Sheffield United: Clough targets centre forward

Jose Baxter should be fit to face Hull City in next weekend's FA Cup semi-final
Jose Baxter should be fit to face Hull City in next weekend's FA Cup semi-final

Nigel Clough, the Sheffield United manager, has made a centre forward his top priority in the transfer market as he plots an assault on promotion next term.

United, who entertain Rotherham United tomorrow, have scored only 41 times in League One this season despite reaching the FA Cup semi-finals and winning 11 of their previous 16 games.

With the likes of Crewe Alexandra, Tranmere Rovers and Notts County all achieving greater returns in front of goal, Clough revealed he will look to rectify the situation when English football reopens for business during the summer recess.

Confirming United want to sign “three of four quality players” to boost their Championship prospects, Clough said: “Bringing in a striker is something we’ll consider. They’re the hardest to get and cost the most money but, yes, it’s something we’re investigating.”

United, who are 11th in the table following Saturday’s draw with Leyton Orient, are expected to invoke options on Ryan Flynn and Mark Howard when their contracts expire at the end of the present campaign while Ben Davies, on loan from Derby County, is set to be offered a permanent deal.

Talks aimed at retaining John Brayford and Conor Coady are also planned with Cardiff City and Liverpool respectively while a decision must be taken on whether Billy Paynter stays at Bramall Lane.

The result against Orient means United trail Peterborough, who occupy the fourth and final play-off spot, by eight points with six games remaining.

Rotherham climbed above Orient in the rankings following their victory at Gillingham.

“Hopefully we’ll be up there in the top six in 12 months time,” Clough said. “Or even challenging for the top two. We want to do well.”

Meanwhile, Jose Baxter is expected to be available for selection against Hull City at Wembley despite missing the visit of Orient with a twisted ankle.

“Jose did it in training the day before the match,” Clough confirmed.

“But he’ll be okay for that one. We just didn’t want to take any risks.”