Opposition view: Play-off place has to be Sheffield United's minimum requirement
Ahead of Saturday's Carrow Road clash we spoke to Norfolk-based Sheffield United fan Nathan Taylor, who plays cricket locally for Swardeston.
Fourth and just three points adrift of the automatic promotion place, just how pleased are you with this season so far?
Delighted! I refer back to my view earlier in the season before the Bramall Lane game where I said I’d be happy with a top-half finish. As ever, though, being a Blade does require a certain degree of pessimism and we all know how we fell away last season, although I don’t think we will see the same happen this season as the squad has much more strength in depth – but there’s still a long way to go. From my perspective I think we have to see a play-off spot as a minimum requirement now and we’re certainly capable of achieving that.
Do you think the squad is strong enough for automatic promotion, or are January additions needed?
I think it’s there or thereabouts; I don’t believe there’s anyone realistically available to improve us without costing good money which is unlikely to be available due to the current situation in the boardroom with the owners at odds with each other. There’s been a bit of activity though with the loan additions of Gary Madine and Kieran Dowell in the window who I expect will feature a fair bit during the run-in. Dowell is a very capable young technical player with a clear ability on the ball while Madine gives us plenty of power and is a decent alternative option.
How worried are you by the recent defeats to Barnet and Swansea?
In truth I would say those defeats were just frustrating rather than giving me any sense of worry. I went to the Barnet game in the FA Cup and we essentially played the back-up XI. To say they didn’t take their chance would be an understatement and it was a surprise to see how poor we were on the day. Barnet were fired up and truth be told 1-0 absolutely flattered us; they were excellent across the park and received a fully-deserved applause from our fans at full-time with Chris Wilder shaking hands with every single one of their players, which was all nice to see. The way the Swansea game went has happened a couple of times this season with us being excellent in the first half and not taking advantage of being in such a good position only to then lose out to a single goal – the Leeds and Derby games are evidence of that. Look out for Swansea though, if they can replicate that second-half performance in their remaining games this season they could well be a late arrival to the play-off mix.
Who have been the key players?
Dean Henderson in goal has been absolutely magnificent. I’m sure I’m not alone in hoping we will sign him permanently from Manchester United in the summer but a lot of that will depend on whether or not we get promoted as he certainly wouldn’t look out of place in the Premier League. He’s an England goalkeeper in waiting in my opinion. The Billy Sharp and David McGoldrick partnership up top has been great, McGoldrick really seems to be enjoying his football which is not surprising when you get to play with the highest goal-scorer this century! Special mention also to Enda Stevens who in my opinion is our most improved player this season and has been very consistent with his performances as well which has earned him international caps recently.
And who has been disappointing?
It was disappointing that Ben Woodburn failed to live up to the hype that was around him at the start of the season. He barely featured for us on loan from Liverpool but when he did he failed to really give any displays of his quality, which was a shame. Much of him not getting a chance though goes hand in hand with the form of Mark Duffy who has yet again been superb in his role.
Have you been surprised to see Norwich in the top two in recent months?
In a way, yes. I saw a couple of games at Carrow Road earlier in the season and thought they looked pretty average despite claiming six points out of six. That said, to be unbeaten away from home since your visit to Bramall Lane way back in August is always going to stand them in good stead and with the amount of goals, especially the late ones, they keep scoring it is no surprise that they’re doing well. I caught some of their game against Birmingham on Friday and Norwich bossed it by playing positive, attractive football (not too dissimilar to our own actually) in the first half.
And finally, what’s your prediction?
Plenty of goals and a great game of football. I think the spoils will be shared this time in a 2-2 draw.