Cover Source

Stuff that matters

Chris Wilder defended Sheffield United’s poor start to the season and insisted his side showed glimpses of being back to their old selves in their 1-1 draw with Fulham.

The Blades manager admitted his team, who finished a hugely creditable ninth on their return to the Premier League last season, are short of confidence after beginning the campaign with four straight defeats. But he defiantly predicted United will rally and fight their way out of early-season trouble.

The Cottagers arrived at Bramall Lane with the same record and both sides are now at least off the mark after Sunday’s 1-1 draw.

Wilder’s men dominated the first half but were made to pay for failing to take their chances when Ademola Lookman put Fulham in front after 77 minutes.

The goal came 20 minutes after Aleksandar Mitrovic had missed a penalty for the visitors, and it would be a spot-kick at the other end, converted by the substitute Billy Sharp five minutes from time, that led to the points being shared.

“I’ve said all along this is a tough sport, a tough division,” Wilder said. “There’s no free hits or easy games where you can say: ‘We’ll get our confidence back in this game.’

“It’s a struggle at the minute and you can see that. It’s tough and it’s tough to watch at times. But we are a really tight group and we will stick together and fight our way out of it.

“It’s natural what is happening after what has been a difficult start for us. If it was easy, everyone would do it. But not everyone can do it. These players have to perform if they want to establish themselves as Premier League players.

“It’s five games without a win, yes, however you want to dress it up. But this is an extremely competitive league, an extremely difficult league to even survive in.”

Mitrovic’s afternoon got even worse after blazing his 57th-minute penalty into the stand, with the ball clipping the top of the crossbar. The Serb then gave away the spot-kick that brought the equalising goal, fouling Jack Robinson, before missing three golden chances late on to win the match for his team.

Scott Parker said: “I think Alex would be the first to admit he has had a tough day. He’s scored plenty of penalties before and he’s missed two other chances that on any other day he puts in the net.

“But in sport sometimes you have bad days. What will be telling is how he reacts and given the stature of the man I am positive he will respond in the right way.”

The Fulham manager had mixed emotions about the result, adding: “I think overall we are a bit disappointed, of course, to be that close to three points and only coming away with one.

“To get in front with about 10 minutes to go, you want to see the game out, and we had chances to go further ahead and see it out even more. But Sheffield did also create a lot of chances. It was not meant to be today but there are some positives to take away from the game.”

The Fulham owner, Tony Khan, agreed, taking to Twitter after the match to say: “Thank you to all @FulhamFC supporters worldwide, + thank you to our squad & staff for their hard work to earn a point in our 1-1 draw today.

“I’m proud of everyone at the club for working to prepare through a quick restart, and believe we can build on today’s work! Come on Fulham!”

Last month, Khan tweeted after the 3-0 defeat at Aston Villa, apologising for Fulham’s performance – something Parker said at the time had disappointed him.