The business end of the season is all about bottle and backbone.
Demonstrating the ability, regardless of performance, to eke out results.
At a ground where they are still haunted by the ghosts of a previous play-off failure, Sheffield United suffered another painful blow. However, given results elsewhere in the division, at least it was only their pride that was hurt as, despite seeing Stephen Arthurworrey propel Yeovil Town to only their fifth home victory this season, Nigel Clough’s side ended the night eight points and two places clear of Rochdale in seventh.
The United manager, though, was still distinctly unamused after a 469 mile round trip ended in defeat to the competition’s bottom club. Given the paucity of quality produced, his frustration was understandable.
“We looked tired and lethargic,” Clough said. “Maybe, to a certain degree, that’s understandable but we’ve still got to do better than that.
“Yes, things could have been a lot worse when you see how some of the others have got on. But also that makes it worse because that’s a real opportunity lost to effectively seal our position in the top six.”
Trips to Huish Park can be sobering experiences for teams like United.
Yeovil, surrounded by lush green hills and picturesque country lanes, does not look like a hotbed of football.
Nor, given the sedentary pace of life in this sleepy corner of Somerset, does it feel like one either.
But appearances, as the visitors discovered to their cost in the end of season knockouts 708 days ago, can be deceptive.
Michael Doyle was among only two survivors of that squad to feature here as Clough, having overhauled the options at his disposal since taking charge last term, attempted to strike a balance between preparing for another tilt and promotion and trying to deliver another positive result.
It turned-out to be a forlorn hope as the other, Ryan Flynn, joined Steven Davies in succumbing to injury during an otherwise uneventful first-half.
With Arthurworrey converting in the 67th minute, after United had struggled to clear their lines following Samuel Foley’s free-kick, a fixture which had previously been meandering towards a conclusion suddenly burst into life.
Matt Done came agonisingly close to snatching an equaliser after hunting down Jamie Murphy’s centre but Yeovil somehow scrambled the ball clear.
“To be honest, for all the fact that we could have been better, we still couldn’t see them scoring,” Clough said.
“Then, suddenly, the ball is in the back of the net and they’re celebrating.
“It was a mistake from Mark (Howard). Whether it’s because he’s missed a few games here and there with a back problem I don’t know. But what we also know is that he can’t keep doing that.”
“Ryan has felt his hamstring and so he’s going to be a doubt next time out,” Clough added. “Steven took a whack on his foot very early on and couldn’t run it off so that’s why we had to change him.”
Clough had warned that his counterpart Paul Sturrock, previously of Sheffield Wednesday, would like nothing better than to stall United’s progress after taking charge of Yeovil earlier this month.
The hosts might be down, the former England international insisted, but they still represented a clear and present danger to the visitors’ hopes of stretching their unbeaten run away from home to eight games.
Sturrock might have been regarded as something of a leftfield appointment when he was unveiled as Gary Johnson’s permanent successor before Yeovil’s relegation to the fourth tier of English football was officially confirmed on Saturday evening.
But having spent over two decades at the coalface and with nearly 1000 matches on his coaching CV, the Scot brings with him a wealth of experience. Yeovil should find his knowledge invaluable as they prepare for life in the fourth tier.
It also helped them negotiate safe passage through a difficult opening period here as United looked to seize control from the off with Steven Davies inches away from prodding home a John Brayford header at the far post before Done gave his marker the slip only to be crowded out as a barrage of green and white shirts flooded back.
As the contest unfolded, though, so Yeovil improved.
United were never on the rack. But, with Chegozie Ugwu and Kieffer Moore making their considerable presence felt when Sturrock’s men went forward, quickly became aware this contest would be anything but routine.
Indeed, it was a measure of Yeovil’s efforts that, midway through the opening period, Clough changed the formation of his team.
Shifting Done to a more central role changed the dynamic of United’s attack.
But not, until an unfortunate spate of injuries towards the end of the first-half, the overall pattern of a tussle which saw them press and probe Yeovil’s rearguard without ever really threatening to prise it apart.
Kieron Freeman and Stefan Scougall both sent long-range shots sailing over Artur Krysiak’s crossbar but the Pole breathed a sigh of relief when Jason Holt’s angled drive flew inches wide following a delightful piece of skill towards the touchline.
Clough had made four changes to his starting eleven for United’s 58th outing of what has been a long and gruelling campaign.
Scougall began a fixture for the first time since February after confirming his recovery from a rib injury while Done, Davies and Paul Coutts were also recalled.
Davies, like Flynn, was substituted as the interval approached but his replacement, Jamie Murphy, made an immediate impact by cutting inside and presenting Coutts with a golden opportunity which he spurned.
Murphy’s direct running caused Yeovil problems again moments later but Krysiak saved.
The second-half continued in similar vein with United producing the more accomplished football but thwarted by some enthusiastic defending from their opponents.
Nevertheless, Yeovil took a 67th minute lead when Arthurworrey bundled across the line from close range following a skirmish in the six yard box. It was not entirely deserved although, having seen Moore head wide seconds earlier, United had been warned.
Done was inches away from restoring parity after pouncing on substitute Murphy’s cross but, inexplicably, the ball failed to nestle in the back of the net.
YEOVIL TOWN: Krysiak 6, Smith 6, Berrett 6, Foley 6, Moore 6, Ugwu 6 (Twumasi 85), Arthurworrey 7, Webster 6, Sheehan 6, Shephard 6, Kingsley 7. Not used: Weale, Hayter, Leitch-Smith, Hoskins, Grant, Eastmond.
SHEFFIELD UNITED: Howard 6, Brayford 7, Basham, Flynn 6 (Alcock 44, 6), Doyle 6, Scougall 7 (Baxter 73), Done 6, Coutts 6, Freeman, S Davies 6 (Murphy 40, 7), Holt 6. Not used: McNulty, B Davies, McGahey, Turner.
REFEREE: Tim Robinson (West Sussex), 7
GOALS: Arthurworrey (67)
CAUTIONS: Murphy (76)
RED CARDS: None
ATTENDANCE: 3841 (536 away).