DANNY Wilson, the Sheffield United manager, believes Richard Cresswell has proved the doubters wrong after scoring two goals in their opening two League One outings.
The striker, who notched just five goals at Bramall Lane last season, is expected to spearhead United’s attack for the fourth match in a row tonight when Wilson’s men entertain Walsall.
He is set to partner the precociously talented Jordan Slew, who opened his account for the campaign in the impressive 2-0 victory over Brentford on Saturday.
However, it is the rejuvenated Cresswell who is leading United’s promotion march. He has stepped up to the plate and filled the void left by the departed Darius Henderson, scoring at Oldham on the opening day and against the Bees.
It is a welcome return to form for the 33-year-old, who has struggled to hit top gear since the turn of the year and been asked to operate in a variety of positions in a team short on confidence.
Speaking to the press corps yesterday, Wilson said: “Everybody tells me he can’t score goals. He is answering that back straight away. He has done fantastic.
“You always get a committed, professional performance from Richard, no matter what position he plays.
“Deep down though, he is a striker. He is a very strong lad and very physical. He is a boy who always upsets defenders.
“Strikers want goals. It gives them confidence no matter how they play in the team.”
It is the second time in his career Wilson has worked with Cresswell. When the ex-Northern Ireland international was in charge at Sheffield Wednesday, he bought the youngster from York City.
“Richard is doing brilliantly at the moment,” said Wilson. “We are just trying to put round pegs in round holes.
“We know what Richard is like, he is a very fit boy. He will run the channels and put defenders under pressure.
“He is a little bit wiser and more effective now. The older you get, the better decisions you make and that is the case with him. I don’t think anyone can question his commitment.”
Wilson is urging his creative midfield players to keep on providing the ammunition for Cresswell and Slew.
Asked how many goals he thinks Cresswell can score at this level, Wilson said: “It depends on how well we supply him. It is not about Richard; it is about the chances we create for him.”
Waiting in the wings, Wilson has Daniel Bogdanovic, Chris Porter and youngster Danny Philliskirk aiming to force their way into the starting line-up as United bid to bounce back into the second tier of English football at the first time of asking.
Wilson said: “There will be times when Richard will not score but he is arguably our most potent striker right now. I think he can deliver.”
After seeing off Brentford, Wilson is poised to field an unchanged side against Walsall. Ryan Flynn (hamstring) and Chris Porter (dead leg) both missed out on the clash and are major doubts to return to action tonight, having failed to take part in training yesterday.
But despite the encouraging start United have made to life in League One, Wilson insists he is not afraid of altering a winning side if necessary.
He said: “I think there are one or two lads who are champing at the bit and feel a little disappointed at not being in the squad or to play on Saturday. Brentford has gone; we have got to look at the team that will give us the best chance of winning against Walsall. If it means I have got to make one or two changes, I have got no worries about doing that.”
Wilson sees no reason why his players cannot record a third successive victory tonight but he is refusing to underestimate the unbeaten Saddlers.
“I did expect to win on Saturday and I expect us to win against Walsall,” he admitted. “I’m not taking nothing away from Walsall but we have to make sure that we have got a certain mindset in this division at home.
“We have to make sure that we are really strong at home and we earn a reputation because of that. I expect us to win and I don’t say that conceitedly.
“Every team had to have a successful home record no matter what league you are in so it is important you win the majority of your home games if you are going to be in with a chance (of promotion).
“It is not easy playing at home because the pressure is massively on us. We are just trying to get the players a little more relaxed.
“They have got to try and play without fear, take the expectation level and use it to their advantage. It is difficult at home because the onus is on us so we have to sometimes do something out of the ordinary to break teams down.
“It will be tough against Walsall. They went to Hartlepool and got a draw and that is a good result because that is a tough place to go.
“Claude Gnakpa is quite a strong lad and he is a handful. Jon Macken has had a terrific career up front and he is a very experienced player so we will certainly need to respect him. They have not got many flair players but they are a very organised team. Dean Smith has done a great job with them. They are another team who know what this division is about.
“We have got to concentrate on what we can do and utilise our better and effective players in terms of being creative.”
Walsall could be without captain Andy Butler for the trip to South Yorkshire. The influential centre-back was controversially given his marching orders in the 1-1 draw with Hartlepool, becoming the second Saddlers player in as many matches to be sent off. Butler was dismissed, along with Hartlepool’s Nathan Luscombe, after the pair went in for a 50-50 ball at Victoria Park.
Boss Smith is appealing the red card but Walsall will only find out whether Butler is available for selection at lunchtime today. But, if the decision is upheld, he will be banned for three matches and Manny Smith will be given the nod to partner Oliver Lancashire at the heart of the defence. One player who is ruled out is Adam Chambers. The midfielder, who scored in the 1-0 triumph over Leyton Orient, will serve the second of his three match suspension following his dismissal in the cup defeat to Middlesbrough.