Nigel Clough believes Sheffield United must confront the fact that opponents raise their game against them or risk spending another season in League One, writes James Shield.
Clough, the United manager, was speaking ahead of today’s visit to Fleetwood Town which pits his squad against a team which was playing in the Conference only two years ago.
Last term’s FA Cup semi-finalists will arrive at Highbury hoping to record their first win in the competition since November 15 after taking just points from three outings.
Clough said: “You look at the Notts County and MK Dons games where they put everything in. It didn’t surprise me that MK Dons lost to Chesterfield, who are good side, the next time they were out there on the pitch.
“We knew after our ding-dong on a Tuesday night that they were shattered by it. They might have knocked off the week before and had a quieter game but playing us isn’t a quiet game.”
Clough’s suspicions are borne out by statistics which reveal that, since August, only 36 per cent of teams have won their next game after facing United.
“It’s 46 games like that,” he added. “You can turn it hopefully into a fear thing, that when teams play us, a bit like Manchester United a few years ago, no-one looks forward to it.
“It’s a mentality thing. Don’t be bothered by it. Use it as a positive.”
Fleetwood, who a fortnight ago were beaten by Swindon Town, are without on-loan striker Martin Paterson due to injury while Clough must await the outcome of fitness tests involving Chris O’Grady and Craig Alcock before confirming his plans.
“We’ll stay on the side of caution with both of them if there are any concerns,” Clough said. “They both want to be involved but we’ll see.”