Blackwell’s Blades impossible to back against Magpies
Sheffield United fans were jumping for joy last week after seeing their side string together a couple of decent passing moves; it almost seems a shame that they lost yet another game and in the process concede four goals.
Doom and gloom is well and truly surrounding Bramall Lane at the minute as last season's beaten play-offs finalists have made a dramatic shift from one of the Championship's best to seemingly one of the worst.
Blades manager Kevin Blackwell is blaming their ever growing injury list for the sudden downturn; the increasingly angered fans are blaming Blackwell's poor tactics.
Either way they have to welcome the league's second placed team to the Lane on Monday night, Newcastle United, where the Sky Sports cameras can be the judge of where the Blades problems lie.
It's fair enough to say the home team have a fair few off the pitch problems, most notably Paddy Kenny's drug related suspension, Matt Kilgallon's refusal to sign a contract and a good number of key absentees in Gary Naysmith, Nick Montgomery and Jamie Ward to name but a few.
However, the fans rage comes more from the three consecutive losses against Scunthorpe, Blackpool and Cardiff and the manner, or should I say long ball tactics, they went down in.
Newcastle, on the other hand, have just as many, if not more, off-field problems to contend with yet they slowly seem to be pulling together as a team and the results are swiftly following.
After sprinting to the top of the table in the early stages of the season, they've found life a little tougher recently but, in many ways, this could be just what the doctor ordered.
If any of their stars were becoming arrogant they quickly got dragged back down to earth thanks to away losses at Nottingham Forest and Scunthorpe, and, in their last outing, they displayed the determination required to succeed in coming from behind to beat Doncaster.
The fact that the rapid rise has been played out with the entire media watching and on a backdrop of board turmoil makes it even more impressive.
Much of the credit has to go to Kevin Nolan and his production from midfield.
Nolan arrived at St James' Park with a big reputation but was one of many flops for the Magpies in their disastrous Premier League campaign last year.
Not so this time around though.
He has six goals in his last seven Championship games and is proving why he was so adored by the Reebok faithful in his time at Bolton.
He's 6/1 to notch the first goal of the game at Bramall Lane and 7/4 about scoring at anytime - both prices are sure to attract a lot of interest, especially with the Blades lacking their usual tenacity in midfield.
For the Blades, you have to be looking towards Darius Henderson as their main threat - perhaps because he is the only target in Blackwell's direct football scheme.
The former Watford man is always a handful for defenders but, in recent weeks, he has chipped in with a few goals and could be good value to score again 7/4.
I will however be avoiding, for the most part, any favourable home team markets in the wake of their poor form/sudden demise.
They are completely un-backable 8/5 shots to take all three points (Newcastle are the obvious choice at a great 7/4), while I feel the best bet of all in this crunch encounter is the 11/4 about Newcastle managing to score in both halves.
Whether a loss would be curtains for Blackwell is unsure; something more certain is that another home loss for the Blades would have fans looking downwards in fear, rather than upwards in anticipation - the crisis really would be on.