Blades 0 Doncaster 0 - reportSeptember 18 2012 at 11:24 PM
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Very brief report tonight I am afraid as early start tomorrow (away with work) so can’t go to lengths I normally go to. Mind you not much to report!
Sheffield United and Doncaster Rovers fought out a goalless stalemate in a dire game at Bramall Lane on Tuesday evening. In a game that saw only two significant chances on goal from either team (both in the first half); the two sides could have been playing all night and still not scored! The game was woefully short on chances and quality as almost 18,000 were left completely frustrated with very little to get enthused about from either side. Rovers will be the happier side going away with a point away from home as United did not have one effort anywhere near the goal the entire second half.
As for the game; apologies for cutting this down to a couple of paragraphs but it seemed as if nothing happened. Seriously. I could offer up a long, report but I would be drawing it out. Doncaster came with one up top and two mountains at the back. We brought in Cresswell and Williams (wide left) for Cofie and Westlake. Doncaster had a chance early on when Collins dithered and Woods hit a shot across goal that Howard pushed out. The ball came out to Brown whose powerful follow up was really well saved from Howard. Doncaster started well and played some neat football and Cotterill and Bennett looked promising. We looked devoid of ideas until McMahon had a good curling shot tipped over. We had another corner blocked away after a Blackman header. That was it for the first half. It had been fairly even.
In the second half we dominated the ball but all we did was play it around the defence then lump in crosses from deep that were headed away. We won a few corners and free kicks but that was it. Kitson came on and had a few neat touches but we never looked like scoring. I cannot recall anything of note happening in terms of clear chances for either side in the second half. Blackman had one effort deflected wide and Gallagher had a tame free kick saved. Blackman hooked over after Woods could not collect but it was not even that close. We huffed and puffed but Doncaster defended deep and soaked up the bits of pressure we did apply. They did not go forward at all but just made sure they did not get a point. There were a few late changes for both sides and a few bookings but it seemed barely anything happened in the second half.
United – We were as bad as Saturday I felt; if a little bit more solid and organised from a defensive point of view. After a shaky beginning when Rovers had two golden chances, United did the basics at the back well but in truth Rovers barely even tried to go forward. They came for a point and got it easily. As Dean Saunders said, their keeper had one save to make the whole game and United for the most part never even looked threatening, let alone like scoring. We never really changed it and the frustration began to filter to the stands that were sick of players unable to do the basics. No one took a chance or gambled. No one tried to get in beyond and everyone just kept passing on responsibility. Players like Gallagher, Cresswell, McDonald, Hill, Williams who have all played much of their football in the top two divisions looked totally bereft of any confidence or how to get through the defence.
In truth the two centre backs McCombe and Jones just headed away aimless cross after cross as United could not and did not ever get the ball wide or even attempt to get in beyond a slow Rovers backline. It was worrying to see United completely devoid of ideas against such a basic set up with Doncaster defending deep and just soaking up the pressure. For United, whist they themselves defended better; they once again worryingly played quite a direct style and much of the football we enjoyed last season seems to have disappeared. The usual tactic seems to be the defenders knock it from side to side, back and forth for 4 or 5 passes before someone lumps it forward. When we did get it into the Doncaster half we crossed from ridiculously deep positions making it easy to clear. We were just hoping for a knock down or a mistake.
We could not even say we may sneak a goal from a set play as these were even worse than Saturday. McMahon took 8 or 9 corners and I think beat the first man once. Williams took a few and was even worse. We wasted several free kicks in a similar way. I would question what we actually do on the training ground based on these set plays and their horrible lack of execution or guile.
It is about tactics and is about lack of invention, lack of width, lack of patience, lack of plan B, C but sadly more than any of those things it does boil down to superior players being replaced by inferior ones. Quinn, Evans, Williamson, Lowton (Doyle and Flynn too at moment) missing and replaced by players nowhere near as good. There has been a significant downturn in talent levels and it is starting to filter through on the pitch where it is clear the side man for man is nowhere near as good as the team last year and that team could not get promoted. Sadly it looks all the world like a mid table side at best and 5 draws out of 7 is not really acceptable but is where we are at. We are not good enough and have a mish mash of players with no real shape, pattern or consistency of how we play and I am not even sure the coaching staff knows how we are supposed to be playing.
Doncaster – Was disappointed with them at least from an attacking sense but felt they were quite negative for long spells. They started well and had a few chances and were well in the game for the first half hour but then after this went in their shell which was odd. If they had gone at us I felt with Cotterill and Bennett, they had players who could cause problems but it never happened and they just seemed to get deeper and deeper and settle for a point. As for players the two centre backs were not even good, they just headed away ball after ball. It was meat and drink. We never even tried to turn them and left it too late to make changes. It was a game where Cofie or Miller should have been used for a long spell as Blackman and Cresswell were making no headway; granted with no service. They were workmanlike in the other areas and had designated a man to mark McDonald which helped stifle us but they did not have to do very much to get a draw. Up front Brown fouled all evening before he finally got booked and was completed isolated and Maguire played him comfortably.
I thought they would do more going other way and had good options on the bench like Blake and Hume but just accepted they would take a point. They invited us on but we could not make them pay. They probably will finish around the playoff places but the annoying thing is if you put Cotterill and Bennett on our team; we would look so much more of a threat as they were their main threats and at least tried to turn defenders.
Howard 6.5/10 – To be fair he made a good double save early on. The first was straightforward but the second was an excellent save; the best he has made since I have seen him. After this he dallied on one kick out that ricocheted off a man and was fortunate and then came and half punched away. He had little else to do and was well protected from the defence.
Hill 6/10 – Defensively he did ok and actually coped with a tricky winger fairly well. He is first and foremost a defender and in this aspect he was solid enough. Going the other way there were some aimless lumps forward and some poor balls to no one in particular. I do not think the Hill-Williams combination will be giving many league one defences nightmares but the intention was to solidify us defensively. We did that but offered little to nothing other way.
McMahon 6/10 – He was better than Saturday and he too defensively was solid enough. He was faced with Cotterill for a long spell of the game and other than one run he kept him in check. Like Hill he offered little the other way and his aimless crosses from wide that he tried again and again were frustrating to say the least. His corners were awful as he routinely hit the first man. Is he meant to be some sort of free kick/corner expert? Not sure who had told him that as his delivery what I have seen this season has been mostly awful (I know we scored from one at Scunny though).
Maguire 7/10 – Thought he had a really solid game. Dealt with Brown well who just got frustrated and kept fouling him. Showed real maturity in dealing with an experienced frontman and used his superior ability and good reading of the game to completely come out on top. There were a few slices and long clearances (as per every other defender) when we needed to try and play through midfield more.
Collins 6/10 – Let the ball bounce that led to the early double chance and then did it again soon after. Seemed quite hesitant at times and is not attacking the ball or being as decisive as last season. That said he was untroubled second half but cannot recall much of note coming towards him or our goal.
Gallacher 3/10 – Been really disappointed with him in the two games. He has struggled to stamp his ability on games; has come inside way too much meaning our play is very narrow. I wanted him to get down the line and get beyond the defence but his penchant for coming inside meant play just got congested. I cannot recall anything he did in terms of a good cross, shot, pass or piece of skill and he needs to do much better regardless of lack of service he received.
McDonald 6.5/10 – Still not quite at his best and was earmarked as a danger man clearly as they man marked him but he still showed some lovely touches and range of passing. Looked our main threat to make something happen but again he only showed it in flashes. Most of his passes went backwards and sideways though and he too did not take enough responsibility. Only once did he carry it forward and take the initiative and the game passed him by again too much.
McAllister 4.5/10 – He was a bit better than Saturday and at least got his foot in a few times and I did notice him (which I did not against Bury) but he really offers little to nothing I feel. Cannot recall him touching the ball very much and he is another that does not assert himself physically. He is another candidate for the infamous, ‘ Hoyland’s Hole’, so named due to a players ability (Falconer, Hamilton and Harper were a few successors) to simply hide. Not sure he is the answer moving forward but then could say the game about half a dozen.
Williams 6 /10 – Despite some of his abject touches and headless chicken act; I actually felt he gave a really good effort and never hid. There were far worse players. He got up and down, supported Hill defensively and gave his all. Sadly his actual ability and touch for the most part was poor but it was poor as he is technically just not good enough. He is not a winger and seems unsure what he is to do or where he is to run. He actually had a 5 minute spell just after half time where he ploughed down the wing and won a few free kicks or corners with some persistence but then a few comedy moments where the ball bobbled off his feet or head followed! Surely the likes of McFadzean, Tonne, Chappel are worth a go in this area and could not do much worse?
Blackman 5/10 – Thought he was poor tonight against two big centre backs. He was slow to the ball and never got in front of his man. Had a few moments of link up play and showed some intelligent touches but these were few and far between. He got knocked about by the defence and maybe should have come on early in the second half.
Cresswell 4/10 – He played for free kicks all game and did not get any (rightly). He was brought in to hold the ball up and show some experience in the absence of the rookie Cofie, but offered very little all game. He did not really link with others and often the ball got away from him or he failed to link up at all. He at best is a player than can be used for a half here and there but not sure he is someone who can play for full games and be effective any more. If he cannot do anything against two plodders (I could call them something more critical) that Doncaster played then he really is going to struggle against anyone.
Kitson – At least showed he was a handful when he came on and had a few flicks or moments where the ball did not quite drop. Won a few free kicks and used his experience in a few moments. Think he may be worth a start as he would offer more than Cresswell in my opinion.
Coffee – Came on right at the death and played wide right but had no time to make an impact. Would have given him longer down the middle as we at least may have looked a threat. You could say he would have got knocked about and not won a header but then neither did the other two so surely a different approach could have been tried in the second half?
Officials – Ref- Haywood. Thought it was reffed sensibly with the bookings for Jones and Brown for them and Williams for us merited. There were barely any bad fouls all night with just Brown’s persistent fouling being the only source of frustration. A couple of times he could have played on and stopped it and maybe a few times was a little fussy over where free kicks were taken but that is being picky. Overall he did ok. They did time waste but it would not have mattered if he had played 25 minutes additional time!
Crowd/Atmosphere – It was really quiet again and the atmosphere seemed so flat. I am not surprised. We have seen two awful games and I have to be honest I love United and will watch any football but even I have been bored the last few games. That sort of game and performance will see the crowds drop. It has sadly reminded me of the McEwan and Porterfield era with no inspiration, no quality and lots of slow, second rate players who have little to no idea and can barely do the basics.