Having watched them answer his call for a display of togetherness and commitment, Nigel Adkins is now demanding Sheffield United’s players improve their concentration levels or risk losing further ground on the League One leaders.
Adkins, the United manager, is preparing to underline the importance of maintaining focus for the entirety of a game at the Steelphalt Academy this week after identifying individual lapses for his team’s failure to beat Barnsley on Saturday.
United entered the contest under intense scrutiny after their “unacceptable” display against Shrewsbury Town four days earlier. Adkins, speaking after Conor Hourihane’s 94th minute equaliser denied the visitors a first win in five outings, praised his squad’s attitude and application. Privately, however, coaching staff believe carelessness prevented them from closing the 12 point gap between themselves and second-placed Coventry City; something they will emphasise before this weekend’s FA Cup tie against Oldham Athletic.
“We got some response, there was a definite togetherness about everybody which is so important and the players were out there to win a game of football,” Adkins said. “We’ve created chances, we were very competitive in nature, but we didn’t get the victory or the clean sheet that we wanted.
“It’s a response - the next game’s the most important one. We put ourselves in a position to win it and being 1-0 up going into injury time, you’ve got to see it out.”
Although Hourihane’s finish captured the imagination of supporters and commentators alike, behind the scenes Adkins is known to have expressed his annoyance that the former Republic of Ireland under-21 international had been left unmarked after specifically highlighting the threat he posed from long-range before travelling to Oakwell.
“We started very brightly, we were on the front foot and scored a good goal, we should have scored a few more,” Adkins said. “There was plenty of energy and desire but we let a winning position go.”