Sheffield United manager Slavisa Jokanovic has stressed the importance of making Bramall Lane a fortress in their quest to return to the Premier League, speaking to The Star after the Blades’ 1-0 victory against Derby County at the weekend.
The South Yorkshire side looked set to be frustrated at home again on Saturday afternoon after strong defensive performances from experienced Derby duo Curtis Davies and Phil Jagielka, keeping their opposition at bay despite shot-stopper Kelle Roos receiving his marching orders before the hour mark.
However, a late handball from Davies allowed Billy Sharp to fire home an 89th-minute penalty, much to the delight of the Bramall Lane faithful who had seen their side fail to perform well consistently at home since the start of the campaign.
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Despite Carabao Cup victories at the Lane against Carlisle United and the Rams last month before their loss to Premier League outfit Southampton on penalties, early-season defeats against Birmingham City, Huddersfield Town and a frustrating draw against Preston North End means the Blades have only taken seven points from a possible 15 so far this season.
For a side chasing promotion, this is not good enough. This is something they will be desperate to improve and along with this, United boss Jokanovic has also identified the resilience they showed at the weekend as a key ingredient in their potential success.
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He said: “We need to be the owner of our home.
“We need to intimidate the opposition and give them the signal that, even if we don’t score in 80 minutes, we know we can still score in the final 10, the final five, the final two or the final one.
“We need to show that we never give up, which we didn’t here. We never give up.
“During the games, we need to show that trust in what we are doing and also ourselves.”
All of these requirements are confidence-related – and after recent wins against Peterborough United and Derby County at home – that should give them more confidence in South Yorkshire to make Bramall Lane something of a fortress.
After performing so poorly not just in the early stages of the 2021/22 campaign but also last term, this was a huge mental block to get over and that showed in their first few games.
However, they seem to be on the road to recovery and the resilience they showed against a defiant Derby County side must not be underestimated.
Wayne Rooney’s side had already frustrated West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns before their trip to Slavisa Jokanovic’s men – also winning against promotion contenders Stoke City at home and showing a real fight against adversity.
Getting past the likes of Curtis Davies and Phil Jagielka wasn’t easy as they found out on Saturday afternoon, so turning this likely draw into a win in the latter stages of the game could prove to be crucial after seeing the likes of West Brom and Fulham drop points recently.
Confidence is key to fulfilling Jokanovic’s requirements – and the Serbian certainly seems to be giving them that.