who had earlier seen captain Billy Sharp cancel-out Jed Wallace’s opener from the penalty spot, was left perplexed by Donohue’s refusal to caution Saville for a trip on John Fleck.

The Northern Ireland international had already been booked but, although Jokanovic reacted furiously at the time, he told The Star United’s performance, particularly before the interval, had fallen way short of expectations.

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Sheffield, England, 19th October 2021. John Fleck of Sheffield Utd (L) speaks to the referee Matthew Donohue during the Sky Bet Championship match at Bramall Lane, Sheffield. Picture credit should read: Andrew Yates / Sportimage

Accusing his players of lacking focus, the Serb said: “Our expectation for this game was completely different. We didn’t start well and they were winning the physical battle. We didn’t show enough energy or move enough. In one moment, I missed the energy, the desire and the power.

“They played behind us. We couldn’t connect two passes. But even when we didn’t play a good game, we still created chances.”

If Jokanovic was confused by how United began the match after beating Stoke City three days earlier, Donohue’s failure to dismiss Saville left him utterly bewildered.

Confessing he could not complain about Gibbs-White’s red card, which will rule the 21-year-old out of Sunday’s trip to Barnsley, Jokanovic said: “That killed us. We tried to ask him (Donohue) what the reason behind it was and he explained it wasn’t a foul, but I didn’t really understand that. He also said the defender was close but he was 20 yards away.

Sheffield, England, 19th October 2021. Dejected lliman Ndiaye, Ben Osborn and Enda Stevens of Sheffield Utd during the Sky Bet Championship match at Bramall Lane, Sheffield. Picture credit should read: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

“We were surprised and the Millwall player, I think, was also surprised.”

“I can interpret the rules, if you go down looking for a penalty,” added Jokanovic, whose side slipped to 15th in the Championship table. “The referee interpreted it as not being a fair play action. I can not complain about that decision but, like I say, that decision killed us. The other one, I don’t understand, no.”

Sheffield, England, 19th October 2021. Slavisa Jokanovic manager of Sheffield Utd during the Sky Bet Championship match at Bramall Lane, Sheffield. Picture credit should read: Isaac Parkin / Sportimage