BLADES SLASH THEIR ODDS

Clough’s men 14-1 ON to make play-off cut

The Football League Paper - - FRONT PAGE - By Chris Dunlavy

BARNS­LEY’S play­ers have been warned to get nasty or get out by manager Lee John­son af­ter a limp sur­ren­der to York­shire ri­vals Sh­effield United.

Un­beaten in seven (nine in to­tal) since John­son ar­rived from Old­ham on Fe­bru­ary 25, the Tykes be­gan the af­ter­noon with gen­uine de­signs on usurp­ing Nigel Clough’s men for a place in the top six.

But a per­for­mance baf­flingly de­void of fight, en­ergy or any real threat saw the high-tempo Blades cruise to victory cour­tesy of goals from loan duo Steven Davies and Ja­son Holt.

It was a dispir­it­ing re­turn to re­al­ity for a packed Oak­well and John­son – who re­mained locked in his dress­ing room for a good 45 min­utes af­ter the fi­nal whis­tle – says his play­ers must be­come “dirty win­ners” if they want to re­main part of his plans.

“It was ma­jorly dis­ap­point­ing,” said the 33-year-old. “We failed to per­form on an oc­ca­sion that was very im­por­tant to us. Over the 90 min­utes, we were sec­ond best by a dis­tance.

“The play­ers have been ex­cel­lent since I came in, and I said that to them. But I also said, ‘Look, I’m the nicest guy in the world when we’re win­ning. But I’m a dirty win­ner, and I have been all my ca­reer’.

“My team has to re­flect that per­son­al­ity. And if my team isn’t re­flect­ing my per­son­al­ity, that team will have to change.”

Rarely in re­cent years has Oak­well bounced as it did at kick-off, tes­ta­ment to the be­lief and pride that John­son has im­bued in his for­ma­tive reign. What a shame, then, that his play­ers failed to feed off it.

For 20 min­utes or so, the home side flit­ted and buzzed. Josh Scowen fired wide, Conor Houri­hane fired a free-kick into the wall, then picked out Martin Cranie who couldn’t quite stretch to make a good con­tact. There was, how­ever, noth­ing you could call a ‘real’ chance. The same could not be said for United, who hit the bar through Davies and then saw a shot from Chris Basham – in to­tal com­mand of cen­tral mid­field through­out – well cleared by Cranie. Both chances were cre­ated by left-back Bob Har­ris, whose ma­raud­ing runs had Barns­ley in pieces.

But it was fel­low full-back Kieron Free­man who did the real dam­age, whip­ping in a free-kick that Davies headed pow­er­fully home for his first Blades goal since ar­riv­ing on loan from Black­pool.

Nigel Clough has taken plenty of pel­ters from Blades fans for his ex­ces­sively de­fen­sive in­stincts, gen­er­ally cen­ter­ing on his per­ceived de­vo­tion to de­fend­ing a 1-0. Here, though, his side bris­tled with at­tack­ing in­tent, kept com­ing for­ward and got their re­ward with 20 min­utes left.

Matt Done’s long throw some­how landed in the six-yard box, and pan­icked Tykes de­fend­ers then added to the may­hem by hack­ing a bob­bling ball to the edge of the area.

Holt, wait­ing in the D, wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth and struck a crisp vol­ley into the bot­tom cor­ner for his third goal in as many games.

Barns­ley of­fered noth­ing more, and by the time the fi­nal whis­tle sounded to give the Blades a seven-point play­off cush­ion, Oak­well was half empty.

“We just didn’t give it a go and that’s what’s dis­ap­point­ing,” added John­son. “I feel for the fans be­cause I wanted to give them a lot more than they got. There was a lack of ex­pe­ri­ence and a lack of savvy. Four or five play­ers were ev­ery­where the ball had just been.

“But we haven’t be­come a bad side overnight and we’re not out of it. There are a lot of young play­ers in that dress­ing who will learn a lot from that.”

Blades as­sis­tant Andy Gar­ner said: “It’s a lo­cal derby and we wanted to get into their faces. We said be­fore kick­off, ‘Go out there, get at them and don’t let them set­tle’.

“I thought we did that very well and, af­ter the first goal, we were very com­fort­able.”

PIC­TURES: Pin­na­cle

TYKE TAMERS: Steven Davies cel­e­brates scor­ing Sh­effield United’s first goal at Barns­ley with John Bray­ford

PIC­TURES: Pin­na­cle

BREAK­THROUGH: Sh­effield United’s Steven Davies opens the scor­ing with a loop­ing header

PUMPED UP: Steven Davies cel­e­brates open­ing the scor­ing with the im­pres­sive Chris Basham

STAR MAN CHRIS BASHA

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