Defeat never sits comfortably with any manager. Especially one tasting it for the first time in 21 games.
So although Chris Wilder insisted aspects of Sheffield United’s performance bodes well for the future, he acknowledged other parts highlight there is still plenty of work to be done before his team becomes the finished article.
“I won’t spin anything,” Wilder, reflecting on Saturday’s 1-0 defeat by Bolton Wanderers, said. “But equally I won’t beat the players up for that. For us to take the game to them like we did gives me a lot of encouragement going forward. However, we also have to recognise that the result is what we’re in it for.”
Getting results is something Wilder turned into an art form at Northampton Town last season and, having taken charge of United during the close season, he is desperate to engender the same ruthless spirit at Bramall Lane.
The pressing game and intensity which earlier this year delivered the League Two title to Sixfields were all in evidence against Phil Parkinson’s team. But, Wilder admitted, not the telepathy or attention to detail only time spent together on the pitch and training ground can bring.
“I thought we did ever so well, especially first 25 minutes, and played some fantastic football,” he said. “The runs needed to be better though and that will come I’m sure. There were a couple of cases where the same run was made and that helps defenders cope.”
“When I sit back and analyse things, there were some promising times. “I would say, for 65 or 70 per cent of the time, we were dictating things. But it’s no good dictating if the final bit of play isn’t right. Credit to them, but if we’d have got the first goal, I think we’d have won comfortably.”
Leon Clarke and Billy Sharp both came close to an opener before Jay Spearing, previously of Liverpool, dispatched a sumptuous volley during the closing stages of the first half. Bolton, relegated from the Championship last term, appointed Parkinson four weeks after Wilder’s arrival in South Yorkshire. But United’s slightly more nuanced approach means the visitors will, inevitably, take a while longer to gel.
“They resorted to smacking it up to (Gary) Madine,” Wilder said. “And yet look at the quality of their players, as shown by the goal. We want to play differently but they will go home the happier club.”