Crisis of the key men

Derby doubts: Jermaine Johnson could miss out on Sunday's clash
Derby doubts: Jermaine Johnson could miss out on Sunday's clash

Two players who were emerging as potential major figures in Sunday’s big clash at Hillsborough face a desperate battle to even make the game.

Jermaine Johnson, outstanding for Sheffield Wednesday in recent games, and Kevin McDonald, who has become a huge midfield influence for Sheffield United, are both under treatment for injuries picked up on Saturday.

Neither has been ruled out and will be given every chance to make it, but both appear to be major doubts at this stage for the big promotion showdown.

By coincidence, the two of them went off within a minute of each other in their respective games at the weekend.

McDonald was replaced in the 24th minute of the 2-1 win over Preston when he pulled up with a thigh injury.

Manager Danny Wilson confirmed that he had injured a hamstring and said, rather ominously, “He felt it go straight away and that’s not a good sign.”

“It’s unlikely he’ll be okay for Sunday but we’ll know more and have a better idea later.”

Johnson went off in the 25th minute of Wednesday’s derby at Chesterfield, with the initial diagnosis being an injury to the medial knee ligament.

Boss Gary Megson, like Wilson with McDonald, was reluctant to rule Johnson out at such an early stage and also adopted a policy of wait and see.

“We’ll see how it settles down; it could be just a knock, but we’ll have a proper look and take it from there,” he said.

The flying winger has been a key figure for Wednesday since getting his chance in January. He had started just one league game until he made a goalscoring impact when going on as a substitute in a 2-1 home win over Hartlepool on January 21.

Since then he has scored three more goals, including some outstanding ones, and re-emerged as a key attacking force.

In fact, Megson said he felt that Johnson going off had a lot to do with them failing to penetrate Chesterfield’s defence in the second half, as they had done earlier.

“He certainly gives you that pace and penetration as an individual,” said Megson.

McDonald’s impact and influence on the Blades has been growing in recent times.

He did not earn a regular place in the side until mid-September but has now forged a strong midfield partnership with Michael Doyle. McDonald’s range of passing is integral to the way the side wants to play under Wilson and he has blossomed under the manager’s tutelage.

United have begun talks over a new contract with the midfielder.

Meanwhile, both clubs will be anxiously awaiting the medical bulletins.