Sheffield United owe their supporters a performance against Preston North End this weekend, Chris Wilder has insisted, after admitting his team’s defeat to Birmingham City means a top six finish is now unlikely.
Goals from Marc Roberts and Jacques Maghoma saw the visitors remain three points behind the play-off positions with only two matches remaining despite taking an early lead through Mark Duffy.
But after dropping to 11th in the Championship table, Wilder conceded: “Obviously we are looking very much at other people’s results now and it’s going to be a tough week for them. I didn’t think our performance did the fans justice out there. Looking at other people’s results disappoints me because I think we should be in there.
"You’ll get a fired up performance in the next game. I’ll look into the players’ eyes and pick the right side to finish on a high because everytime you pull on a red and white shirt, something is at stake.”
Speaking ahead of the meeting with North End, which is United’s final home game of the Championship campaign, Wilder added: “I’m disappointed for the supporters because they turned out in numbers. The dressing room was below them and, beforehand, we could hear the noise they were creating. It was a great lift and we got off to a great start. But we didn’t do enough. I won’t settle for second best.”
Despite criticising his squad’s display at St Andrews, Wilder struck a more conciliatory tone when assessing their efforts throughout the season as a whole.
“The damage wasn’t really done here,” he said. “I want a consistent level of performance. Stranger things have happened but we have to rely on other results now and I don’t think we should be doing that. Hopefully we’ll have a really big crowd for Preston, because it should be. But the way we are feeling now it (reaching the play-offs) is possibly too much of an ask.”
“I was walking up the tunnel thinking shall I protect them?” Wilder added. “But that wouldn’t be doing myself justice.”