When Sheffield United – hopefully – line up against Wolves this weekend in FA Cup action, it will be nearly three weeks since the Blades played and won their last fixture away at Fulham.
Paul Heckingbottom has seen his side’s high December hopes shattered. A called off clash with QPR preceded the stunning 1-0 win at Fulham on the 20th December. Following that, United have seen clashes with Preston, Hull, and Middlesbrough all called off through no fault of their own. It’s led to frustration among fans and with Heckingbottom.
United were looking for momentum over Christmas. They’d won three on the bounce and with two home games – including the hotly anticipated visit of Chris Wilder – Blades fans were confident that the top six would at least be within touching distance come New Years’ Day. Alas, United find themselves 13th, eight points off sixth, and with four games in hand on some.
And this weekend, Heckingbottom, United, and us supporters got a warning of what could happen after such a break, as Everton were beaten by Brighton at Goodison Park.
Everton Show Sheffield United What Not To Do At Wolves
The Toffees are finding this season hard enough going as it is. For them, the break over Christmas – they last played against Chelsea on December 16th – might have been welcome. However, they showed just why such a break in play can be derailing.
Against Brighton, Everton were abysmal. Especially in the opening 45 minutes. They were a goal down within a few minutes and never recovered, going two down before 25 minutes. To their credit, Antony Gordon did try and lead some sort of fightback. But even after the young winger made it 2-1, it took only minutes for Brighton to go 3-1 ahead again.
It was a sluggish and tired performance from a team lacking in confidence as it is. At times, Everton looked like a team coming off the back of a mini pre-season. Sheffield United, then, should take note of what might be.
Luckily for the Blades, the first game back is in the FA Cup. And while yes, a win away at Wolves would do wonders for the confidence, it won’t be the end of the world if we’re knocked out.
But nevertheless, Everton’s lacklustre return to the pitch should serve as a stark warning for Heckingbottom and his team.