SHEFFIELD UNITED: Lane boss likes what he sees of Lecsinel

Comeback trail: United's Lecsinel Jean-Francois

Comeback trail: United's Lecsinel Jean-Francois

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much to manager Danny Wilson’s delight, Lecsinel Jean-Francois is edging closer to full fitness.

The Sheffield United defender, who can be deployed at centre-half or left-back, has returned to full training at Shirecliffe after recovering from a knee injury.

“It is a great boost having him back,” Wilson admitted. “We have missed Lecsy in lots of areas.

“He is a big, strong lad. He is very athletic and got a terrific left foot. He can play in a couple of positions which is always good.

“Just to have him back and involved is a bonus at the moment.”

Wilson has told The Star he is trying to arrange a string of behind closed doors matches to speed up Jean-Francois’s progress. The United chief wanted to give the Haiti international a run-out in the Under-21s league, which allows him to field several over-aged players who are on the periphery of the first-team players, but the

club have no fixtures in the Professional Development League Two North until January.

“Getting Lecsy games will be the hardest thing,” he said. “He is looking good (in training). I’m not too sure how far away he is from returning as he has had no games.

“I don’t think he is ready for a game yet but he is looking strong. That will be a great bonus going into the Christmas period if he is okay.”

Neither Dave Kitson or Tony McMahon will feature at Carlisle United tomorrow because of hamstring problems as the Blades seek their first away win in League One since October 20.

Wilson is reluctant to put timescales on their returns but is hopeful the duo

will be available for the gruelling Christmas programme.

He added: “Getting Kits (Dave Kitson), Tony (McMahon) and Lecsy back will be like having three new players.”

Experienced goalkeeper Mark Howard trained yesterday but he is “nowhere near” yet challenging highly-rated youngster George Long for a starting berth, according to Wilson.

He said: “I am ever the optimist. Hopefully we will get them all back over the Christmas period and it will give everyone that feelgood factor.”

Neill Collins has trained, having shaken off a mysterious illness and is expected to be recalled at the heart of United’s rearguard. Marcus Williams

may be sacrificed, meaning Matt Hill will move to left-back, his preferred role.

Talented central midfielder Kevin McDonald, who Wilson has challenged to score more goals following a heart-to-heart talk, is poised to resume his partnership with Michael Doyle in the middle of the park after serving his one-match ban last weekend.

Wilson opted to rest the elegant Scot in midweek from their defeat on penalities to Coventry City in midweek. To accommodate McDonald, Wilson is set to drop David McAllister, who scored late on at the

Ricoh Arena, to the substitutes bench.

Speaking to the press corps yesterday, Wilson launched a staunch defence of Greg Abbott’s managerial credentials. Under his leadership, Carlisle have slipped to 18th in the division and the natives are getting restless.

“Greg is a terrific manager but he is having a few problems with injuries and I think results have reflected that,” he said. “If you get injuries like Greg has, the job becomes very difficult.

“He has had nothing but success. They won the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and that’s a big achievement for them. They have been in the top half of the table the last few years and that is a success in itself. It is terrific and I take my hat off to Greg because it is not easy. I am not surprised where they are in the table because of the injury problems they have got. If you take our best players away, the results will be affected and the same goes for Manchester United or Arsenal.”

Wilson thinks United are well placed to push on over December and January. The club are four points off top spot and Wilson says it is “important” they do well over the winter months.

United’s clash at Bury, who are managed by former boss Kevin Blackwell, has been re-arranged for Tuesday, January 22, kick-off 7.45pm