Do Sheffield United players believe they can turn fortunes around?
Saturday’s goalless draw with Coventry City at Bramall Lane was the first time the Blades had kept a clean sheet in the Championship since the end of September – ending a run of eight games where they had failed to keep opponents out.
At the other end, there were a handful of good chances but not enough to get them over the line. The opportunities didn’t arrive until later in the game after David McGoldrick replaced Iliman Ndiaye after half-time. McGoldrick helped the ball stick more up front but when two chances fell his way in front of the Kop, he blazed over the bar.
Only six sides have scored more goals than the Sky Blues in the Championship this season while Saturday’s stalemate was only the fourth time in 18 games they had failed to find the net.
“We weren’t in serious danger and we created things but didn’t find a way to finish the action,” reflected Jokanovic at full-time.
As Jokanovic assessed, United never looked in serious danger of conceding. Bar a second-half penalty shout from the visitors and John Egan’s foul on Viktor Gyokeres when the Coventry man was running through on goal, the Blades’ back three were relatively comfortable.
Jokanovic’s decision to switch to a back three clearly reaped rewards as when the Sky Blues did manage to get a shot on goal, stand-in goalkeeper Wes Foderingham was comfortable.
With Robin Olsen injured, the former Rangers No 1 started for the hosts and even though he needed to make a few diving saves, he never looked threatened by Coventry’s attacking play.
Despite their solidity at the back, the Blades never looked sure of themselves in front of a frustrated Bramall Lane.
Players misplaced passes or dithered too long on the ball, with the home side failing to register a shot on target in the first half.
Along with McGoldrick’s second-half chances, Morgan Gibbs-White almost won the game for the Blades when his deflected shot wrong footed Simon Moore in the Coventry goal.
However, the former United player readjusted himself to get a hand to the ball.
There was a renewed vigour about the home side in the second half as they looked the more likely to win the game in the closing stages but they could not make the breakthrough.
Jokanovic used the word “nervous” to describe his United players.
Perhaps they are a side still carrying the mental scars of a team who were emphatically relegated from the Premier League last season. The Blades manager admits that his side need to take more responsibility and give the club’s supporters something to shout about.
“We weren’t comfortable, we were nervous,” added Jokanovic.
“We were not able to combine well and started to play a lot of long balls.
“We didn’t combine and it was flat.
“Of course people are not satisfied and they expect more from us and we have to take this responsibility and offer them something different.
“These fans pay the money for these tickets to see how Sheffield United play and win and at the moment we are not giving them so many opportunities and in this case I can understand the crowd.
“Today, we played out from the back and played some moments of very good football and some moments of very bad football.
“It’s important to have the patterns, we know what we have to do.
“We tried one shape and another, we had a period after the last game to think and try to find the solution in some way to try and take some steps forward.”
With the halfway point of the season approaching, the Blades sit in 17th place, nine points behind sixth-placed Queens Park Rangers.
Jokanovic is not worried about where his side find themselves at this stage, with plenty of time to turn their season around.
He insisted: “The only worry is the next game. Yes, there’s a big difference in terms of the points but we will see where we are in May. Right now we cannot be satisfied with our position but there is no time for us to stop. We have to keep going.”
He added: “Coventry are 11 points ahead of us and are a top Championship team and we were not worse than them.
“For some reason we can be where they are but we are not and we must try and find a solution and fix it and try to reduce the gap between us and those clubs in front of us.”
There might still be time for Sheffield United to save their season but they need to find a solution quickly.
Sheffield United: Foderingham; Basham, Egan, Davies; Bogle, Hourihane, Fleck, Stevens (Osborn 86); Gibbs-White, Ndiaye (McGoldrick 45), Sharp. Unused substitutes: Verrips, Burke, Robinson, Freeman, Brewster.
Coventry City: Moore; Hyam, McFadzean, Rose; Kane, Hamer (Godden 63), Sheaf (Kelly 75), Dabo; Allen, Gyokeres (Walker 64), O’Hare. Unused substitutes: Da Costa, Jones, Wilson, Shipley
Referee: M Salisbury (Lancashire).