It was a much needed win for Sheffield United last night at Reading and a second clean-sheet on the bounce for Slavisa Jokanovic’s side.
After a dismal 0-0 draw with Coventry City on Saturday, this one seemed to be heading a similar way. Reading offered little, while United were once again slow and passive in the opening 45 minutes. However, an improved second half saw a fine ball in from David McGoldrick volleyed in by Jayden Bogle.
From there, United sat tight and defended well. Andy Carroll was brought on to cause problems, but the likes of John Egan and Ben Davies dealt with the big striker well.
And former Blade, Kevin Gage, felt that United’s defenders deserved credit for the way they saw the game out in Berkshire last night.
The Sheffield United defence has had its critics this season. Sloppy goals, poor errors and bad decisions have blighted the Blades’ season.
But Gage, who played for United in the mid 90s, felt that the trio of John Egan, Chris Basham, and Ben Davies deserved plenty of credit for last night’s efforts.
“We seem to have cut the silly goals out and our defending at times tonight was superb in patches,” Gage told SUTV.
“Ben Davies winning some crucial headers and Basham getting his foot in. John Egan was organising the troops as well. We defended – as a team actually – very very well”
The shut out was only United’s fifth of the season. However, the switch to five at the back seems to have steadied the ship and the foundations are now in place for Jokanovic to build from.
It might only be two games, but there can simply be no question now as to whether this team should play four or five at the back. Two clean-sheets against decent enough opposition have shown this Sheffield United team is more comfortable.
Of course, there could be more going forward. But that will come in time. At the moment, it’s simply important to win games, and if grinding out 1-0 wins gets some momentum going at Shirecliffe, then great.
It’s a big move from Jokanovic to move to the back five. It’s almost an admission that his own way wasn’t working. But on the other hand, you have to credit him for seeing things were wrong, and then changing it.
For now, the back three/five looks here to stay. And while ever the Blades are winning, it’s likely to remain firmly in place for the future.