This was another one of those impulse games. Admittedly not a very exciting one, but the truth was that fucking media law – defamation this, copyright that, malicious falsehood the other... aaaannnnd repeat until they drag you away – was getting me pretty depressed.
The sole reason I took the decision at five past two to take the 20 minute stroll down to Bramall Lane was to try and ease the astute sense of cabin fever growing from staring at the endless ream of notes and handouts strewn hopelessly across my carpet. A stream of clauses, acts, orders and legal defences that, somehow, I had to absorb into my increasingly-rebellious brain in the following 36 hours.
Anyway, relegation-haunted Sheffield United against promotion hopefuls Norwich City seemed like an attractive Championship fixture, or at least one likely to feature on the Football League show before they cut to the opinions of Steve Claridge, or worse, Lizzie in her elaborate communications cave and I feel compelled to call it a night.
The spotty teen behind the ticket office window didn’t seem too bothered about snatching away my cash, but did insist I was put onto some kind of database. This never happens at Guiseley. Slightly taken aback at the apparent complexity of this transaction, I surrendered my student card to prompting, sticky fingers and the teen began tapping away.
“Do you live on Marquess Street?” he mumbled back. I only heard ‘Marquess’ so replied with a do-I-look-like-a-European-nobleman-of-hereditary-rank kind of face. He backed down and returned his attentions back to the safety of the computer screen. This continued for some time and eventually I gained access to the stadium for the fourth time this season. I’m not being on some spam register, get lost.
There were at least three names I didn’t recognise in the Sheffield United starting line-up, which was a bit embarrassing for a club you’re meant to have a soft spot for/follow. The manager had, of course, changed from Gary Speed to Mickey Adams in December – perhaps Speed took offence at my primitive Dictaphone flashing and beeping away during post-match interviews, then again there could be the general appeal of managing your home nation and all the glory and satisfaction he will inevitably receive from scraping a 1-0 win in Skopje to finish fourth in a qualifying group.
Having not seen United for a while – and their league standing, it’s fair to say, hadn’t immediately improved following the Adams appointment (they’re still looking for a first win) – I did find mostly positives from a first-half in which the Blades were seriously unlucky not to be a couple of goals in front. Ched Evans was twice thwarted by Norwich goalkeeper John Ruddy, who also saved well in the opening moments from Jamie Ward.
Norwich, who have been a match for most sides on their return to the Championship so far, gave their colourful travelling contingent stood across from me little to get excited about as they laboured in midfield and were generally forced to hold back a red-and-white tide. Little wonder there seemed more animation amongst the die-hards in the Kop; this was a team who looked much improved since I last watched them.
But added cut and thrust doesn’t always deliver the desired results, and Norwich stung the home side after the break. Steve Simonsen bottled an aerial contest with Zak Whitbread and presented the ball to the feet of Andrew Crofts, who gleefully lashed home from near the penalty spot to open the scoring. A supporter in a yellow and green wig tried to hurdle the advertising boards and was dragged out in the quickest steward snatch-and-eject operation I’ve ever seen (check the BBC highlights, top of the picture).
But, in a sign that long weekends in Yeovil, Rochdale and Milton Keynes might not be on the agenda just yet, United were quick in their response. Evans had looked donkey-like in wasting his first-half openings but brushed aside the intimate attentions of Leon Barnett to finish with a sort of on-the-ground scissor kick thing.
Relief, and a genuine sense that United could go on and claim a vital three points. Not to be – another corner wasn’t properly cleared after Simonsen flapped and Crofts, picking his spot with laser-point accuracy, sent the victory to East Anglia.
‘Another nail in the coffin’ was the sombre consensus as the faithful melted into the freezing night.
Next Match: Sheffield Wednesday vs. Yeovil Town this Tuesday and then back on the road with Boston at Stalybridge Celtic on Saturday.