Behind Enemy Lines: Sheffield United

A win at Bramall Lane on Saturday would deal a blow to play-off rivals Sheffield United’s hopes of finishing in the top six and set the Lions up nicely for their last three games, two of which are at The Den.

In December, Neil Harris’ side beat the Blades 3-1 at home after goals from Lee Gregory, Mahlon Romeo and Jake Cooper in a game in which the Lions changed to 3-5-2 in the second half.

A 2-0 win over Bolton on Tuesday lifted Millwall into the top six above Middlesbrough, so it is in their hands with four games left.



Chris Wilder’s side started the season strongly, and were still in the automatic promotion spots in November.

Lucas Ball spoke to Blades fan and Radio News Hub director Jamie Fletcher this week.

Twitter: @fletchradio



Why do you support Sheffield United?

I'm actually from Wakefield (the biggest city in the UK without a football team) but have family from Sheffield.

My grandad took me to a game in 1991 and I’ve been hooked, and a season-ticket holder, ever since.

Even though there have been more lows than highs, being a Sheffield United fan is never dull.

What’s your favourite season following the Blades?

Probably difficult to look past the promotion seasons.

Last year was fantastic, hitting 100 points in League One. After years of watching utter dross in the third tier, the way Chris Wilder transformed things over one summer was just fantastic, refreshing and what we needed.

The 2006 promotion to the Premier League was obviously a highlight, too. I was fortunate enough to be on the open-top bus parade with the players – and it was a day I'll never forget.

What has caused the dip in form after such an impressive start?

Two things. One, the injury to Paul Coutts hit us massively. We were actually top of the league at the time of his leg break against Burton Albion in November. The results have stuttered ever since.

But the biggest problem has been a lack of clinical finishing. In most of the games we've actually played quite well – we just haven't taken our chances.

We probably need to create four or five really good chances – and we do tend to each game – to score just one goal.

Leon Clarke was overachieving in the first part of the season. His goals have somewhat dried up recently, although he has scored two in the last three, but did miss a stunning chance in the third.

Do you expect the Blades to make the play-offs?

Heart says hope so, head says I think we'll just fall short – simply because of what I said earlier.

We have four cup finals coming up, with three of the four fixtures against sides chasing those final two places. So it is still in our hands.

But if we don't win on Saturday I do believe that will be that.

Which of the home side’s players will be key come Saturday?

There are a few I could mention.

John Fleck and David Brooks – who scored against Millwall this season – are the two that people outside the club may have heard the most about, but I think Mark Duffy has been the difference for us in so many matches this season.

However, he's also been struggling with injuries recently so hasn't started a match since before Easter.

Which Millwall players will United be wary of?

Lee Gregory (I understand he's a Blade?!) is a player often spoken about up here.

I've always liked Steve Morison, too, who clearly cares about your club. It's no surprise that I’m looking at your attacking options as you're 16 unbeaten.

Ben Marshall is another one. I know he has previous with our rivals in Barnsley – but I always rated him.

What’s your predicted starting XI and formation?

It might be difficult for Wilder to change it after beating Middlesbrough on Tuesday, but I do wonder if he'll bring Duffy back in from the start.

Our loan goalkeeper Jamal Blackman is also available after suspension and my gut feeling is he will bring him back instead of Simon Moore.

Richard Stearman has missed the last two games through injury but the whispers are that he'll be in with a shout.

It all makes it difficult for me to predict the team without looking silly!

We'll play 3-5-2, but it's an overloading 3-5-2. Our centre-backs will often overlap the wing-backs. It's a system that works for us – and we won't change it now.

Assuming everyone is fit…

3-5-2

Blackman

Basham Stearman O'Connell

Baldock Fleck Evans Duffy Stevens

Clarke Brooks.

Finally, a score prediction?

I think we're capable of getting something from the game, but I think your unbeaten run will also continue. Not so good for us – I’ll go: Sheffield United 1-1 Millwall.

Graphic: @ShedCreative 

Staff

(@NewsAtDen)