SHEFFIELD UNITED: Showdown shaping up to be a classic

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FIRST versus third.

A Sheffield United team beaten only twice in regular competition since August.

Visitors who arrive at Bramall Lane having scored 38 goals in only 21 games.

Tomorrow’s meeting between Danny Wilson’s side and Tranmere Rovers could be a League One classic.

“When we are firing on all cylinders then we are very difficult to handle,” Wilson, the United manager, said.

“And, with that in mind, our preparation focuses on what we can do ourselves rather than changing drastically for the opposition.

“As ever, though, we always afford them the necessary respect.”

Rovers might not be the division’s most glamorous club.

But, as the table proves approaching the halfway stage, they are its most effective.

Ronnie Moore, the former Rotherham, Oldham and Southport manager, has sweated the knowledge, contacts and experience accumulated during over four decades in the game to fashion a squad capable of reaching the Championship.

Nevertheless, embellished with several astute loan signings, Rovers’ season will reach a crossroads next month when the future of players such as Sheffield Wednesday’s Liam Palmer and former United winger Michael O’Halloran are thrashed out.

“I never thought for one moment that Tranmere would struggle,” Wilson continued.

“Did I think they’d be top? If I’m honest then the answer is ‘no’ but we are prepared to go head to head with them for the rest of the season.

“I don’t see any reason why Tranmere can’t last the course.

“The fact they are where they are shows what a good manager Ronnie is.

“He’s excellent at managing players and getting the best out of them.

“Nobody can hide from the fact that’s he’s done - is doing - an excellent job there.”

Barely a cigarette paper separates United and Rovers in the rankings.

United have conceded an average of 0.8 goals per game since August. Likewise Rovers.

Nevertheless, they are two very different teams, with Wilson’s charges - who trail their latest opponents by a single point - perceived as being more disciplined.

Moore labelled Rovers’ defending “naive” following last weekend’s draw with Portsmouth and confirmation that Ben Gibson has returned to Middlesbrough after being diagnosed with an adductor injury was yesterday described as “a nightmare” by the 59-year-old.

Wilson, meanwhile, is targeting the win which would edge United closer to the two-point-per-game average he believes will deliver promotion.

The hosts enter the 22nd match of the campaign boasting a figure of 1.86 and Wilson said: “We’ve been fairly consistent and we are not far off it.”