Nigel Clough, the Sheffield United manager, has revealed Mark Howard will be granted another opportunity to earn a new contract when League One leaders Brentford visit Bramall Lane.
Clough’s decision to name Howard in his starting eleven against Shrewsbury Town last weekend raised eyebrows but his faith was rewarded when the former Blackpool goalkeeper kept a second consectutive clean sheet following United’s FA Cup win at Fulham last week.
And Clough, whose team boosted their survival hopes with a crucial victory, told The Star that Howard is likely to retain his place forWednesday’s meeting with the Londoners.
Asked why the 27-year-old had been preferred to England under-21 international George Long, Clough replied: “Mark has been a model professional in training. His attitude has been superb and he did well (at Fulham).
“His contract is up in the summer, we’d not really had a look at him and we thought it was about time we did. Once again, Mark has acquitted himself well so he will stay in for now.”
“Mark has helped and encouraged George when he’s not been involved,” Clough added. “He’s waited a long time for an opportunity.”
Howard, featuring in a league game for the first time since September, looked assured as goals from Ryan Flynn and Stefan Scougall saw United climb above their fellow strugglers to 21st in the table. Clough highlighted the importance of their contributions after asking Jose Baxter, rather than a recognised centre-forward, to spearhead his attack.
“Ryan put so much in against Fulham that he was sick on the pitch but we couldn’t take him off because we’d used all our subs,” Clough said. “When you don’t select an out-and -out striker it’s vital that you can get goals from midfield and they delivered.”
* United, who hope to enter the emergency loan market this week, have allowed Aaron Barry to join Derry City after terminating the defender’s contract. Barry, aged 21, recently completed a five month spell in Scotland with Dumbarton and made his debut for the League of Ireland outfit against Cliftonville two days ago.