It might only be a slim chance, probably slimmer than a cigarette paper in fact, but Nigel Adkins is still refusing to rule Sheffield United out of the hunt for a play-off place.
Which explains why, despite his admission that this season has been a testing and at times frustrating experience, the 51-year-old last night described today’s fixture against Tony Mowbray’s Coventry City as a must win game.
“I know Tony has given his lads a right kick-up the backside,” Adkins said. “So you’ve got to expect there’s going to a response from that. We know they are good and we are expecting it to be a very tough match. But we need to go there and do the business. End of.”
A quick glance at the League One table, where United enter the contest four points behind sixth-placed Barnsley with only two matches remaining, confirms that fact. With Paul Heckingbottom’s side, hosting relegated Colchester following last weekend’s draw at Bramall Lane, Adkins conceded the outcome of his squad’s contest at the Ricoh Arena could well be rendered an irrelevance. But, insisting United “can only control the controllable”, his decision to give the Essex club a Sir Alex Ferguson style pep-talk confirms he has not given--up hope just yet.
“You would imagine Colchester, who are already down, would get beat by Barnsley. But you never know, stranger things have happened. Strange things do happen.”
City’s recent defeat at Doncaster Rovers, who are in grave danger of joining the Essex club in League Two next term, proves exactly that.
“Tony has had a right go at his lads but this is their last home game of the season and I’m expecting them to perform. Early on, I thought they were the best team in the division, they were outstanding. But now Wigan have gone on to become that. It’s not materialised for them but they’ve got some very talented players and we’ll have to be at the top of our game.”
Adkins used City’s slide down the rankings - they were second in the table after losing at Bramall Lane four months ago - to explain some of the problems he has faced, and the steps taken to address them, earlier this term.
“League One is tough, a game every three days, and that’s why I talk about the need for robust players,” Adkins said. “There’s been a big turnaround here. We brought six in, probably the fewest in the division, and let something like 25 go. There’s a restructuring but it takes time and it will happen.”