Nigel Clough has urged Sheffield United to secure League One play-off qualification at “the earliest possible opportunity” or risk damaging their prospects of reaching the Championship next term.
Clough made the admission after setting his team a four point target from its forthcoming fixtures against Oldham Athletic and Yeovil Town.
“That will be a big step towards getting in there, towards confirming a top six place,” Clough, the United manager, said. “That, mathematically, might even be enough we’re not sure.
“It’s vital that we keep the pressure on the teams below us. That we make those chasing us know they can’t afford to slip up or make even the slightest mistake.
“We don’t want to go into last three matches needing two wins and a draw. Because, at any stage of the season, those are very difficult games where anything could happen.”
United, fifth in the table ahead of this afternoon’s visit to SportsDirect.com Park, are eight points clear of seventh placed Rochdale with five games remaining. They travel to Yeovil Town on Tuesday before facing Bradford City, Leyton Orient and Chesterfield.
“If we do get in there then we certainly wouldn’t be taking chances with people who have knocks,” Clough added. “Like sending Jay (McEveley) out there to play games so soon after popping his shoulder. But we did it because, at that time, we had to.
“We’d give a few of the lads who are carrying little injuries a rest. But, at the same time, we’d treat it as a balancing act because we are all for trying to keep momentum going.
“That’s important. We want to keep a winning habit.”
Clough, who last night confirmed Stefan Scougall has been named in the squad for the meeting with Oldham, watched Kieran Bywater, on trial from West Ham, take part in yesterday’s Professional Development League victory over Cardiff City at Bramall Lane.
Bywater was shortlisted for the Dylan Tombides Trophy, awarded to the Londoners’ outstanding scholar, at the end of the 2013/14 campaign.
Michael Higdon and Harrison McGahey also featured while Che Adams scored the only goal of the contest before half-time.
Meanwhile, United midfielder Florent Cuvelier has cut short his loan at Burton Albion due to a hamstring injury.