It was really disappointing how the Sheffield United game ended but in truth, we had enough chances to have put that game to bed. I felt we were comfortable throughout the game but it just felt like at 2-1 we needed to push the button and put the game completely to bed, which we didn’t.
Danny Ings missed a great double chance which would have made it 3-1 but at that stage, I didn’t think it would prove to be as costly a miss as it was. You could almost see it coming with Coufal being sent off, it was a crazy last few minutes.
With the penalty, nine out of ten times a foul would be given on the goalkeeper. We endured that one out of ten times it was a foul on the striker. For me, if that was Bowen or Antonio challenging the way the Sheffield United attacker was, then we would expect that to be a foul.
Then we saw that penalty given and yet shortly after, Bowen goes down in their box and nothing is given. If he hadn’t handled the ball, it would have been very interesting to see what the ref and VAR would’ve done then.
It had to be given as a penalty though regardless of the handball. There’s where I feel like football knowledge, that you get from having played the game at a high level, comes into play. If there had been an ex-footballer as the ref, they’d have known that was a penalty. Their defender wasn’t even looking at the ball.
Also, how long did it take VAR and the ref to watch the Brewster tackle and upgrade the yellow card to a red? I really don’t know why it took so long when, to me, it was a red when I saw the initial challenge.
It’s annoying how long they are taking to make decisions like this, especially compared to other sports. I’ve been watching the cricket, England v India, and the DRS is up on the screen for everyone to see. It feels like these decisions are instant compared to what VAR does.
It would’ve felt like two points dropped for the players on their way back from Sheffield, especially with how comfortable we were during the game and how the game ended. But two positives to take from the game were Danny Ings’ performance. He looked like the player that he can be.
If you’d watched the game and before it started, you’d been told there was a player that hadn’t been performing well, you would never have picked Ings out based on that performance. He’s given us a glimpse of what he can do but ultimately, he will get judged on goals and he didn’t take his chances against Sheffield United.
The other bright spark from that game was Ben Johnson in midfield. He looked really comfortable and he was the one driving us forward. His first thought wasn’t to go backwards or sideways and he took the game by the scruff of the neck for a bit, which was great to see.
Before the disappointment of the game in Sheffield, we had the disappointment of losing in an FA Cup third round replay at Bristol City. I didn’t watch the replay as I was travelling back to the UK and my flight was at the same time as the game.
We should have put this tie to bed in the first game. We had chances that we didn’t take, they took their chance, forced the replay and ultimately our missed chances cost us. Of course, you want to stay in the FA Cup for as long as you can but now we’re out of it, the focus moves back to the league and Europe.
We have a great opportunity now to get points on the board before the return of European football.
We should be targeting the home games in our quest to stay in the hunt of 6th, 7th and 8th but we should also be asking ourselves if we can nick points away from home too. Either way, we are in a fabulous position right now. I would have taken that start of the season.
Another positive from last month was the loan signing of Kalvin Phillips because I’m hoping it will be like the Lingard situation. He’ll get game time and provide us with quality in the middle of the park and hopefully will help us to get victories both in the league and Europe.
I don’t think we’re taking a major risk by bringing him in on loan. There’s an argument that he has arrived fairly fresh given how few games he’s played this season. But that’s exactly why he has come to us, to get game time to make sure he will be at the Euros with England.
He won’t be holding anything back and it’s a win-win for all involved. And come the end of the season, if we did want to sign him permanently, it might help put as at the front of the queue if he does well for us and enjoys his time here.