Clough credits the cup with saving United’s season

Nigel Clough with his Manager of the Month award for February � BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY

Nigel Clough with his Manager of the Month award for February � BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY

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Nigel Clough, the Sheffield United manager, believes his team’s march into the FA Cup quarter-finals makes a mockery of claims that progress in knockout competition has a detrimental effect on league results.

Clough, whose players enter tomorrow’s game against Charlton Athletic hoping to become the first third tier club to reach the semi-final stage since 2001, inherited a squad spiralling towards relegation after being appointed five months ago.

Twenty-six fixtures on and United are now 10th in the table and having won all of their last eight games.

Clough, speaking ahead of the meeting with Chris Powell’s side, believes that change of fortune traces back to November’s first round triumph at Colchester, coupled with further away victories over Aston Villa and Fulham.

“I think those results helped us turn that mentality around,” he said. “If you’re getting battered 3-0 or 4-0 every time you go on the road, you don’t have any belief and every time you turn up away from home, you think you’re going to lose.

“They were short of confidence, so we just tried to give them confidence. But the only thing that can build confidence is results.

“We pointed out that they had to work a bit harder, starting with training. Then it went on to the pitch and everything’s come together in the last five weeks.

“The players deserve a lot of credit for that. We didn’t change anything major, just a few little preferences.

“It’s just hard work. Everything stems from that.”