If there’s one thing Sheffield United boss Nigel Adkins prides himself on, it’s uniting a club, bringing everything together as a unit that pushes in the same direction and fights for the same cause. From the captain to the tea lady, everybody’s a part of it and everybody feels involved. To outsiders, his psycho-soundbites are cringeworthy but those on the inside can’t get enough of it. Nobody goes unrecognised, he’s constantly massaging egos. Normally.
Right now, though, Adkins isn’t himself. There’s still a positive sheen being applied to his words, he doesn’t know how to deliver them any other way, and he is still trying to relay the same underlying message. But he talks as though the club is fragmented, as though the dressing room isn’t really dancing to his tune and the fans aren’t buying into philosophy. But let’s all be positive anyway, and see where it gets us.
At the moment, it’s not getting them very far. Slap-bang mid-table on 27 points from 20 matches is a long way short of pre-season expectations. Five points shy, in fact, of where they were at this stage last season when labouring under Nigel Clough. There’s little comfort in the shot data either. The Blades are currently tenth on shot ratio with 51.2 per cent. Major surgery in January might be necessary.
Either way, it’s a mystery why they should be favourites against a Coventry side going great guns under Tony Mowbray. United have played nine of the 11 teams above them, taking just seven points and winning only once, whereas the visitors have won five of their six games against the rest of the top seven. By that rationale, the away win simply has to be backed at 9/4. My 16-match and 24-match ratings both make it shorter than 6/4.
The Sky Blues started the weekend in second spot and head to Bramall Lane a dozen points better off than their hosts, while a two-week break owing to their surprise FA Cup exit against Northampton has allowed Mowbray to get James Maddison and Joe Cole up to speed. If those two playmakers are anywhere close to full fitness, then make no bones about it, Coventry possess the firepower capable of running up a cricket score.
If Shrewsbury can score four goals at Bramall Lane, Colchester and Bury can manage three, while Millwall, Southend and Rochdale have all netted twice, then odds of 5/1 or greater about the Midlanders scoring over 2.5 goals represents a decent back-up wager. It’s a bet Mowbray’s men have landed seven times already this term, including wins over Millwall, Gillingham and Peterborough.
Meanwhile, given the sizeable disagreement between my own tissue and the match prices, it can do no harm to throw a speculative point at Coventry to clear the -1 handicap at 6/1 with Coral. Based on a standard correct score conversion, the Sky Blues should be no bigger than 4/1 to win by two clear goals.
For more information about Mike Holden’s shot-based ratings system, follow this link.