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sheff utd 2 1000x500If you enjoy reading a positive story with a happy ending, I’d turn away from this report right now because there was nothing positive to our 3-0 defeat at Sheffield United yesterday and, as the result shows, no happy ending.

I’ve seen some awful performances there over the years, There was the day in 1978 when, inspired by Alex Sabella, Sheffield United went 3-0 up against us inside twenty minutes and went on to win 4-0. There was the 3-0 defeat in 2002 when Paul Gascoigne was on the pitch, and I’ll refrain from daring to suggest that he played, and a year later were beaten there 4-2, just four days after the FA Cup exit at Watford. That was the night when manager Stan Ternent said we’d started the game at sixes and sevens and finished it at sevens and eights. I think it is very fair to suggest that yesterday’s shambolic performance can rightly be placed alongside those three.

It’s not as though we haven’t been beaten previously this season, we have, but only against teams sitting in the top five, but in all of those previous games there were some positives, indeed in two of them we perhaps deserved to get something from the game but not yesterday. Yes, we might have had penalties at 0-0 and 0-1, but the real truth of this game is we could have easily been six behind at half time.

I was hoping this report was going to be that positive story of a trip to South Yorkshire, to a city I called home for a few years a long time ago, a good performance and result, followed by a stop on the way home for a meal that we’d planned. The journey there was good enough as was the final food and drink stop, but I’m not sure where to start on the bit in the middle.

We’d found what we thought was a good parking spot with building work having replaced where we’d parked in previous years and made our way up to the ground, learning on the way that Chris Wood was again out of the reckoning with Sean Dyche naming an unchanged team from the one beaten by Chelsea a week earlier.

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Nothing much has changed since our last visit as far as away fans are concerned. We were met with hardly the most pleasant of stewards before gaining entry into a concourse that can’t be considered adequate. Once in the seating (or as it happened, standing) area there was no chance of picking up any announcements from a totally inaudible PA system and that didn’t help with the minute’s silence. We weren’t even aware it had started and throughout it was hardly silent and that I put down entirely to people making their way in and having absolutely no awareness.

With Sheffield United struggling to score goals at home, I was quietly confident of a good result but that confidence and any hopes were washed away in a first half when, in truth, we struggled even to be second best.

You could see why they have struggled to score goals. Even before they went in front , and that was only 17 minutes in, they’d managed to spurn at least two, if not three, reasonable chances. But the ease at the way they did go in front was horrible to see and you knew, even then, this might be a mountain we had to climb.

We might have had a penalty for a foul on Jay Rodriguez before they’d gone in front and equally we might have had one for handball with the score at 1-0. Neither were given but that was no surprise from Simon Hooper who was, quite frankly, an appalling referee all day to the point that close to the end of the game, when he awarded us a corner when no Sheffield United player had got close to it, chants from the away end were, “You’re not fit to referee.”

With half time coming to a close, I checked my watch. We’d played over 42 minutes and I thought we could possibly sort out this mess at half time with only a one goal deficit. Almost immediately one became two which then quickly became three and that, frankly, was game over.

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The reaction was to replace Erik Pieters with Charlie Taylor. I think Matt Lowton might want to consider how on earth he stopped on but the same could be said for others.

It’s easy to say we got better in the second half. We didn’t really. They just sat on their lead for the most part, let us have the ball and watched us do precious little with it. Ashley Barnes should have scored while James Tarkowski, despite reports suggesting otherwise, got our one effort on target which was saved by Dean Henderson. But all along, on the break, they looked more likely to score.

There was never an inkling of a comeback and this performance can only be described as shocking, a shambles although I would hardly agree that it warranted the abuse from the Burnley fans both at half time or full time. If our players had shown some common sense they’d have walked right off at the final whistle. And on the subject of our fans, I thought the chanting aimed at the Sheffield United goalkeeper during the second half was absolutely shameful. I’ve been at games when being among the Burnley fans has been a privilege; this was not one of those occasions.

But let’s not over react. This really was awful but it’s not as though we are turning in performances like this every week. It’s a while since we played this badly; I’d probably think the defeat at Newcastle last February. We do, though, need to turn it round and look who’s here next week, the very same West Ham who we beat last season days after the awful defeat against Everton.

Let the manager, staff and players sort out yesterday’s mess and let us all get behind them next Saturday and hopefully start another good run. We know we’re good enough, we know damn well that we are a far better side than the one we saw play yesterday.

The teams were;

Sheffield United: Dean Henderson, Chris Basham, John Egan (Phil Jagielka 79), Jack O’Connell, George Baldock, John Lundstram, Oliver Norwood, John Fleck, Enda Stevens, David McGoldrick (Oli McBurnie 75), Lys Mousset (Billy Sharp 65). Subs not used: Simon Moore, Luke Freeman, Callum Robinson, Mo Bešić.
Yellow Card: Chris Basham.

Burnley: Nick Pope, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Erik Pieters (Charlie Taylor ht), Jeff Hendrick, Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork, Dwight McNeil (Robbie Brady 59), Jay Rodriguez (Matěj Vydra 78), Ashley Barnes. Subs not used: Joe Hart, Phil Bardsley, Ben Gibson, Aaron Lennon.
Yellow Cards: James Tarkowski, Ashley Barnes.

Referee: Simon Hooper (Wiltshire).

Attendance: 31,131.

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