Seven goals, three wins and one dissatisfied manager.
Chris Wilder warned he would drive his players hard after taking charge of Sheffield United in May. But, speaking ahead of tomorrow’s meeting with Peterborough, the former Northampton Town and Oxford chief revealed why he is still demanding more from a squad which enters the contest searching for its fourth victory in as many league games.
“We have to keep a few more clean sheets if I’m honest,” Wilder admitted. “That’s definitely something we need to do. We’ve not had our ‘keeper making save after save after save. We’ve not been sat under our own crossbar hacking balls off the line. So, not being able to shut-out the opposition has been a disappointment. It’s a situation we need to address soon if we can though.”
United have played nearly six-and-a-half hours of football since recording their last clean sheet, against Barnsley at home earlier this year. Despite attributing their failure to register one this term to individual errors - a habit which has been kicked in recent weeks - Wilder (pictured) is conscious that being tight at the back is the hallmark of most successful teams. United are seventh in the former table - four places above their next opponents - but 17th when it comes to rating the best defensive units.
Fortunately for Wilder’s fingernails, his instructions resonate behind the scenes. After coming from behind against both Oxford and Gillingham, the 48-year-old urged United to score the first goal before last weekend’s triumph at AFC Wimbledon. They obliged, racing into a 2-0 lead thanks to efforts from Mark Duffy and Billy Sharp, only for Dominic Poleon and Tom Elliott to hit the target either side of Matt Done’s strike.
“That first one is always vitally important,” Wilder said. “The lads have shown tremendous character and bottle to come back in the past but we all agree you can’t always rely on that. So, to actually do it, was great to see. It sets the tone and means you have more chance of controlling things rather than chasing them.”
ALL TODAY’S BLADES NEWS
Despite being breached 13 times in nine outings so far this season, United’s switch to a rearguard comprised of three centre-halves and two wing-backs has coincided with a marked upturn in their defensive performances. Daniel Lafferty and Ethan Ebanks-Landell, signed on loan from Burnley and Wolverhampton Wanderers respectively, are expected to feature against Peterborough while Jake Wright, Kieron Freeman and Jack O’Connell have all impressed after being recalled to the starting eleven. Goalkeeper Simon Moore’s arrival from Cardiff City is another factor to consider when assessing why United are now making fewer costly mistakes.
“We always thought this, the three central defenders, might be the way we’d go long-term,” Wilder said. “But the boys have taken to it really well and worked really hard on getting it right. There’s still room for improvement thought because you’ve got to be balanced. Nobody is up at Christmas if they’re going great guns, no matter what everybody else around might be saying at the time.”