Nigel Adkins last night admitted he has taken a conscious decision to change Sheffield United’s style of play.
But the 50-year-old, who arrived at Bramall Lane with a reputation for constructing attack-minded teams only to implement a markedly different tactical template earlier this month, vowed the League One club will revert to type when results and the consistency of its selection policy improves.
United enter Boxing Day’s game against Wigan Athletic on the back of three straight 1-0 wins and Adkins told The Star: “I wanted to play really expansive football. We’ve always created opportunities and scored goals but, there was no doubt, we were conceding too many. I went for one of my walks a few weeks back and decided we had to change that trend. We should have had four clean sheets in a row now when you look at what happened against Barnsley.”
United were held to a draw at Oakwell when, having taken the lead through Chris Basham, they conceded an equaliser in added time. Since then, however, Adkins’ squad has dispatched Oldham Athletic, Coventry City and, four days ago, Scunthorpe by the narrowest of margins after placing greater emphasis on the importance of keeping clean sheets. The United manager added: “There’s been a good discipline and shape. We always feel we are going to score or at least create the chances to score. We’ve endeavoured to address what was happening, that situation.”
The gravity of the problem which confronted Adkins following United’s 4-2 defeat by Shrewsbury Town on November 24 is illustrated by the fact that, despite failing to concede in over 4.5 hours of football, their defence is still only the 12th strongest in the division. United’s back four has been breached an average of 1.36 times per game since Adkins’ appointment during the close season compared to Wigan’s figure of 0.91. United’s frontline, however, remains the fifth most prolific in the competition with only Walsall, Gillingham, City and Peterborough, who visit South Yorkshire on January 2, scoring more goals.
Adkins, whose players attended a Christmas dinner for local charities yesterday, said: “It’s a busy period but one we are looking forward to. We’ve got to be focused. We’ve trained hard before coming to a super charity event with all the charities we support. We’re a part of the community.”