United have Will for glory

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The aura of invincibility which surrounded his team had just been shattered but Danny Wilson’s sense of humour remained intact.

“I didn’t realise I’d made a noise,” the Sheffield United manager, asked whether losing to Walsall meant it was now ‘squeaky-bum time’ at Bramall Lane, told Tuesday’s post-match press conference. “But perhaps I did.”

Nevertheless, the South Yorkshire club, who travel to Brentford tomorrow, has lost some of its swagger. And, given the state of play towards the top of the League One table, must quickly discover its old pizzaz.

Nearly 48 hours after that defeat at the Banks’s Stadium, Wilson was still in mischievous mood during a convivial media briefing at Shirecliffe yesterday. But, having seen second-placed United’s lead over the chasing pack reduced to a single point, his jocular demeanour masked the serious reflection going on behind the scenes.

The Blades were pedestrian against a Walsall side fighting for its life at the opposite end of the division, and an injection of ingenuity is required if United are to puncture Brentford’s exceptional home record.

“I don’t ever remember saying it would be easy,” Wilson said. “I’d like to see a quote of where I did.

“We’re still in a great position and feel we’ve got a great chance of automatic (promotion) so we’ll give it a real go. But, listening to some people, you’d think we’d dropped into the relegation zone.

“We still hold the aces.”

Uwe Rosler’s men are unbeaten at Griffin Park in the league since November and, as Wilson acknowledged, view themselves as genuine top-six contenders.

“It’s always a tough ground to go to. But we’re ready for the fight.”

With playmaker Kevin McDonald still nursing a hamstring injury, United must discover another source of inspiration.

Possessing a searing turn of pace but used sparingly after arriving on loan from Brighton five weeks ago, Will Hoskins could help shoulder the creative burden being placed on Lee Williamson’s shoulders in McDonald’s absence. A way must be found of weaving him into the first team.

“He’s close to a start,” Wilson said. “We brought Will here for a reason and that’s because he can play a variety of positions.”

Although Wilson’s comments soon after Alex Nicholl’s late goal had condemned United to a third reverse in four games will not sit comfortably with the more reactionary elements of their support, he was right not to betray his frustration.

In the past, the anxiety of some of Wilson’s predecessors has filtered back to the dressing room and translated into fractious, nervous displays.

With defenders Harry Maguire and Matthew Lowton both set to return after suspension, Wilson said: “We lost nearly our entire back four in one game and that’s bound to have an effect. I’ve not known that happen in 30 years.”

One to watch

Gary Alexander, the former Milwall, Hull City and Leyton Orient striker, has scored 12 of Brentford’s 46 goals in League One this term. But the 32-year-old has not hit the target since claiming a hat-trick against Wycombe Wanderers in January. Started his career at West Ham United.

History lesson

Sheffield United will visit Griffin Park for the first time since two goals from Tony Agana helped propel them to a 4-1 victory in September 1988. But Brentford, beaten 2-0 at Bramall Lane seven months ago, have won 10 and drawn six of the 24 competitive meetings between these two sides.

Sheffield United manager Danny Wilson last night confirmed Kevin McDonald has yet to resume full training after being diagnosed with a strained hamstring three weeks ago.

The former Scotland under-21 international limped off during the victory over Preston and his absence has coincided with a marked downturn in results.

United travel to Brentford tomorrow second in the League One table despite losing three of their previous four games.

Wilson acknowledged: “Of course it was a blow losing Macca because the way he was playing I couldn’t see him dropping out of the line-up. He’s a specialist at what he does.”

Wilson, who revealed full-back Marcus Williams should be available for selection at Griffin Park after recovering from a back complaint, added: “You’ve got to be so careful with hamstrings because if you push them too hard then, just when everything seems to be okay, they sometimes go again.”