Most Sheffield United fans would be content with a point from tonight's trip to QPR, a team who so resoundingly beat the Blades at Bramall Lane in the first home game of the season that Neil Warnock was able to take off tormentor-in-chief Adel Taarabt with over 20 minutes to go. This was also the match that led to Kevin Blackwell’s departure and so the turmoil began. For all his faults, I doubt we would find ourselves in the state we are now if Blackwell was still in charge.
This has been a season of huge disappointment on the pitch, poorly disguised financial problems off it – leading to broken promises from the boardroom – and a high turnover of both playing and coaching staff. The beginning of March saw Blades fans searching forlornly for positive signs, amid a winless streak that ran to 15 games.
The seemingly suicidal demeanour of manager and Blades supporter Micky Adams (in charge for 13 of those games) did little to raise the fans’ hopes. His post-match interviews showed how much the results personally hurt, but they also demonstrated a level of desperation and self-doubt which led to questions of how much more he could take and whether he was capable of lifting us out of the morass.
The last two home games against Nottingham Forest and Leeds have seen a return to the Bramall Lane atmosphere of old. Although the ground was well short of full, there was plenty of noisy encouragement for the Blades and a hostile reception for the opposition. If we can take this improvement into our remaining four home games, we have a small chance. Winning our home matches will be vital and Adams has now found a formation and a game-plan that has twice worked against top-six opposition and allowed the Blades to dominate the match against Leeds. The difficulty will be away from home, where an alternative plan will be required and where points will still need to be picked up.
Sadly, I feel that whatever we achieve tonight and in the remaining seven games, it is too little, too late. With every result going against us on Saturday, the gap to safety was extended to seven points. Back in February, United chairman Kevin McCabe said: “Make no bones about it, we will stay up.” I wonder if he is still feeling confident? I’m not.