Nigel Clough, the Sheffield United manager, has ordered his team to smother Tranmere Rovers into submission during tomorrow’s crucial League One encounter at Bramall Lane, writes James Shield.
Clough issued the directive after bemoaning the “helping hand” they offered Oldham Athletic when Lee Johnson’s side visited Bramall Lane on Boxing Day.
United secured a point courtesy of Jose Baxter’s perfectly executed second-half free-kick after conceding a soft early goal and the former England international, who has acknowledged opponents are arriving in South Yorkshire “with a gameplan,” said: “It’s vitally important that we don’t give the other team any encouragement whatsoever. That we don’t give them anything to try and hold onto or build upon.
“Doing that just makes life more difficult. We know people come to our place with certain things in mind and we don’t want to play into their hands.”
Rovers climbed above 20th placed United in the table after beginning their festive programme with a narrow victory over Shrewsbury Town. However, with only six points separating the division’s bottom nine teams, results over the Christmas period are set to exert huge influence over how the battle for survival eventually unfolds.
Nevertheless, despite his disappointment at some aspects of United’s performance against Athletic, Clough insisted they fact they will enter their meeting with Rovers unbeaten in seven outings illustrates progress is being made.
“The crowd weren’t happy at half time when we came off and they were perfectly justified in their reaction,” he said. “But the fact we came back from that to take something from the game showed the right mentality and character.
“There was nothing particularly heated going on in the dressing room. We merely reminded the players of a few things and they responded to that.
“Yes, we wanted to win. But the fact we didn’t lose is also important.
“It helps us to keep momentum and also shows that we are not the type of people who give up on anything no matter what. But getting in front will be the key to us achieving greater returns at home.”