United more than played their part in their second entertaining 0-0 draw of the season on a wet and chilly night in Burslem as they went toe-to-toe with a Port Vale side that was looking to get its season going.
A determined, dogged and disciplined display could easily have brought more than just the point the Blues earned had the away side made better use of their overloads in the home half, particularly after the break.
Speaking about the game, manager Chris Beech said: “It’s great to see that we’re competitive again in a completely different sort of game.
“I think Port Vale tried their best to put it on us physically and it was back-to-front football at times. They sent big balls into the box, long throws that were longer than Joe Riley’s, but the lads stood strong and said ‘no, you’re not getting your goal today’ and I’m really pleased about them saying that to their opponents.
“In terms of chances created I’m not sure of the stats but we created some great ones in the first half. It was a good save off George Tanner early on, and we were in the clear, often, on the outside shoulder of a centre half, but we didn’t quite get the rest of that moment right.
“Turning over into the second half I felt as though Port Vale were on top just coming out of the blocks and I think changing the shape helped us to stabilise.
“You then put attacking subs on to try to feed off the movement and that was the only bit we didn’t get right. That capability under great stress and pressure just to nick one through to Zach Clough or Brad Young to set them off. That didn’t happen, but all in all you’ve got to say well done to the lads.”
Talking more about the opportunities missed to turn the Vale back line, he added: “With the way Port Vale played all we had to do was get wide and stay wide.
“I was disappointed with Joe Riley for checking in and crossing from deep, because it’s Leon Legge and he’s just going to head it away. There was no need for those sorts of actions.
“We were two against one against a defender who doesn’t want to come out of his pocket, so I thought we did that part of it well, but we just didn’t get the bits after that right.
“George Tanner had the freedom of the away half, as we saw with his shots, but what we didn’t do was play that final pass correctly. Even when Tristan got to the byline we didn’t quite do that, and that’s something we can improve.
“The second half was great League Two competitiveness from us, that was really good. In the last 20 minutes we just didn’t have that last nick or glanced header that would take us through.
“I told Jon Mellish in the changing room that you’ve got to play goal side of your man because all it takes is a little touch or a header, and as soon as it drops in that chasm of a hole, Zach’s out. It just didn’t quite happen.”
The fans in the away end certainly seemed happy with the overall performance as they once again clapped their players off the pitch.
“We had no problems getting here, we had good preparation, and well done to the lads, they’ve played three tough away games and they’ve been solid and competitive in all of them,” he said. “You could argue that we deserved a bit more from Sheffield United, and we probably deserved a bit more from Port Vale with the way we played.
“I’m like the fans, I enjoyed this more than Saturday simply because Port Vale played in a different way. Swindon play out from the back, they pass it more and it’s a little bit more intricate, or modern, or safe, or nice, or whatever you want to call it.
“Port Vale like to mix it and they try to upset you off the ball. I even said to Nathan Smith that he could have Tristan’s shirt after the game.
“We didn’t seem to get any help from the ref on any situation in the second half. Even Zach got smashed on the halfway line and it went the other way. When a referee is leaning that way all it means is that the ball is coming straight back in your box, but the lads held their own against that.
“I’m also pleased because Port Vale played at home on Saturday and it was all set up for them to have a successful season, which I think they will have if they play with that energy.
“I’m sure a run of Saturday-Tuesday home games will come our way at some point. Our schedule means we’ve had some tough away days, but the boys didn’t play with any of those things as excuses, they just get on with it.”
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