SHEFFIELD United manager Danny Wilson has issued a passionate rallying call to his squad ahead of Saturday’s trip to Notts County, insisting: “We have to roll our sleeves up and fight for promotion.”
Wilson, whose side haven’t registered a League One win since beating Scunthorpe United on Boxing Day, takes his charges to Meadow Lane on Saturday after back-to-back defeats at a Bramall Lane ground that was previously a fortress.
Fourth-placed United slipped to six points behind joint-leaders Tranmere Rovers and Doncaster after Saturday’s 2-0 defeat to Yeovil - and Wilson wants his side to once again prove their promotion credentials this weekend.
“We can’t do anything but look forward to the Notts County game now,” Wilson, speaking after Paddy Madden’s brace gave Yeovil the points on Saturday, said.
“But you’ve seen the void that we’ve been left in key areas after injuries; it’s certainly made an impact. The sooner I can get the boys back, the sooner we start to look more solid as a unit.”
“But we’re still in a very good position in the league; we’ve got to put our foot down on the accelerator and go for it now,” the United boss added.
“We’ve been dipping our toes in too much now; it’s time for us to roll our sleeves up and have a good go.
“We know what this league’s about, and it was no surprise that Yeovil came to Bramall Lane and tried to stifle us; we’ve had that many times before.
“We’ve got to meet it head on now and push past it, and we need a certain mentality to do that.”
One player who undoubtedly possesses such a mentality, Neill Collins, is expected to be missing for around another month after suffering a fractured cheekbone.
With fellow centre half Matt Hill also fracturing his jaw, Wilson was forced to draft in 34-year-old Danny Higginbotham to partner Harry Maguire at centre half.
“We can do a lot better,” Higginbotham, who signed a six-month deal with United recently, said.
“It’s something we’ll certainly be working on this week in training, ahead of the Notts County game.
“The club’s still in a great position and we’ll be looking to rectify it very soon; that’s the beauty of football, it’s thick and fast.
“Ask any of the lads and they’d say they would have loved to have had a game on Tuesday, and a few wins puts us right back up where we want to be - challenging for automatic promotion.”
A chorus of audible boos greeted the full time whistle against Yeovil, and teenage goalkeeper George Long was criticised by sections of the crowd after his error gifted Madden his second goal.
United ended the game with three members of their lauded FA Youth Cup Final squad on the pitch - Long, Maguire and Joe Ironside, who almost scored late on - with a further two, Elliott Whitehouse and Aaron Barry, on the bench.
“We think a lot about these boys, but it’s a big ask,” Wilson added.
“There was 20,000 at Bramall Lane against Yeovil, and there’s a lot of expectation - they want us to win games.
“Maybe one or two of the boys aren’t ready, but they’re in there because we just don’t have the bodies in the squad.
“Ideally, we’d give them a lot more time but time is at a premium at the minute.”
Wilson will have to this week decide whether to stick with Long or bring back Mark Howard, after the experienced goalkeeper declared himself fit after a thigh muscle injury. With United’s next Under-21 game not scheduled until January 21, however, Howard’s lack of match fitness could mean Wilson sticks with Long for the clash against Keith Curle’s 14th-placed side.
n Injured defender Collins, meanwhile, has set his sights on forcing his way into the Scotland set-up when he returns to first-team action with United.
Collins has never been capped by his native country, although he has appeared for Scotland at Under-21 and B level.
“I do hope to push for a Scotland place,” 29-year-old Collins, who hailed Wilson as one of the best managers he has worked with during his playing career, said. “I’ve been in England for about nine years but for whatever reason an international call-up has never happened.
“Maybe the new manager will look at me. It’s certainly something I would love to happen but I need to concentrate on my performances.
“I signed a new contract in November, I feel settled with Sheffield United and I’m enjoying playing for the club.
“Right now I just want to get back to the Championship and we will take things from there.”
n United’s clash with Brentford, on March 23, has been selected for Sky Sports coverage and will now kick off at 12.45pm. Wednesday’s home match against Nottingham Forest on March 2 will now be a 5.20pm kick off for Sky Sports.