Sheffield United manager Nigel Adkins has refused to concede defeat in the race for play-off qualification despite admitting last night’s loss at Southend means his team are now rank outsiders to claim a top six place.
But Adkins, who described the 3-1 scoreline as being “undeserved” and “very, very cruel”, revealed United could be forced to undertake their mission improbable without John Brayford after the defender suffered a potentially serious calf injury on the eve of the game.
Despite watching United slip to 13th in the table with only seven matches remaining, Adkins said: “You will never, ever, hear me give up. Never. It’s not something I do.
“We will pick ourselves up and get reading for the next game [against Walsall] on Saturday. That attitude will continue all the way through my tenure at Sheffield United.
“We want to get out of this division and, ideally, we want to do it now. We’ve gone and made it a little bit more difficult to do that now but we’ll carry on fighting. Be assured about that.”
Both United and Southend, who climb to eighth, entered the contest knowing that anything other than a victory would almost certainly condemn them to another season in League One. Tyrone Barnett controversially edged the hosts’ into a first-half lead before Dean Hammond equalised. Billy Sharp, Ryan Flynn and Che Adams all went close for the visitors before David Worrall and Jack Payne pounced as Adkins, by his own admission, “gambled” to try and achieve the desired result.
Brayford had been scheduled to feature at Roots Hall but is now set to undergo a tests on the muscle he damaged during United’s final training session before departing for Essex.
“It was a big, big blow,” Adkins said.
“John just went down as he kicked a ball with no one near him and that’s never good to see. We’ll have to wait for the correct diagnosis first because sometimes things aren’t as serious as you think. John will go through the right protocols and we’ll take things from there.”