SHEFFIELD United striker Jose Baxter says he would be willing to swap FA Cup glory and a trip to Wembley for a League One win tonight over Peterborough United at Bramall Lane.
The Blades have been this season’s Cup giantkillers, following the example of League Cup finalists Bradford City last season by marching into the FA Cup quarter-finals.
After seeing off Premier League duo Aston Villa and Fulham, plus Championship side Nottingham Forest, Nigel Clough’s side stand just 90 minutes away from a trip to Wembley. They host Charlton Athletic on Sunday.
But Blades forward Baxter insists the club have not given up hope of gatecrashing the League One play-offs. Victory tonight would cut the gap to just eight points on Peterborough – who occupy sixth spot, probably the one remaining place up for grabs with the top five, including Rotherham United, looking secure.
“For me, getting three points is definitely preferable,” said Baxter, although the former Everton youngster believes the Blades – who are on a seven-match winning streak – are capable of success in both league and cup.
That would mean two trips to Wembley, first in the FA Cup semi-finals next month, then in May for the end-of-season play-offs.
“I said that when we were down near the bottom. I honestly do believe in the squad and manager, so I don’t see why not,” said the 22-year-old Liverpudlian.
“Considering at one point we were around 30 points off the play-offs, now we are 11, I think it would be wrong to think it’s not achievable.
“It’s going to take a lot of hard work, a lot of luck, but you only have to look at Bournemouth who were rock bottom.
“All of a sudden they got promoted, so it is do-able.”
With just 14 games remaining this season, United have to claw back an 11-point deficit meaning they can hardly afford to lose another game.
Whatever the outcome, for a Blades side which looked destined to be fighting a season-long battle against relegation under previous manager David Weir, the transformation has been remarkable.
“It’s been a roller-coaster season so far,” said Baxter.
“You just don’t know what’s around the corner.
“We were on a poor run at the start of the season, but we have shown great character to get up the table and turn things round.
“The squad still has a lot more to offer. I am confident we can do this run for a lot longer.
“I am not saying the play-offs are not there for us, because it certainly is, but if we don’t get there this year you will see how good our squad is next year.
“We can only win our games, putting pressure on other teams.
“We are realistic, it’s going to take a lot of doing and luck to get there (the play-offs), but stranger things have happened.
“We just need to look at Peterborough first, we don’t want to think about Sunday yet.
“The league is important, and if we can beat Peterborough then great, it’s a bit closer to where we want to be.”
United last tasted defeat at Crewe Alexandra, losing 3-0, but since then they have won seven successive games.
“As the results have come the lads are more confident, and the camp is happier,” said Baxter, a summer arrival from Oldham Athletic.
“That’s how football goes; we are playing well, getting results and everyone is happy.
“Crewe was a bit of a bad time for us, we got beat 3-0. The lads were a bit upset.
“We realised we were down in the dumps, bottom four, and to go there and get beat 3-0 – the performance, it wasn’t acceptable.
“We have now turned it round, and the good run we are on shows what a good group of lads we have.”
The Blades will give a fitness test to centre-half Harry Maguire today after he missed Saturday’s 1-0 win at Milton Keynes Dons.
Defender John Brayford and winger Jamie Murphy were substituted in that game and are both injury doubts ahead of tonight’s match.
Last six: Sheffield United WWWWWW, Peterborough United DWDDWL.
Last time: Sheffield United 1 Peterborough United 0; November 21, 2009; Championship.
Referee: N Miller (C Durham).