ALAN BIGGS AT LARGE: Redemption day near

1st Division  play off semi final  2nd leg 'Sheffield United vs Stevenage 'Chris Porter scores the blades match winner that takes them to Wembley
1st Division play off semi final 2nd leg 'Sheffield United vs Stevenage 'Chris Porter scores the blades match winner that takes them to Wembley

Anyone’s mission, should they choose to accept it. To start an article about the League One play-off final without mentioning Jordan Rhodes.

Damn, flunked it already. This column will not be auditioning for Mission Impossible. And like the tape in the TV show, any team can self-destruct in five seconds - or less - when Mr. Rhodes is around.

But if Wembley is to be about a team production rather than the big star then Sheffield United, for me, have a better cast than Huddersfield. Their challenge is to stop one man upstaging them.

Make no mistake - and Rhodes seldom does in front of goal as 40 examples prove - this exceptional Premiership-bound marksman is the key to the game. The Blades’ Championship dreams will depend to a very large extent on whether Rhodes is a hit or a miss.

But Danny Wilson’s players are not hostages to fortune in that respect. They can be as influential as Rhodes in determining whether the boot is on Huddersfield’s foot. Because my impression has not changed from the one expressed here recently. . . that without a major contribution from their main man the Terriers lack any real bite.

Here’s a fact. Of the last league 10 matches in which Rhodes failed to score, Huddersfield won only two and lost five, including United’s win at the Galpharm in February. He then scored two of their three goals in the play-offs, including an ultimately crucial strike in the 2-1 defeat of the second leg against MK Dons.

Of course, the propaganda war will swing the other way 20 odd miles north of here where they will say the Blades have no cutting edge without Ched Evans.

Yet United boast a collective unit that has dug the club clear of a deep trough of depression. And here, to counter the “it’s all about Rhodes” argument, there is a little knot of committed people at Bramall Lane who will feel it’s just as personal. Saturday can be redemption day for Stephen Quinn and Nick Montgomery, along with coach and former skipper Chris Morgan. All three have bitter memories of the most recent of United’s three failures in play-off finals. Monty goes back to the 2003 drubbing by Wolves.

They will have wondered if they would get another chance to put their Wembley heartache behind them. Well, here it is and I doubt any group of people will be more desperate for success this weekend. I’d expect Morgan, Quinn and Montgomery to be major figures on and off the field for this particular game.

The mood will be set by their experience and desire. But there will be no more vital performer than Kevin McDonald. His fitness and creativity - if he plays - will be crucial.

There’s also a hero waiting inside goalscoring midfielder Lee Williamson. . . one more reason why I believe that finally the fates will smile on the Blades.