Sheffield United manager Danny Wilson last night left Bramall Lane with their automatic promotion hopes fading. Leon Wobschall reports on a dramatic 24 hours in South Yorkshire.
HOME rule was the bedrock of Sheffield United’s powerful league form last term, but this year the statistics have gone dramatically awry – as Danny Wilson will lament to his chagrin. The Blades manager’s departure from Bramall Lane was confirmed last night after a dispiriting 2-0 home defeat to Crawley Town on Tuesday night.
The fans’ rancour aimed towards him at the final whistle will serve as a sad postscript to his time in charge.
While the Blades missed out on promotion in hugely unfortunate circumstances in 2011-12 – by just one place with a haul of 90 points – it will not be lost on Unitedities, or Wilson, that an identical tally would have been more than enough to secure the club the title this time around.
The disparity in points totals is linked to the change in home form for the Blades and is the major reason for Wilson’s demise.
The Lane was a real fortress for the Blades last season where they pocketed 16 wins – the best in the division except for Sheffield Wednesday (17) – and were beaten just three times while plundering 54 goals.
This time around, with three home games to go, they have won just seven games and scored a meagre 27 goals – the worst of any side in the top 10 – and are without a goal in four home matches, with just one win since Boxing Day at the Lane.
After Tuesday’s reverse, Wilson kept his players locked in the dressing room for an hour, holding a frank discussion with his chastened charges, who face two pivotal home games in the next five days – on Tuesday against promotion rivals Brentford, who beat Crewe last night, and on Saturday versus Swindon Town.
But when he emerged, Wilson’s tone was defiant and did not hint at a possible managerial change, with the 53-year-old addressing the press after a lengthy inquest, saying: “There was a great chat about it. It was not a cup-throwing type of conversation because we are beyond that at this moment in time.
“That is what we wanted, a constructive chat. It was not all pats on the back, obviously, but we had to clear the air in certain areas and work out what we can do better this coming Saturday.
“It is the business end and this weekend we have got to try and tweak exactly the areas where we can to win the game.
“We have got to persevere, we cannot just all of a sudden down tools and think ‘woe is us’. We will get through it and there is no better game than our nearest rivals to bounce back in.
“If there is a positive, it is that results went our way, all it does is knock it down by a game.”
Meanwhile, Tuesday was also a tough evening for League One leaders Doncaster Rovers, who also fluffed their lines on a night which promised so much, but delivered so little.
Rovers blew the chance of opening up a 10-point gap between themselves and third-placed Yeovil after being undone by two goals from Carlisle midfielder Liam Noble in a 2-0 loss to the Cumbrian side.
The net result is that Rovers cannot get promoted this weekend, even if they win at Crewe, having been mindful that victories over Carlisle and the Railwaymen, allied to results
going for them, could have kick-started a promotion party in Cheshire.
Despite the setback being ‘a bit heart-breaking’, according to winger Kyle Bennett, the players are not beating themselves up too much.
All of Rovers’ rivals would gladly swap positions with Flynn’s troops, who are two points clear of Bournemouth, with three games left in their season.
Bennett said: “The result was a bit heartbreaking, but the bonus is that Sheffield United and Swindon lost as well.
“It is still in our hands and we are not relying on anyone losing games. It is all about us.
“At the start of the season, if someone had told us with three games to go that we would have been top of the league, we would have taken that.
“We said in the dressing room we have to put it behind us as it is not end of the world.
“We must crack on – as Rob (Jones) said to us, as long as we have a P by our name at the end of the season, that is the aim.”