Blades in desperate need to get spot-kick failures out of system

Sheffield United's penalty tale of woe. (Picture: Martyn Harrison).
Sheffield United's penalty tale of woe. (Picture: Martyn Harrison).
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CONSIDERING Sheffield United’s recent record in penalty shoot-outs, being the designated fifth spot-kick taker and expecting to be in a position to win the game may be a tad optimistic.

But that was what David McAllister hoped was his and the Blades’ fate when Tuesday’s penalty shoot-out got under way at Coventry City with a place in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Northern Area semi-finals the prize at stake.

In the end, however, it was the Sky Blues and not United who displayed the ice-cool nerve needed to prevail to dash central midfield man McAllister’s hopes of being the hero for a second time that night after the irishman had netted the goal that sent the tie to penalties.

After Joe Ironside had converted the visitors’ first effort from 12 yards, Harry Maguire and Ryan Flynn both missed as Coventry netted all four of their spot-kicks through Gary McSheffrey, David McGoldrick, Carl Baker and John Fleck to seal a 4-1 triumph and a place in Saturday’s draw.

For McAllister, not being able to even take his scheduled penalty came as a disappointment but the midfielder insists the Blades will bounce back come the weekend at Carlisle United.

“We were disappointed to get knocked out against Coventry,” admitted the 23-year-old Irishman.

“Not only was it the quarter-finals but also penalties for the second consecutive year.

“It is maybe something we need to look at. The gaffer came in the dressing room afterwards and said, ‘You need to get that losing mentality when it comes to penalties out of your minds’.

“I don’t know if it is in some of our heads or not. I would like to think it isn’t but we do need to get it out of our system and win a shoot-out.

“I was down as number five and hoping to get the winner but it didn’t work out that way.”

United’s Trophy exit at the Ricoh Stadium was the third time in 2012 that they had been beaten in a penalty shoot-out.

The most costly loss came at Wembley in May when goalkeeper Alex Smithies clinched promotion for Huddersfield Town as then Blades goalkeeper Steve Simonsen missed from the spot after a marathon shoot-out in the play-off final.

Three months later, the story was repeated as Burton Albion knocked United out of the Capital One Cup first round after holding their nerve in a shoot-out at Bramall Lane after the tie had finished 2-2.

Following on from last term when Wilson’s side crashed out of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy as Bradford City triumphed at the Lane in a shoot-out, the trio of losses on penalties this year have created a dangerous precedent – especially if United, who sit fourth in League One after 20 games, go on to finish in the play-offs once again.

More pressing, however, is the need to bounce back from defeat to Coventry come the weekend when Wilson takes his team to Brunton Park in league combat.

McAllister said: “We have a big run of games coming up. Our form in the league hasn’t been the best of late so we need to pick it up again.

“Starting at Carlisle, we want to go on a run. The results haven’t been as good as they were but we will still go to Carlisle feeling confident that we can get the win we need.”

McAllister’s strike at the Ricoh was his second in Blades colours, his other coming on the opening day of the league season against Shrewsbury Town.

It came in his 16th appearance of the campaign, a tally that already outstrips last season when he played just 10 times before being shipped out on loan to Shrewsbury.

On his season to date, McAllister added: “I am generally happy with how things are going. I am getting a lot more game time this season, certainly compared to last year. It would be great to stay in over Christmas as the games will be coming thick and fast.

“It is up to the gaffer if I stay in against Carlisle.

“It was great to get our goal. Kev McDonald being out suspended has given me a chance to get a run of games in the team.

“I was delighted to get on the end of one. I know I have to make an impact when I get in the team, I put that pressure on myself.

“But I would like to think the manager feels he can rely on me when I am called upon.”

Manager Wilson added: “It’s a disappointment to go out because I thought we had a chance to go a little bit further but, really, the priority is the league.”