FRUSTRATION is the name of the game at Bramall Lane for Sheffield United captain Michael Doyle.
The Blades looked set for a third straight win but had to settle for a fourth successive home draw when they switched off and Oldham equalised in the seventh minute of stoppage time.
A draw, however, was all that Danny Wilson’s side deserved as they kept their unbeaten record intact and experienced campaigner Doyle confessed: “It is really frustrating. We have to be a lot better at home. Today was not good enough for our standards.
“Oldham gave it a real good go in the first half but we have to be able to dealt with it. We have to show more composure on the ball. Today just wasn’t good enough. Getting so many draws at home is probably playing on our minds a bit and we are getting really uptight.
“We were quite comfortable but in the last 10 minutes they threw a couple of big lads up front and had a right go but to score with the last kick of the game is a real kick in the teeth.”
Oldham’s goal came when Cristian Montano took a throw from the left and Jose Baxter lofted the ball over towards three unmarked yet onside team-mates with substitute Matt Smith being the one to knock the ball past unprotected goalkeeper George Long.
Doyle continued: “These draws are feeeling like defeats and that says a lot because sometimes you get draws and feel you have done well but I haven’t felt with any of the games we have drawn this season that we have been lucky.
“Every draw has felt like a defeat beacause I have felt that we should have won every game.
“That’s not being arrogant or big-headed. Even today we should have won because they scored with the last kick of the game. It feels like a defeat.
“The front lads are working their socks off and have struck a good partnership but we need to be starting to kill these teams off and we need to get to the bottom of it. The manager will be working on things now and will be aware of it. We are a big scalp but that’s the way it is and you don’t take anything away from the opposition. You can’t blame the referee for the amount of stoppage time, he’s just doing his job.”
The reason for the lengthy amount of time added on by Scott Mathieson was down to a clash of heads at the start of that period between Matt Hill and Jean Yves M’voto which led to lengthy treatment for the Blades defender, who had again been moved into the centre for infected foot victim Neil Collins with Marcus Williams continuing at left-back.
The reshaped Blades back four had coped well – Harry Maguire being outstanding – and behind them teenager Long produced three top quality saves as he deputised for thigh victim Mark Howard in his first start of the season.
It will not prevent manager Wilson scouring the market for a new goalkeeper this week for he has virtually no cover.
Wilson, who was unable to extend Paul Gallagher’s loan spell from Leicester City after his initial one-month stay, said: “We have made lots of moves but have been unable to do anything yet. It has been difficult because it’s been the international week and managers have been away in the top two leagues so it might be easier on Monday morning to get hold of people.”
Of his England Under-18 goalkeeper, Wilson said: “George did nothing wrong in the game at all. He’s 18 years old for heaven’s sake and I think it is fantastic for him to be in goal at this stage.
“There’s not many up and down the country who do play in the first team at 18. He’s in an elite group which is great for his progress. He could not do anything about the goal but had earlier pulled off two great point-blank saves so that will build his confidence. The players have made him feel very welcome and not put him under any pressure because they know what a good goalkeeper he is. There is no need to feel any panic because it’s a young lad in goals.”
Following last season’s play-off final defeat heartache, Wilson is confident he has the players to deal with the pressure of chasing promotion despite them dropping so many home points.
“There is an expectation here, of course there is, but it’s whether you embrace the pressure or not that counts.
“When you have near enough 20,000 in a stadium like this you are going to feel the expectation level, of course you are.
“You have to have the players who you hope can thrive on it and we hope that we have. Last season, the crowd was fantastic, brilliant and the lads rose to the occasion so I’m hoping it will be the same this time.”
Wilson is delighted with his front pairing of Dave Kitson and Nick Blackman and it was the former who won the penalty from which his partner tucked away his sixth goal of the season, sending Dean Bouzanis the wrong way from the spot in the 52nd minute for a fortuitous lead. Kitson had challenged for Hill’s punt forward but was wrestled off the ball by M’voto.
In the first period dominated by the visitors, Long had parried a drive from Robbie Simpson and Jonathan Grounds had knocked home the rebound only to be ruled offside. After the break, the Blades youngster made a great save to keep out Matt Derbyshire’s shot on the turn and also did well to hold a close-range header from Smith as the pressure built.
Ryan Flynn, however, should have made the game safe when he intercepted on halfway, spurted down the right, cut inside M’voto but drove his shot inches wide in the 86th minute.
Sheffield United: Long, McMahon, Maguire, Hill, Williams; Cofie (Cresswell 70), McDonald, Doyle, Flynn; Kitson, Blackman. Unused substitutes: Westlake, Porter, Miller, McAllister, Chapell, Willis.
Oldham Athletic: Bouzanis, Wabara, Byrne, M’voto, Grounds; Croft, Simpson (Smith 82), Wesolowski, Montano; Derbyshire, Baxter. Unused substitutes: Cisak, Brown, Tarkowski, M’changama, Winchester, Sutherland.
Referee: S Mathieson (Cheshire).