Clough eyes signings to ease pressure on his squad

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Sheffield United manager Nigel Clough will press ahead with plans to utilise the emergency loan market to ease the pressure on his squad, according to his assistant Andy Garner.

United, who are scheduled to face Clough’s former side Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup fifth round on Sunday, face a congested programme of fixtures between now and the end of the season as they battle to secure their League One status.

The Bramall Lane club, Garner revealed, came “very close” to signing a player on loan before Saturday’s win over Shrewsbury Town, and could revisit the situation after facing Championship outfit Forest this weekend.

“We came very close to adding a player before Saturday,” Garner said.

“We’ll keep pursuing that avenue, and there are a couple of other options too. Hopefully we can bring in one or two over the next couple of weeks.

“We need another couple of players, in all areas: the likes of Jamie Murphy and Ryan Flynn are doing a lot of work, and it’s a big ask of them to do that for the rest of the season.”

Garner also revealed that Mark Howard has regained his position as United’s number one goalkeeper, after making his first appearance since October in United’s FA Cup win at Fulham.

Howard then kept another clean sheet against Shrewsbury and, speaking before last night’s home game against Brentford was postponed, Garner added: “He kept two clean sheets in two games, so I think the position is his to lose.

“And if we did drop him now, I think he’d be banging the door down to ask why!

“It’s not that George [Long] performed poorly, but Mark’s attitude has been first class.

“We thought he deserved a chance, he has taken it and he’s the number one at the moment.”

“Mark is a little more experienced than George, and more vocal,” Garner added.

“And that helps a lot. George has a lot of experience for a young lad, and he will get his head down and work hard.

“There’s no doubt about that - all he wants now is to get his place back in the team.”