Baptiste pays tribute to strike pair Billy and Che

Billy Sharp congratulates Sheffield Uniteds Che Adams on his second goal
Billy Sharp congratulates Sheffield Uniteds Che Adams on his second goal

Sheffield United defender Alex Baptiste has paid tribute to strike pair Billy Sharp and Che Adams ahead of this afternoon’s vital South Yorkshire derby with Barnsley at Bramall Lane.

Paul Heckingbottom’s men travel to Sheffield seventh in League One, level on points with sixth-placed Gillingham and four ahead of Nigel Adkins’ United.

Nigel Adkins is a big fan of Alex Baptiste

Nigel Adkins is a big fan of Alex Baptiste

The game also pits together two 20-goal strikers in the shape of Sharp and Barnsley’s Sam Winnall, with an impressive supporting cast including the likes of Adams and Conor Hourihane.

And Baptiste, who is expected to make his ninth appearance in United colours against the visiting Reds, said: “We have worked a lot on the new formation [3-5-2] since I came here. We’re winning the ball higher up in the opposition half and it’s important to fly out of the blocks and get an early goal as it stamps your authority on the game.

“It is really pleasing from a back three’s point of view to do that.

“Defending starts from the front and we have been defending really well as a team from set-pieces. For the second goal at Chesterfield, Billy was working for Che to score when the goalkeeper makes a mistake and that is what happens when you are defending and pressurising from the front.

“I think we all need to chip in, but Che and Billy have been fantastic this year and have scored the majority of the goals. But if we can all chip in and do our bit for the team and get a goal or two, it all helps.”

Baptiste, on loan from Middlesbrough, knows United are still outsiders for a top-six place but added: “We know we have got to lay everything out and in the last four games, we have definitely done that.

“Even in the Gillingham game which was 0-0, you could see how much we gave.

“That is the best performance since I have been here, and we didn’t get the points we deserved.

“We are in a position now where we can’t afford to lose and we are the underdogs.

“We have got a lot of work to do... we can only take it a game at a time, we are just going to give our all and see where we end up.”

Baptiste is fully fit again after suffering a broken leg on his debut for Middlesbrough back in July.

“Touch wood, this was my first really bad injury and I hadn’t had any major long-term injuries before.

“The lowest moment was probably first after the operation. Alan Judge did it recently, he is with my agent and I have rang him up and messaged him. I know it is a horrible injury to go through; basically, I had eight weeks of doing nothing and was just sat in the house, going to Blackburn three days a week.

“That was the lowest moment as I wasn’t even at the club I was at and we were just in the process of moving to the north-east.

“I had to stay at home for another two months, watching Soccer Saturday and not being able to move. It was definitely the worst.

“The injury in my first game for the club was heart-breaking and I don’t really want this season to end. If we can get something out of this season, with us getting in the play-offs and having a go at it, it would be perfect.”