It is a pleasure to welcome John McGee to the pages of A United View. A Carlisle United fan exiled in London, John is the editor of Carlisle site Bring Me The Head of Keith Mincher and has written for numerous other sites including the great football league site The Two Unfortunates where this week he christened the relaunched site with an alternative football league view on the Elite Player Performance Plan. Blades fans might remember the aforementioned Mr Mincher from the Dave Bassett days at Bramall Lane.
On a return to the frozen wilds of Cumbria, John saw the Blades at Brunton Park on Monday and was happy to offer some observations from the other side of the ground. Let us know what you think.
1. Ched Evans is League One's Most Complete Player
I initially wrote 'one of L1's best' but that is so blindingly obvious I re-thought it. What I enjoyed most about his Monday display was less the two goals and the pair of slaps which struck the woodwork but his movement.....
As a sucker for a tactical innovation I couldn't help but feel the words 'false nine' skip across my mind during the game; comfortable in possession, Ched is able to dart from deep, attack full back on the outside and to bring in his team-mates. Where needed he also does the dirty work - laudable in a player of his stature.
Where Rhodes is just a master poacher and the superb Charlton trio of Kermorgant, Wright-Phillips and Jackson complimentary in their use of brute force, pace and guile respectively, Ched has the lot - quite the thing to watch.
2. Full Back Looks a Potential Weakness
Having seen the excellent Matt Lowton put in a superb performance for the Sky cameras against Notts County I was glad to see him absent at Brunton Park. If I understand rightly this may be something that the Blades have to get used to post-January and it's a worry. Nick Montgomery deputised admirably against a very tricky opponent in Zoko but was clearly uncomfortable in the role.
On the left the rangy Lescinel Jean-Francois put in some superb covering headers but was most definitely guilty of over-playing and failing to sense trouble - he was comfortably bested on the day by ex-Blade JP McGovern. I can understand why Wilson has seen fit to bring in Marcus Williams as competition.
3. Ryan Flynn has all the attributes to succeed in League One
I left the game unimpressed with the better known duo of Quinn and McDonald; the latter was well attended by the feisty Tom Taiwo and the former spent as much time on the floor as his feet.
I was most impressed with Flynn and thus surprised he's played so little. Having seen a few games at this level over the last few years he has all you'd wish for in an L1 midfielder - a good set of lungs, willingness to make a tackle and ability to pick the right pass for a start. With a decent run in the team he looks to have the potential to be a real fan favourite as our own diminutive bustler Liam Noble has been this season.
4. Collins and Maguire are Over-reliant on Physicality
In his post-match comments Danny Wilson was every inch the consummate 'big club gaffer' offering similar whinges to the bosses of Leeds, Leicester and Southampton after Carlisle reverses - his comments on luck may have been well made; our full back Matt Robson survived after a wild challenge on Evans for one. It was his comments on physicality which smarted most, though.
Robson aside I remember few poor tackles all game other than those made by both sets of jostling centre halves. I'm no fan of whistle happy protection of forwards but some of the clambering on both sides was primal and went unpunished. Maguire looked raw and full of willing, Collins wily and full of tricks. They won't face many trickier one men front-lines than Lee Miller this season though and their inability to stop his influence - legally or illegally - was telling in all of Carlisle's best work. Once the free kicks did start to come Collins particularly lost discipline; whilst Maguire's lack of pace on the turn was exploited when Paddy Madden joined the fray as an off the shoulder runner for Miller.
5. 'Project James Beattie' is a slow burner
Little you can tell in five minutes but he looked every inch of a player who's not played this season and who was never naturally fit. Whilst remaining envious of his obvious quality one hopes Wilson has the patience for the gamble to reap its rewards - as a fan of the club who rehabilitated both Ian Harte and Michael Bridges careers I can confirm it should be worth the effort.
Interesting and astute points from John and in one viewing he has made observations I have heard made by many Blades fans this season. John can be followed on twitter and he can be found here @epouvantail