Sheffield United v Stevenage – Match Preview

Second place Sheffield United welcome play-off chasing Stevenage to Bramall Lane on Saturday with the knowledge that it could be the day that promotion is achieved.

The Blades currently hold a point advantage over their fierce rivals, Sheffield Wednesday, in the ongoing tussle between the two sides for automatic promotion. With the Owls away to Brentford, prior to United’s late kick-off, Danny Wilson’s men know that if Wednesday fail to win, then three points could practically clinch the automatic promotion spot for good.

On the other hand, should Wednesday win, nothing less than a victory would see United slip down to 3rd. With ticket prices slashed in an effort to boost the attendance for their final home game of the campaign, Sheffield United fans have taken the opportunity, and snapped up the tickets. All but a handful of home tickets have been sold, leaving Bramall Lane likely to be massed in a sea of red and white come kick off.

In Stevenage’s case, if they were to pull off a win, and Notts County were to drop points away to Wycombe, then barring a miracle of Carlisle overturning a goal difference of at least 25 between the two sides in the remaining games, the play-off position would be theirs. Having notched up three wins in a row, the Boro will come full of confidence and knowing they don’t have much to lose. Also, with Stevenage having made a reputation for themselves as ‘giant killers’ due to their positive results against the sides placed above them, they will be hoping that this trend can continue for their trip up North. Furthermore, if they were to win, having already beat Wednesday twice and won 2-1 at home to United earlier on the season, Stevenage would have completed a Sheffield double or quadruple if you like.

Sheffield United 2nd: 88 points

Last six: W W W W W L

Team news: A potential ‘striker crisis’ on the cards as the Blades are now without both Ched Evans and Will Hoskins (the first I’m sure you know why, the latter has brought forward an operation date). However Richard Cresswell is expected to be back in contention after missing the game last weekend with a shoulder injury. In other areas, I would expect the rest of the team to remain unchanged.

Key player: Kevin McDonald

Whilst the absence of top-scorer Ched Evans could cause concern within United’s camp, I believe McDonald to be the type of player who can create something out of nothing with just one swift movement of his right foot. As he has done many a time this season, he can exploit defences and concoct goal-scoring opportunities for his team’s strike-force. In addition, Bolton loanee Michael O’Halloran has shown his potential and always looks a threat due his blistering pace enabling him to beat defenders and go beyond them.

Stevenage 6th: 69 points

Last six: D L D W W W

Team news: Gary Smith is likely to face no selection problems this weekend, although Chris Beardsley is still working towards full fitness, there have been no new injuries cropping up for Boro. Stevenage would be expected to line up with the same starting eleven, as they have done for the last three games.

Key player: Luke Freeman

With three goals from their last three, Freeman will enter this match with a certain degree of goal-scoring form to his name. However, we mustn’t forget Jordan Slew. As we see only too often, players who previously played for their opposing team seem to come back and haunt them. On the Sheffield United academy product’s return to Bramall Lane, although he is yet to score for loan club Stevenage, he possesses the ability to be a constant thorn in United’s defence, and I am sure many Blades fans will have images of fate encompassing Slew to grab a late goal to put a serious dent in the promotion ambitions.

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