Sheffield United 1-1 Swindon Town – Yaser’s Back

Swindon Town failed to overturn an early deficit for the first time in three matches and were forced to settle for a point at promotion-chasing Sheffield United. Despite the early setback, and surviving a shaky period at the start of the second half, Luke Williams’ men will feel slightly disappointed not to come away with all three points, writes Joe Young

Heading to the “Oldest Professional Football Ground in the World” for the fourth year running, my expectations were not all that high. Really, I was just wanting to see us score, after four successive defeats to nil I was starting to get a bit despondent. (Notwithstanding the play-off trip, which will always have firm place in my heart.)

Swindon started well, and passed the ball around with purpose, but the first real incident of note was a floated cross from Sheffield United that cleared everyone for a goal kick. It was heart in mouth time for a moment as the ball looked like it might fall to a United player at the back-post, luckily the ball drifted out harmlessly.

The opening goal came from a disputed penalty. The Swindon fans were situated high in the Redbrik (sic) Upper and gave us a clear view of the incident from behind Jordan Turnbull. As Coutts clipped the ball between Turnbull and Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill he appeared to try and run in to a non-existent gap and went to ground when the inevitability of physics took over. The Town faithful were incensed when a slightly rotund Trevor Kettle pointed to the spot.

Billy Sharp, who also looked slightly less than svelte, was clinical from the spot and the Blades were in front. My own opinion at the time was, “Where was Turnbull meant to go?” It genuinely looked like he hadn’t done anything wrong. With my pride still smarting from being labelled “deluded” by “Terry” in the comments section below my report from this game last year, I was determined to review the decision before spouting off (not really, but Terry, if you’re reading, please feel free to increase the traffic to the site and waste your time moaning about subjective view of a lifelong Swindon fan. It was good away support last year – for Swindon. Which after all is the perspective from which I was writing).

Sadly for me, the more I’ve reviewed the decision (to my other half’s frustration as I watched it on repeat for about 15 minutes last night), the more I think Kettle got it right. Whilst I maintain that Coutts tried to go through a non-existent gap, there is clear movement from Turnbull towards him. Ormonde-Ottewill also appears to make some contact. I urge you all to look at it and see what you think. I’m certain they’ll be differing opinions on it, the clincher for me is always the question, “Would it I want the decision if it was at the other end?” In this instance the answer’s a clear yes. So penalty.

Swindon dominated the rest of the half in terms of possession and struggled to carve out clear chances. There was the usual noise from sections of the support about getting forward, but for me this was a much improved performance since the matches against Gillingham and Burton. The passing was controlled and purposeful, always trying to shift the organised United from side to side and probe for gaps. Yaser Kasim was having a really good game. He was on the ball a lot and seemed back to his best.

More cynical observers than me put this down to him trying to impress the scouts. I like to see the best in people (even the mindless morons chanting vile obscenities about Ben Gladwin and Jay McEveley were trying to lift their team…) and prefer to go with the Adver line that he’s finally over some niggling injuries. More pragmatically, if he’s going to go, let’s get some decent money for him, if at all possible. A couple of wonderful pirouette turns from Kasim can’t have hurt – they were enough to nudge him to the man of the match award over Jon Obika and Lawrence Vigouroux in my view.

Half time came and went and was closely followed by the only section of the match where Sheffield United had a prolonged decent spell. A misplaced pass from Vigouroux gifted United a great chance to extend their lead, but the ‘keeper came to the rescue to save well at his near post. Sharp was visibly frustrated not to get the ball pulled back, either that or he’d missed his half-time biscuit (I’ll stop that fat jibes now, it’s a bit embarrassing for those who know me and my shape – plus I’ve always rated Sharp. I just got annoyed when he tried to get Branco in trouble for an alleged elbow. He was lucky to avoid a card himself at that point.)

Vigouroux game to Swindon’s rescue twice more as good saves stopped United from extending their lead. It is this point that Nigel Adkins must referring to when saying he was disappointed they didn’t extend their lead. I can see his argument, but that five minute spell was the only one where they ever really looked like scoring. This period was survived and Swindon once more settled in to dominate play.

Much to my frustration Swindon’s best passages of play saw Ormonde-Ottewill free on the left and not getting the ball across the box. There were numerous occasions when I thought he should have delivered the ball. I also wondered about the dynamic of the team once Nathan Thompson replaced Brad Barry. Thompson is a wonderful player, and I’d take him defensively over Barry anyday, but I was unsure about his ability to cross the ball the way Barry has done many times of late.

While I was pondering this, the excellent Jon Obika drove across the United half from the right flank taking a few players with him, played the ball to Kasim, who in turn threaded a delightful ball through to Ormonde-Ottewill. Yet again he failed to deliver early, this time leaving two desperate diving United players in his wake as he cut inside beautifully. While Obika begged for the ball to be pulled back to him, a third defender was left on the floor as the former Arsenal man cut the ball back in to the near post to score the equaliser instead.

As Swindon tried to get the winner, the game came to an end to the sound of ringing boos round Bramall Lane. Post-match social media comments seem to imply that they thought that we were the better team – I’m not about to disagree. That said, I’m not going to take that as too much of a compliment, I think they’re just annoyed with Adkins rather than any real offers of credit to us and our impressive possession based style. It just seems that frustration with the style of play is not unique to the County Ground.

After the game I read Williams’ comments about asking the players to cut back rather than cross the ball early. Apologies to Ormonde-Ottewill, Thompson and Barry, it just goes to show, what do I know?

4 comments

  • Thought this might interest you – http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/public/football/article4672267.ece a more general piece on the decline of crossing – and the increase of cut-backs and zone 14 play.

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    • Thanks. Very interesting. There’s always the question of retaining possession, I just expected early delivery because of the two men up top and the number of goals that my memory says have come from crosses of late.

      Or was that a Ling thing that we will now see less of?

      Interesting to see Williams frame it at as United are good at the back. Did he really mean crosses too “hopeful” in general?

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      • I think crosses are still a part of Williams’ plan generally but – and the public data backs this up – the most effective are in fact cut-backs from inside the 18-yard box.

        Williams’ seems to favour what is often known as ‘positional play’ in that width is built into the team, stretching the opposition and creating good 1v1s on the flank by overloading one flank before switching play – just as happened for Boo’s goal. That also allows for better crosses – as the defence are still adjusting.

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  • Nice one… compliments to your good lady for allowing you to watch the replays for 15 minutes… I’d be lucky to get 15 seconds!

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