WITH Nick Montgomery nursing jarred ankle ligaments and Kevin McDonald’s return to action still around a week away, opportunity beckons for Matthew Harriott.
Yet, despite emerging as one of the stars of Sheffield United’s march into the FA Youth Cup final last season, Danny Wilson has told the young midfielder he must improve certain aspects of his game before being considered for regular first team selection.
“Matt has done well but it goes without saying that there are areas where he can improve,” said Wilson.
“One of those is in terms of his passing.
“Ideally, we’d like him to look forward a little bit more often.
“Be more creative in terms of what he’s trying to do rather than simply take the safety first option.
“But that’s not a major thing to do and it’s something we can teach and he can learn.”
Wilson’s words are designed to encourage and cajole. Not be perceived as an embarrassing condemnation.
Indeed, they echo those Kevin Blackwell, the manger responsible for bringing Harriott to Bramall Lane, uttered before parting company with the South Yorkshire club last season.
Despite making only a cameo appearance against Burton Albion on Tuesday, the 18-year-old will be hoping for a more prominent role when Bury visit tomorrow.
Boasting an intuitive position sense and healthy respect for possession, Harriott possesses the qualities required to emerge as the pivotal cog in United’s engine.
Providing he learns to combine caution with creativity.
McDonald, challenged to strike exactly the same balance before being rewarded with a permanent contract earlier this summer, could be a inspiring tutor.
Wilson, who handed Harriott a rare start during the recent Carling Cup tie at Everton, said: “Playing somewhere like Goodison Park will be a great education and experience for him and others.
“Matty has now had to pit his wits against some really top class players and he’ll have taken a lot from that.
“He did some things well and others not so well but that’s to be expected.”
Harriott, like Wilson’s project to revolutionise the way football is played at Bramall Lane, is a work in progress.
Although the former Northern Ireland international, appointed during the immediate aftermath of United’s relegation last season, paid tribute to the commitment which enabled the visitors to extend their unbeaten run in league competition to five games at Yeovil Town on Saturday, he picked apart other aspects of his charges’ performance.
“We’ve shown we’ve got character and that’s vitally important,” he said. “We had to dig in there and stand together which we did once again and was really pleasing to see.
“Without that you’ve got nothing but, in terms of things we can do better, I thought our first ball out of defence left a little to be desired at times.
“If it had have been more precise then I think we could have scored more goals.”
UNITED (Possible): Simonsen, Lowton, Collins, Maguire, Jean-Francois, Flynn, Doyle, Harriott, Quinn, Porter, Cresswell.
BURY (Possible): Belford, Picken, Skarz, Eastham, Sweeney, Byrne, Coke, Worrall, Haworth, Bishop, Harrad.
EDDIE ILDERTON: The Tyne and Wear official has issued two red cards in five outings this term. Blackpool’s Ashley Eastham was dismissed in the Carling Cup tie at Sheffield Wednesday – before Neal Trotman of Rochdale saw red during a 2-0 defeat at Oldham. Ilderton also sent-off former loanee Shane Lowry when United were beaten at Swansea City on the final day of last season.
Tale of the tape
Bury have won once on their travels this term; 2-0 at Wycombe Wanderers. They drew their other away match. The visitors arrive at Bramall Lane 13th in the table having made a solid start to life in League One. United have won both home league matches, scoring five and conceding twice.