If there’s one good thing that’s happened to Sheffield United in the past month it’s the return of John Brayford.
That’s a shame for Kieron Freeman, who has been our most consistent defender this season (i.e. he has made fewer mistakes than the other regulars), but that’s the way it goes in football.
When Nigel Clough re-signed Brayford last January he didn’t immediately show his class, and in fact never reached the heights of his loan spell the previous season.
He approached his best in the last few games when playing in the centre of defence, so to lose him for the second half of the first leg of the play-offs and the whole of the second leg was a big blow.
Typical of Brayford he didn’t let the fact that he was hobbling around on crutches make him miss the game at Swindon, and it can’t have been comfortable for him on the four-hour coach journey to the south-west (I know it wasn’t for me as my bad knee swelled up in sympathy!)
By all accounts Brayford has been a regular traveller this season too, which is something I’m sure most recovering players do not do.
One immediately noticeable things about Brayford’s performance at Barnsley was that every time he got the ball his first move was forwards.
Not once (that I can remember) did he stop and pass it sideways to David Edgar or Neill Collins, which United players have been prone to do a lot.
This may have been a product of the whole team’s more direct style, which actually created more chances than the usual methodical (slow) approach.
This was probably Nigel Adkins’s decision, though it might have been Brayford’s positive influence on the team.
Whichever, it was an improvement on what we have seen recently.