- Aug 6, 2009
- Reaction score
If it was not already, then surely Sheffield United’s impending relegation from the Premier League was all but confirmed after a second loss in a week in the capital. Defeat at Craven Cottage to fellow strugglers, Fulham, surely is the death knell in any faint hopes the Blades had of an unlikely survival. With West Brom picking up another unlikely point with 10 men at Burnley, United are well and truly adrift now and surely now the only question is if they can avoid finishing rock bottom? Even manager Chris Wilder has admitted that their race is now done. United also lost another centre back in another injury blow as Chris Basham’s run of 63 games started in the Premier League is now set to come to an end as he pulled his hamstring early in the second half.
United have now not won in the league at Craven Cottage since 1985 and indeed this was the only victory in over 50 years by the river despite a cup win in more recent times. United have not won a weekend game all season in the league and now have only won twice in London in nearly 40 years.
Tonight, Ademola Lookman’s strike after another poor defensive moment was the difference. United arguably could have had a late penalty but in truth it was a pitiful attacking performance from the visitors and they did not so enough to get anything from a wretched game of football. The home side were not great but showed enough to win the game and at least tried to attack their opponents and showed some intent from the off.
United’s squad was injury hit with with long term absentees O’Connell and Berge joined by Egan (broken toe) but there were a number of other changes too. There was a surprise return for John Fleck who had thought to be out for a period longer. Wilder brought back veteran Phil Jagielka into the side and Kean Bryan also started. George Baldock returned in place of the unfortunate Jayden Bogle. Norwood was dropped and Wilder opted to start with Basham in midfield with Lundstram and Fleck. Sharp and Oli McBurnie started up top with no place either for David McGoldrick. Zak Brunt was on the bench. Lys Mousset was once again not included with Wilder pencilling him in for a match behind closed doors early next week in an attempt to build his fitness up.
Fulham were without key men too with Mitrovic (COVID-19) and Cairney (injury) both missing. Loanee Maja began up top supported by Lookman and Cavaleiro. One-time United target Antonee Robinson started at left back. Zambo Anguissa and Loftus Cheek began in midfield alongside Harrison Reed.
The game started with the Blades wearing their green third strip but the newly formed defence sitting very deep and conceded an early corner through Lundstram. Basham won a free kick at the other end but Lundstram wasted this knocking it straight into the keeper’s hands. Aina then skinned Fleck and was away and Fulham had numbers but Loftus Cheek chose to pass and the ball was blocked out for a corner. Ramsdale had to flick over doing his best Billy Casper impersonation as he swung on the bar to help it over. A third corner was won but eventually cleared.
Stevens hopeful ball saw Fulham concede an unnecessary corner from Aina but the ball over would not sit down for Sharp and was cleared. Fulham were looking the more composed in the middle of the field and on a few occasions, they ran away from Blades players and were controlling possession. They had not created anything until Anguissa fired a long way wide but soon after they had the first shot on target as Lookman’s effort was held by Ramsdale.
Loftus Cheek then fired over as Fulham looked the more likely side to take the lead albeit in a poor game of few clear-cut chances. Ampadu did will to break up another attack but Sharp then gave it away under no pressure at all. This theme continued with Lundstram twice doing the same.
Wilder saw United not have any real foothold in the game and opted to change it on 20 minutes as Basham went back into defence and Ampadu into midfield. This change did not really change proceedings and McBurnie taking a whack on the head was one of the only real moments of note. Fortunately, the Blades did not need to use the new concussion protocol to make a change and he was ok to carry on.
Loftus Cheek was upended as he ran away from two Blades players but Bryan and Stevens held the home side up. Lundstram’s lazy play carried on after this foul when he tossed away possession and then Bryan and Jagielka did the same. Basham did well to clear before Cavaleiro came down the right and had a cross shot saved by Ramsdale. The same man then got further into United territory but blasted over with a decent chance.
United had barely had an attack and when they won a free kick, Fleck just floated it aimlessly behind. Fulham came again but even though they had dominated possession and at least tried to attack, they had not really looked like scoring either. United could not keep the ball though or get up the pitch with the front two not holding it and the rest of the team sloppy in everything they did. The Blades had barely kept the ball for more than two passes all game.
Reed’s shot was at Ramsdale as Fleck did not close down his opponent before the United keeper had to help over another cross as Aina’s ball in got a deflection. Just before Anguissa was given a yellow card for going through McBurnie in a clumsy challenge. The half ended with United not having one touch in the Fulham box which summed up the lack of adventure.
The second half began with Cavaleiro having another effort but it was weak and easy for Ramsdale as the game carried on in the same way as the first half ended. Incredibly another injury came when Basham pulled up and it seemed to be a hamstring pull. United had now lost all three centre backs to injury and most out for the imminent future. Norwood came on for Basham and Ampadu had to go back to the defensive area again in another midfield reshuffle.
Norwood’s first act was to hit a free kick into his first man in a rare chance but at the other end Loftus Cheek beat Jagielka and shot past Ramsdale but Baldock cleared off the line. This was the best chance of the game so far. Anguissa then blazed over as Fulham continued to dominate the game.
A rare moment of quality saw Norwood put a great cross in but Sharp poked over as the flag went up. It was a decent chance and the replays showed it would have been tight if he had scored. At least United had an attack and got the ball into the box.
The game ticked over the hour mark but soon after Fulham took the lead. Anderson hit the long all over the top and LOOKMAN was able to get onto it and he brushed off the challenge of Ampadu too easily. The ball ricocheted off the United defender but he had to do better and as the ball dropped the Fulham man smashed it through Ramsdale from close range and into the net.
United tried to respond and finally McBurnie and Sharp linked and the latter fed Stevens but his shot was weak and too close to Areola who saved with his legs. United won a corner soon after and the ball to the back post was headed down into the ground Bryan but as it bounced up Fulham cleared at the far post.
This mini spell at least saw some intent from United but more give aways from Lundstram and then Baldock saw Aina have a shot tipped over from Ramsdale. Anguissa then screwed badly wide before McGoldrick came on for Lundstram.
With 15 minutes to go Stevens played Sharp in but his shot was saved and the offside flag was up anyway for a clearer award this time. Baldock then chopped down Lookman and was booked for the high challenge that left the winger in some distress.
Bogle was then introduced for Jagileka as United went to 4 at the back and the newcomer operating on the right-hand side of midfield but Fulham nearly got in as McGoldrick had to get his toe in to stop Reed inside the box.
The game was entering the final few minutes and United had a chance as the ball dropped and Bogle and Areola converged on it. It seemed the United player got a touch but maybe the keeper did also as both players clattered into each other. VAR were happy it was more a coming together although replays seemed to suggest the Blades man may have got the touch first before he was smashed; albeit he went into the keeper too.
Both players needed a fair bit of treatment leading to 7 minutes of stoppage time but Lemina had the best chance as his shot was blocked from Bryan with the Blades trying to commit men forward. A final opportunity saw another poor Stevens cross into the man and the final whistle went signalling new life for Fulham in the battle to stay up but almost consigning United to certain relegation.
United – A depressing watch once again and another dreadful performance and result. Once again, another stupid and soft goal. Another tepid and timid approach too where we barely had an attack for an hour and did not even get in the opposition box until after they scored really (maybe the Sharp chance apart but technically was offside). We had 5 minutes of a 90-minute game (with the Stevens chance, Sharp another offside – this time legit and the Bryan header). That was it. The first half we saw on top of Ramsdale and looked terrified to even have an attack, keep the ball, make 2 or 3 passes. We just got it and kicked it away and the few times we had it in the middle of the field we lost it with Lundstram, Fleck and Basham terrible on the ball and off it chasing better technical players who were quicker and more athletic. Fulham were quite ordinary but still much better and more likely to score. They did not have lots of chances but they had many more than us and Ramsdale was at least employed. Their lad may as well have been sat on a boat on the Thames first half dangling his rod over (not a euphemism) night fishing. It was not even like we played on the break. We did not have a touch in their box. We did not even break. We just sat in and tried to play for a 0-0. It was pathetic.
I thought second half we may have a go but other than the one Norwood ball, nothing really happened and we had a few let offs with Ramsdale saves and the Baldock clearance off the line. It was inevitable they would get a chance as we defended so deep and did not even try to break out and have passes of play or get up the field. The front two were poor but had little to no service and we may as well have had no strikers and got some more bodies in midfield (if we had any). The goal was another soft one and bad mistake and then we had a bit of a go and Stevens has to do better – chance was as good as Lookman’s and a few other moments but they had as many chances and not sure we really pinned them back. Yes, the penalty in my opinion could and should have been given but that is clutching as we really deserved nothing. As I say we were playing Fulham. We had injuries but these were to defenders – other than Berge – we had every other midfielder/forward available but did not even try or look really like creating much at all. We had no belied we could score a goal or at least make a contest of it. If I was a neutral watching that I would have said these (us) are useless and deserve to go down. Many may say due to the lack of confidence and way we have lost games we had to play like that but I do not agree. We did not play like that at Man Utd or even Liverpool but for much of the season home and away we have played like that. West Ham last week, Palace, Burnley, Southampton I could go on? The formation is not seeing us get up the pitch or have enough of the ball and giving us chances. He cannot bring any other players in or change personnel much so surely he had to change the things he can do but he carries on stubbornly for some bizarre reason. His team selection was just bizarre. McGoldrick and Bogle been our best two players and best attackers since Xmas so he drops them both but keeps the woefully performing Stevens and Lundstram in the side and bring back McBurnie?
I love Wilder but at the moment I am not sure the teams he picks, the approach, the instructions he is giving the players or the confidence/belief they have in getting results is going to get us more than a defeat every week. I think too much will be once again made of the thin margins (you can say the Lookman v Stevens chance as an example or the penalty) but I am looking at how we played over the course of the game and how little football, skill, excitement or anything we showed. It was depressing to watch. I am noy buying the small margins and the ‘if we don’t make the mistake we draw’. We needed to win the game! We had to win! If Fulham do not score there, they would have scored from another chance as they were so deep into our half and penning us back in possession if not tons of chances. We always make a mistake. Every bloody week and we cannot score or look like scoring.
Sorry to be so frank and as Wilder has now admitted. We are down. Our own banging his badge manager has admitted we are gone. So effectively we have nothing left to play for apart from pride but we are not even showing that. I thought we might have a bit of a go a few weeks ago but now seem as bad as ever.
We picked up another injury and yes this is unfortunate to lose three centre backs but even long before this we had not even tried to win the game. Now we may aswell get Bash, Egan and O’Connell fit for next season. Do not risk Fleck if any issues – he did not look right either. I would bin Lundstram off now. No point playing him if he is not going to be here. We may as well play a few kids now. Some may say it could harm them and we may get some drubbings but as long as we only play off one and rotate them then I would rather see some enthusiasm and legs. We look dead on our feet. I also would rather us go and lose say 6 or 7-2 now rather than this lame 1 or 2-0 defeats where we are in the game but we are not. It is boring and depressing to watch us play and we have gone from being one of the most exciting Blades sides in my life (if not the most exciting) to one of the dullest and predictable.
We still have 13 games left. THIRTEEN. It is going to be painful viewing folks! We now have to watch Bryan, Jags and Ampadu against Mane, Sane and Firminho next week and a fired up Liverpool who have lost 4 straight league games and will be like a wounded animal. Throw in Klopp who will want to humiliate Wilder too! Cannot wait. This season cannot end quick enough.
Sorry to be so negative but struggling to say anything else but be honest. All those saying we are not the worst team in the league and not close to one of the worst teams in Premier League history need to accept we are both of those things. The table, results and performances tell us the facts sadly.