AN irresistible force and immovable object meet at Bramall Lane tonight.
Huddersfield Town, whose unbeaten League One record now stands at 32 games, visit a Sheffield United side yet to taste defeat in the competition this season.
Frank Barlow, the South Yorkshire club’s assistant manager, predicted the fixture will provide a “good test” of their credentials during yesterday’s pre-match press conference at Shirecliffe.
But, having watched striker Ched Evans celebrate his long-awaited return to action with a goal at Scunthorpe last weekend, the 64-year-old acknowledged United now possess another player capable of swinging even the tightest of contests in favour of Danny Wilson’s side.
“It must have been great for Ched,” said Barlow. “He’s worked hard behind the scenes and I’m sure it was a big relief for him to do that.
“He’ll be delighted to be back out there doing what he’s paid to do.
“I’m sure Ched, if he keeps that up; he can have an important role to play for us without a doubt.
“If he does that then it also possibly alleviates the pressure to do something with regards to a loan.”
By his own admission, Evans has failed to impress since completing a £3 million transfer from Manchester City in 2009.
Having spent nearly five months recovering from an ankle injury sustained during April’s draw with Barnsley - which, combined with results elsewhere, confirmed United’s relegation from the Championship - some well-publicised problems in his personal life have also made it a summer to forget for the Wales international.
Defender Matthew Lowton, who is expected to start against Town, echoed Barlow’s sentiments.
“I was delighted for Ched,” he said. “It was great to see him come back after so long out through injury.
“What really struck me was the fact that it wasn’t just a case of Ched getting a goal because his whole all-round performance was brilliant.”
United jumped to the top of the table when Evans stepped off the bench to cancel out Chris Dagnall’s strike at Glanford Park. Huddersfield climbed to fifth when they dispatched Tranmere Rovers 2-0.
Both Barlow and Lowton struck a confident but not
cocky chord when asked whether they can become the first team to overcome Lee Clark’s men since Southampton crushed them 4-1 at St Mary’s in December.
A JP Trophy reverse at the hands of Carlisle, an FA Cup loss to Arsenal and, most painfully, last term’s play-off final spanking by Peterborough are the only other black marks on Town’s record of late.
“Their run says it all,” said Barlow. “We’re top at the moment but you have to play everyone over the course of a season.
“Huddersfield will be close at the end and if we are above them then we’ll be very close.”
“We’ll show them respect as always,” added Lowton. “But we also know we can beat them.”
One to watch
Alan Lee is a familiar figure among football fans in South Yorkshire. The Huddersfield Town striker scored nearly 40 league goals in 111 appearances for Rotherham United earlier in his career. Arrived at the Galpharm Stadium last year following spells with Cardiff, Ipswich, Crystal Palace and Norwich.
United triumphed 3-0 the last time this evening’s opponents visited Bramall Lane. Since that game, in October 2000, their record reads one win apiece with Huddersfield recording a 2-1 success in the return later that season before United beat them by the same scoreline during the 2008/09 Carling Cup.
Teams and ref
United (possible): Simonsen, Parrino, Maguire, Collins, Lowton, Mendez-Laing, Doyle, McAllister, Quinn, Porter, Cresswell (4-4-2).
Huddersfield (possible): Bennett, McCombe, Woods, Kay, Hunt, Robinson, Miller, McDermott, Roberts, Rhodes, Lee (4-4-2).
Graham Salisbury. From Lancashire, he booked seven players during his last visit to Bramall Lane,April’s 2-2 draw with Barnsley.
Has issued 29 yellow cards and just the one red in eight matches so far in this new campaign.