PoSITIVES were scarce for Sheffield United on Tuesday night as the home troubles continued for Nigel Clough’s side with defeat to one of their main rivals for promotion.
Dele Alli’s late winner for Milton Keynes Dons meant the Blades’ winless run at Bramall Lane was extended to four games as vital ground was lost on the rest of the chasing pack.
Paddy McCarthy was as disappointed as anyone in red and white at the final whistle at what had basically been a smash-and-grab raid by the Dons.
The loan defender, though, could at least take some solace from how his body stood up to the exertions of two games in a short period after also playing the full 90 minutes in last Friday’s 1-1 draw with Notts County.
Not so long ago McCarthy feared for his career after a nightmare 18-month spell during which he was continually dogged by persistent groin and calf problems so Tuesday’s clash with the Dons was something of a milestone for the Irishman.
“Being able to play back-to-back games and not suffer any problems was a big thing for me,” said the 31-year-old.
“It has been a difficult time. But as the weeks go by I feel fitter and stronger. That is why it is such a big frustration for me that two of the next three games are Cup ties and I can’t play.
“That said, when I first came here, I said it wasn’t about me. It is about the team winning. Results haven’t gone to plan but we are on the right lines as a group. We will move forward.”
McCarthy had been captain of Crystal Palace before the injury problems first struck but last year he managed just 26 minutes of Premier League action in January’s 1-0 win over Hull City.
This time around, he played in both of the Eagles’ Capital One Cup ties – which is why he cannot face Southampton at Bramall Lane on December 16 – but it took the loan switch to Yorkshire to bring a first league appearance.
Since then he has gone on to play nine times for the Blades and he insists that the squad has what it takes to challenge for promotion.
McCarthy said: “We have the players, 100 per cent. We brought lads like Sparky (Marc McNulty and Jose (Baxter) off the bench on Tuesday and when you have that sort of depth then that shows how strong the squad is.
“I definitely think we have enough. Teams just go through spells where things don’t go for you and that is how football is.
“There is so much football still to play. There are only 19 games gone and we do have things to build on. I thought on Tuesday the lads could go home and say only one team went out to try and win the game.
“MK Dons came with a game plan and it worked for them. But, on reflection, I think they’d agree they were a bit lucky to get the three points.”
After Plymouth Argyle visit the Lane in the FA Cup this weekend for a tie McCarthy must sit out at the insistence of Palace, United then head to Fleetwood Town on December 13 before hosting the Saints four days later.
McCarthy added: “I can’t play against Plymouth but I am sure the team will have enough to get a good result against Plymouth to ensure we go to Fleetwood with our tails up.
“We have to believe.
“The lads were gutted after MK Dons. We had spoken beforehand about going out and expressing ourselves and we did that. But the result just didn’t come.
“On reflection, I would say there were things to build on and have to take those positives and move on to the Cup.”