MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) analyses Wednesday night’s live League One action from Roots Hall as Southend entertain Sheffield United.
Southend v Sheffield United | Wednesday 19.45 | Sky Sports 1
Cast your mind back to July and Sheffield United were heading into their fifth season in the third tier as clear 5/1 favourites.
Nigel Adkins had taken over the role in charge of the Blades, a big budget had been splurged on predominately Championship-class players and a fourth top-six finish in five looked the bare minimum that would be achieved in 2015/16.
We’re now heading into the final embers of March and Sheffield United haven’t been in the play-off positions since October and look destined to finish in their lowest league position since dropping down to League One. The top-six looks above and beyond at the time of writing.
United have W5-D4-L6 in league fixtures this calendar year and managed just W2-D3-L3 on their travels in 2016 – those two away victories came at Doncaster and Colchester. The Blades have failed to net in four of their past six on the road and recorded just two shutouts in eight as guests.
Adkins has used over 30 players already this season and the lack of pace, invention or control in the side is telling. Billy Sharp’s 17 goals have rescued the Yorkshire outfit all too often and United look devoid of ideas against defensive-organised opposition and too timid when taking on the big guns.
On Good Friday, Sheffield United shipped two goals when seeing off Crewe 3-2 at Bramall Lane and they head to Southend without David Edgar and Alex Baptiste at the back.
Since Edgar arrived, he’s missed just 10 matches for the Blades and the visitors have recorded just one clean sheet in his absence, leaking 17, and taking just 12 points. With the Canadian international in the side, United have recorded 10 shutouts in 27, shipping just 29 goals and taking 43 points – there’s a noticeable difference.
Visiting teams above them in the League One standings, Adkins’ army have W1-D5-L4 and I’m not expecting United to improve upon that record on Wednesday night.
Bet365 have made Southend a 23/20 shot off a scratch 0 start on the Asian Handicap line and that looks just the ticket – it’s essentially the same market as Draw No Bet but at a better price.
Southend boss Phil Brown admitted the play-offs are beyond his side following Friday's 4-1 hammering at Rochdale and the Shrimpers appear unfairly written off due to that rancid display at Spotland.
The Essex raiders tend to be stubborn opponents, hard workers that bid to restrict the amount of balls coming into their box but they lacked focus and fight at Dale and were quite rightly accused of being a soft touch.
It was out of character for Brown’s men and with the pressure off and a point to prove, I reckon Southend stand a great chance of making it 10 League One triumphs from 20 since promotion.
The Shrimpers have W5-D3-L2 when welcoming sides above them in the table and it’s not often we see two successive poor performances from the hosts.
Neither team are good enough nor consistent enough to pierce the top-six this season but I don’t think we can go too far wrong by siding with Southend at Roots Hall this midweek, at a more than price.
Southend v Sheffield United – Southend 0 Asian Handicap (23/20 Bet365)
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