The second half of the season hasn’t been as victory-laden as the first, but Sheffield United have managed to maintain a healthy position in the top half of the table, nonetheless. Can you sum up the last few months at Bramall Lane?
I think they’ve generally played quite well but there have been a few issues which have hampered their progress somewhat. For example, David Brooks, who had such a major impact at the start of the season, has had glandular fever and hasn’t fully recovered from that. Losing a player who has the ability to have a major impact on the game has been a big blow. Losing Paul Coutts at the start of the season to a broken leg was another setback that has impacted United. They’ve brought in other midfielders to play in his place such as Ryan Leonard from Southend United and Ricky Holmes from Charlton Athletic, but they’ve missed Coutts. With him, John Fleck and Mark Duffy in the middle they played their best football, so losing Coutts on top of Brooks has had its impact.
There have been a few surprise packages in the league this season and The Blades are certainly up there; are the Play-Offs too much to ask for at this stage?
They can still do it, but they are going to need the likes of Leon Clarke to get back to his best. Clarke was on fire from September to December, but he’s lost his form a little since then. They are also going to need the players they brought in January to step up and really show what they are about. United will stay in contention, it’s just whether or not Middlesbrough or Derby County have too much quality in the end. Even though they’ve not had the greatest form since Christmas, they’ve managed to stick in there and I don’t think anyone should bet against them sneaking into the Play-Off mix. If they are the team that does sneak in, they’ll be a difficult opponent to face.
How are you expecting Chris Wilder to set up his side at Griffin Park?
I think he’ll stick with what he’s done for most of the season, which is an unusual style of play compared to the way everybody else plays. They set up with three centre-backs and two wing-backs, yet you will see the centre-halves such as Jack O’Connell and Chris Basham getting into positions that you’d expect the wing-backs to be in. You’ll often see one of the centre-backs doubling up, on the overlap, running beyond the wing-backs. It’s a system that some teams haven’t been able to cope with and it has enabled United to get on the front foot and attack teams. They are very attack-minded.
What’s your score prediction for the game?
It’s got to the point of the season where you look at these two teams and, without wanting to sit on the fence too much, it looks like it could easily be a draw. Brentford and United may end up cancelling each other out and I don’t think a draw would be a terrible result for the latter. I’ll go for a 2-2 draw.
For the full chat with Rob plus exclusive interviews with Daniel Bentley and Paul Gibbs, pick up a copy of BEES for just £3.50.