SHEFFIELD UNITED: Blades dealt keeper blow

LEYTON ORIENT V SHEFFIELD UNITED   6.10.12'Pic : Martyn Harrison'Mark Howard - Sheff utd ''66 The Park Woodlands Doncaster DN6 7RN 'TEL 01302 727 320'MOBILE 07973 745 937'� BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
LEYTON ORIENT V SHEFFIELD UNITED 6.10.12'Pic : Martyn Harrison'Mark Howard - Sheff utd ''66 The Park Woodlands Doncaster DN6 7RN 'TEL 01302 727 320'MOBILE 07973 745 937'� BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY

SHEFFIELD United manager Danny Wilson, who learned last night that Paul Gallagher’s return to Bramall Lane on loan has fallen through, admits he has been frustrated in his search for a new goalkeeper ahead of tomorrow’s League One encounter with Oldham Athletic.

With Mark Howard expected to be absent for around two months after damaging a thigh at Leyton Orient six days ago, teenager George Long is poised to start against Paul Dickov’s side.

Ruling-out the possibility of coach Darren Ward returning to the bench three years after retiring from the professional game, Wilson confirmed United must re-enter the loan market to avert a potential selection crisis.

But he revealed a combination of factors, including the top-flight and Championship calendars, have hampered their efforts so far: “We’ve made a million and one phone calls,” Wilson said. “We’ll keep on persevering. I’m not denying we’ve had some knock backs. But it’s been difficult getting hold of people during the international break.”

Stressing his words should not be interpreted as a lack of faith in Long’s talents, Wilson nevertheless expressed his sorrow at Howard’s predicament.

Initial reports suggested the 26-year-old would be missing for four weeks but that estimate was revised after further tests.

“I feel gutted for Mark because he was starting to play ever so well,” Wilson added. “It’s worse than we first feared. Now we’re looking at eight, ten, possibly 12 weeks.”

However United, third in the table and still unbeaten in league competition this term, could welcome John Cofie (groin) and Neill Collins (foot) back from injury.

Wilson’s sense of disappointment was compounded when sources confirmed that talks aimed at extending Gallagher’s stay had fallen through.

The former Scotland international, who scored once in six appearances during his initial one month spell, trained with United yesterday before being informed that complexities in the negotiation process meant the deal has now been placed on hold.

However, The Star understands discussions with Gallagher’s parent club Leicester City could be resurrected at a later date.