Going in to tonight’s game, I was reasonably confident we could come away from Bramall Lane with a decent away point. I wasn’t brimming with confidence that we’d offer enough to upset the blades, but I’d seen enough of a reaction from the players to expect a gritty performance.

The first half although not bursting with quality was quite a gripping affair and the longer the game went on, the more satisfied I became with our performance. I thought our defence handled any threat Sheffield posed pretty comfortably with Balbuena and Ogbonna both looking strong. Balbuena in particular was reading the game well, stepping out early and nicking the ball just as he did so effectively last season. Even the loss of Fabianski didn’t seem to affect our back line who looked confident and assured throughout the first 45 minutes. Sadly, it would seem, as many of us feared, Łukasz has been rushed back in to action too soon and it looks like we will pay a hefty price for the second time this season. Signing an already injured Darren Randolph now seems ever so slightly crazy. We need a number 1 and we need it now!

In the 53rd minute the deadlock was broken after a mix up between Martin and Balbuena gifted the ball to John Fleck who slid it through to Ollie McBurnie in an almost unmissable position. McBurnie tucked the ball under David Martin and we were reminded once again how crucial Fabianski is to our team. To say we need a number 1 is not a reaction to Martin’s mistake, it’s a simple fact. As fond as we are of the guy, he’s spent his whole career in the lower leagues and was brought in for shooting practice. It’s only after we realised Roberto wasn’t actually a footballer and had simply turned up one day with some gloves that Martin had to be promoted to back up. Was it our fault we didn’t spot the Roberto thing earlier? He’s tall, he’s got tattoos. Everything checked out.

We simply can’t afford to spend the rest of the season without a clear number 1. Fabianski’s injury looks like it needs a lot of rehabilitation and continually rushing him back will only result in constant set backs. At his age, he can’t afford to take risks. Darren Randolph is clearly a competent keeper, we know this from his time at the club previously and he has subsequently gone on to be one of the best goalkeepers in the Championship. That said, he didn’t manage to hold down the number 1 spot during his last spell with us and importantly. He’s injured!! Can we really afford to take that risk?

I think we now need to think seriously about recruiting a quality number 1 goalkeeper and letting him fight it out with Fabianski once he’s back up and running. Burnley at one point had 3 England goalkeepers in their squad. Granted one of them was Joe Hart, but clearly they didn’t concern themselves with first and second choice keepers, they only cared about ensuring the position had depth. Geo waxed lyrical about Dean Henderson on the Sheffield Utd match preview on Wednesday and he’s not wrong. That fella looks away to become one of the best in the league. Unfortunately I doubt there’s any chance we could pull off that deal either now or in the summer. I’m sure Sheffield Utd will be the front-runners, however I wouldn’t rule out him staying at Old Trafford. De Gea is a shadow of the keeper he once was and Henderson might fancy his chances. I can see a Cech vs Courtois situation arising in the near future.

Following McBurnie’s goal, I thought some of our players lost interest, their effort levels dropped 5-10% and that was enough to see the home side start to dominate. This is particularly worrying to see so soon after Moyes has walked through the door. Haller in particular started to become more static and cast a frustrated figure in the box. It’s hard to pick out anybody who completely packed up and went home, but it felt to me that the team almost accepted a brave defeat and were from then on, just going through the motions. This is one of our key problems. I want to see a team of players who feel nauseous at the thought of losing, who when the chips are down, come out fighting and I don’t know if we even have one player in our squad with that mindset. For the remainder of the game we made up the numbers and looked threatening at times but never looked likely to score. Until…

In the final moments of the game Declan Rice bundled his way through the blades defence showing more than a degree of skill before laying off a perfectly weighted ball for second half substitute Robert Snodgrass to finish smartly with his wrong foot and spare David Martin’s blushes.

But we should have known not to get too excited, because VAR still exists. I had forgotten all about VAR until that point. It was a nice feeling. Like remembering the 90’s. Of course, Declan’s goal was ruled out for handball and it once again taught us a valuable lesson, we simply must not be happy during a football match. It had previously ruled out Antonio’s brilliant solo effort against Southampton and once again we were treated to more of the same. Sure the handball rule is terrible but without VAR it wouldn’t have been picked up. I’ve not changed my mind on VAR. It’s killing football. So I guess if it’s sticking around, we need to think outside the box.

From now on, we should be looking at dwarfs or amputees to bolster our front line. If we can’t find any of them, it’s finally time to consider Ajeti.



By Gonzo

West Ham fan for as long as I can remember. I was flukey enough to watch The Irons beat Bury 10-0 in my first ever game . . . True to form, West Ham then went out and signed their central defender 😬

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