Five more games and, if Nigel Clough gets his way, five more wins, writes James Shield.
However, despite warning there must be no loss of focus following their FA Cup semi-final defeat, the Sheffield United manager could still expose some of Bramall Lane’s promising youngsters to first team competition during the closing stages of what has been an eventful League One campaign.
“There are some very good prospects here,” Clough, speaking ahead of tomorrow’s game against Stevenage, said. “Developing players is vital to the health of any football club and it’s something that we are very keen to promote.
“So, if an opportunity arises or the chance presents itself, then we’ll look to use them. Just as we have already done.
“We’ll look at things on a match by match basis because we want to finish as strongly as possible. But, even if they just make the journey with us or are around the dressing room with the established professionals, it’s an important part of their development.”
United, who four days ago were beaten by Hull City at Wembley, included Conor Dimaio and Otis Khan in the squad which overcame Rotherham during the build-up to their meeting with Steve Bruce’s side while Louis Reed made his debut towards the end of that contest.
Reed, aged 16, was promoted after impressing Clough with his performances at both academy and PDL level in recent weeks and the former England international’s faith was rewarded with a display later described as “very mature” by under-21 coach Chris Morgan.
United will enter the visit of 24th placed Stevenage 11th in the table after losing only two of their previous 14 league games and Clough said: “If someone, and it doesn’t matter how old they are, demonstrates that they deserve a chance then it’s important they know they’re going to get one.
“Equally, though, when they do get them they know it’s on merit. Because they’ve shown the necessary qualities, attitude and ability.”
“We don’t just include them for the sake of it or because we think it’s a nice thing to do. Rather, because they’ve shown they could have what it takes and are capable of bringing something to the squad as a whole.
“That’s important to remember too.”
Meanwhile, United have reminded supporters that next Friday’s match at Port Vale now kicks-off at 8pm rather than 7.45 pm as previously advertised.