Preston manager Alex Neil needs to do something quickly to arrest alarming slump in form
Football can be a cruel old game at times and no more so than at Bramall Lane on Saturday.
North End had come back from two goals down and a fairly abject display to level the game with just six minutes to go.
Would the Sunday headlines read the miracle of Bramall Lane I thought as North End came forward looking for a winner.
For Alex Neil and his men, though, there was to be no miracle as David McGoldrick slotted home the winner for the Blades and send the 658 travelling fans home sick as the proverbial pigs.
To be honest apart from our magic five minutes we always looked second best and although Sheffield United are not a team I expect to get promoted they were just too good for North End on the day, aided by some atrocious defending.
The manager, once again, shuffled his pack and his formation with a 3-5-2 becoming five at the back when United were on the attack. North End started solidly enough but even with five defenders it wasn`t long before the home side were moving the ball quickly and drawing people out. North End got a few good blocks in and for half an hour we looked like we might hold the home side.
Ten minutes before the break, though, a Sheffield counter attack saw McGoldrick down the right and his cross found Billy Sharp totally unmarked to put the home side one up. Clarke just seemed to let Sharp go into the box unchallenged and in my opinion it was a shocker to concede. North End tried to counter but as the teams went in at half-time it was clear we had another big job on our hands.
The second half was only six minutes old when the Blades doubled their lead after North End conceded a free kick on the Sheffield right. Norwood whipped the ball in and in all fairness Basham scored with a very good glancing header which beat Chris Maxwell at the far post.
It seemed like a mountain to climb as Alex Neil shuffled the pack and introduced Johnson and then Barker. It was the young Manchester City loanee that sparked North End into life down the middle and when Robinson scored with ten minutes to go there was at least hope.
Three minutes later the away end was dancing with delight as Johnson equalised to set up a potential frantic final phase of the game. The fans ecstasy turned to agony when two minutes from the end McGoldrick scored the winner for the home side with the Preston defence, once again, all at sea.
It was a cruel twist but in all honesty we did nowhere near enough in the ninety minutes to deserve anything from the game. So here we are in late September bottom of the Championship and conceding goals for fun.
The blame game will doubtless go on and on but just focusing on what happened at Bramall Lane, I thought we were not comfortable with the formation and up to the introduction of Barker we were completely powder puff up front.
Pearson is now available again but to pin all our hopes of a recovery on just one young players shoulders is totally unfair and the cold facts are that is was what was not done in the Summer that is the main cause of our current plight.
The Middlesbrough game on Tuesday evening at least gives us some respite from the league campaign but with West Brom and Villa on the horizon the manager needs to do something, and quickly. It’s a mess at the moment and someone, somewhere must bring some inspiration into that dressing room before it’s too late.
The trip to Sheffield finished in disappointing fashion for the faithful who made the journey over the Pennines for the second time in five days only to endure a second defeat.
Unlike the Leeds game which could have been a six or even seven goal massacre, the Blades were there for the taking and we grew in confidence as the first half progressed only to be hit by a sucker punch shortly before half -time.
After this, heads dropped both on and off the pitch and after falling two behind it seemed this game was all over.We somehow got ourselves back into the game with two quick goals which for a brief few minutes rekindled my interest in the game and reduced my subdued mood.
However once again our defence conceded another goal. Last season we lost Jordan Hugill and replaced him with a system which revolved around the now injured Seaun Maguire who has not been properly replaced as I feel Louis Moult is not up to it at this level on his performance so far and seems very pedestrian to say the least.
The side in general seems to have no game plan whatsoever and unless this changes we will be playing League One football without a doubt.The only plus point for me in previous two games had been the display of Josh Earl who was left out of the team at Sheffield.
Another youngster Josh Harrop one of our best players at Leeds was introduced way too late in the game to have any impact after the farcical situation of him being stripped then sat back down on the bench which shows how indecisive on his team selection our manager, who had an outstanding season last year – has now become.
While it not a case of panic stations at the moment, things must improve very soon but as I said last week Icould not see us getting anything out of the next few games and nothing which I saw at Sheffield has altered this opinion.