SHEFFIELD UNITED manager Nigel Adkins insists that his side still retain a realistic chance of automatic promotion despite a slow first half of the League One campaign.
The Bramall Lane outfit head into the festive programme with a nine-point gap to make up between themselves and Walsall, who currently occupy the second automatic promotion place and are three points behind leaders Burton Albion.
But with one game to go before the halfway mark of the season, Adkins – who has master-minded promotion three times from the third tier – is keeping calm about the Blades’ current position of ninth, one point behind Peterborough United, who occupy the final play-off spot.
The Blades face a key Christmas and New Year programme, which sees them head over the Pennines to visit fifth-placed Wigan Athletic on Boxing Day before welcoming Bradford City, above them by just a single point, in an appealing Yorkshire derby on December 28.
They will then start off 2015 at home to sixth-placed Peterborough on January 2, seeking for a healthy quota of points that could change the complexion of their campaign and provide some genuine new year momentum.
Keen to maintain a sense of perspective, Adkins, appointed as Blades boss in early June, said: “Come Boxing Day, we will be at the halfway mark. I always maintained that, come January, we wanted to be in the race.
“We are a point off the play-offs and can still get automatic.
“We’ve got three very important games coming up. The next game is always the most important and so all our energies must be on that.
“We weren’t in and around the top when we went to Southampton (in September 2010). You have to get the chance to turn things around and where you are at the end of the season is what matters.
“We have been here a very short period of time and, yes, there’s an expectation. But we are driving that because we want to be at the highest level.
“Within a week, we’ve got three games and that can change the complexion of the league table very quickly.
“We know where we want to end up and where we expect to end up, but there’s a hell of a long way to go.
You’ve just got to get to January and be in the race. We did that at Scunthorpe and we did that at Southampton, which enabled us, eventually, to get to where we wanted to be.”