WANDERERS were once again their own worst enemy at the Macron Stadium as one piece of shoddy defending cost them at least a point against Sheffield United.

Phil Parkinson’s side have developed a frustrating tendency to allow opponents a head start, and so it proved once again as the on-loan Cameron Carter-Vickers pounced on some dithering marking on 33 minutes to score the game’s only goal.

The harsh realities of the Championship are starting to materialise for the Whites, whose every mistake at present seems to be punished to the full.

And while there were aspects of the performance which once again hinted that the team can compete at this higher level, the evidence suggests they will not progress until Parkinson can plug the defensive lapses.

Whereas defeats against Leeds, Derby or Middlesbrough could be passed off as opponents ‘not in our league’, the Blades were viewed as beatable opponents.

If Parkinson had grouped their former League One rivals in the same category as the Burtons, Birminghams and Barnsleys, he may well be forced to rethink after the South Yorkshiremen stretched their advantage over his own side to 13 points, moving into third.

Parkinson made five changes to the side beaten by Middlesbrough. Three were enforced – Derik Osede and Stephen Darby dropping out through injury and Filipe Morais fit enough only for a place on the bench after a pre-match fitness test on his knee.

Craig Noone was a casualty of the system as Wanderers matched up Chris Wilder’s preferred 3-5-2 and captain Darren Pratley was dropped to the bench after a series of indifferent performances.

The first chance fell Wanderers’ way, Mark Little surging down the right and pulling a cross all the way back to opposite wing-back Antonee Robinson, who was unfortunate to see his shot blocked in front of goal by Blades debutant Cameron Carter-Vickers.

Swirling wind and rain played their part in a frenetic, bitty half where neither side seemed able to settle. But after spending so long chasing Middlesbrough for long spells of controlled possession it was a nice change of pace.

Yes, the midfield was frustratingly inefficient but the wing-backs were both getting forward well and Wanderers were creating openings. Gary Madine tested Jamal Blackman with a dipping shot from distance and Jem Karacan headed Josh Cullen’s cross just wide.

The Blades had previously kept just one clean sheet in 38 attempts in Bolton territory, and that when The Beatles’ Abbey Road was number one in the album charts. They have since had 10 trips across the Pennines without a win.

Just as something appeared to be going right for Parkinson, Will Buckley was forced off injured and Morais – far from 100 per cent – called upon much earlier from the bench than the manager would have wanted. Sure enough, just three minutes later Paul Coutts’ corner from the left skipped off the turf and landed at the feet of Carter-Vickers, who turned it gleefully into the roof of the net, via a deflection.

Once again Wanderers were behind at home. And it might have been worse before half time as another set-piece fell kindly for Carter-Vickers but this time his shot was saved well by Ben Alnwick.

Conditions worsened, as did the mood on the pitch as Stuart Attwell’s frustratingly inconsistent use of the yellow card failed to keep a lid on the challenges flying in from either side.

Daniel Lafferty had a far-post header hooked off the line by David Wheater as the Whites threatened to lose control altogether – and the mood around the Macron began to get more anxious with each passing minute.

Madine had looked an isolated target at times up front, with Adam Armstrong struggling to get into the game and close to his strike partner, and in the 67th minute, Parkinson called for Adam Le Fondre and change things from the bench.

The supply line down the wings was drying up faster than the belief around the ground that Wanderers could get back on to level terms.

A last throw of the dice was made from the bench as Aaron Wilbraham was sent on for Robinson to add another aerial target up front.

Wanderers went ultra-direct and when Madine was shoved in the back by Jack O’Connell, a golden chance was presented to free-kick specialist Morais. Unfortunately, he could only lift his effort on to the roof of the net.

Desperation grew and ref Attwell waved away a handball appeal after another Morais free-kick was blasted into a crowd by Madine – who also had a header cleared off the post by Baldock.

Had the urgency to score been greater earlier in the half, Parkinson’s side may have got back into the contest but in the end it was too little, too late.

Sub David Brooks had a chance to rub salt into the wounds late on, but his shot bounced off the bar.