AS the season reaches the stage where the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy takes on a whole new gloss, Danny Wilson believes his Sheffield United side will tonight be taking on a very different Coventry City to the one they faced earlier this season.
The Blades travel to the Ricoh Arena for a rare meeting between two founder members of the Premier League in the competition for clubs in Leagues One and Two.
A place in the Northern Area semi-finals is at stake as United look to go one better than the clubs’ previous meeting in August when a late equaliser from Nick Blackman rescued a point for Wilson’s men.
Back then, Coventry were still smarting from relegation and it would be the end of September before the Midlands club tasted victory in the league.
Former Barnsley and Rotherham manager Mark Robins, linked with the Blades job before Wilson was appointed, had taken charge just a week or so before that win over Oldham Athletic, a result that kick-started an impressive run that has since seen the Sky Blues lose just three of 15 league and cup games.
No wonder, therefore, that Wilson has warned his Blades side just how stiff a test they are likely to be given tonight.
He said: “Coventry are a different team and a different test to when we last went there. It is a good venue to go and play football at and this is a big game between two big clubs.
“I don’t know Mark away from football, but we have pitted our wits against each other on a few occasions and I followed his career when he was in this area.”
Asked if the weekend FA Cup win over Port Vale – when United scored twice in stoppage time to clinch a place in the FA Cup third round – meant his players could relax ahead of tonight’s trip down the M1, Wilson replied: “No, we can’t. We can’t relax in any games we play. It is pointless going to Coventry and getting done 6-0. What’s the point of that?
“We want to go there and win and put a good performance on. All our best efforts will be put into every game we play.”
This season is only the fourth time United have entered the Trophy with their previous best performance coming in the first year of the competition in 1983-84.
The Blades reached the Northern Area semi-finals, where they lost to Hull City, while in 1988-89 they went out in the first round against Wrexham.
Last term, meanwhile, Bradford City ended United’s involvement at the regional quarter-final stage with a penalty shoot-out triumph at Bramall Lane.
Wilson added: “I know it (the JPT) is not everyone’s cup of tea but I am quite buoyed by it.
“The competition gets quite prestigious in the later rounds, but the problem is it doesn’t attract many people at the start. It gathers momentum as it goes along.
“Someone has got to win it so why not us? And, to be honest, it gets more lucrative towards the end.”
Wilson’s belief that the Blades can go all the way in this season’s competition is shared by both Darryl Westlake and Shaun Miller, the latter player having netted twice in the 4-1 win over Notts County in the last round.
Miller said: “It is another chance in a cup and our win over Port Vale will give us a lot of confidence going into the game and we will certainly be looking to get through into the next round.
“It is definitely a competition which we think we can win. There is no reason why we can’t progress.”
Westlake, who has been involved in United’s last five games and was also in the team that triumphed 4-1 at Meadow Lane in front of the live Sky cameras, added: “You go into football to win trophies and to try and play at places like Wembley.
“There is a long way to go yet before we can start to consider that, but who wouldn’t want to be involved in a match there?
“I know not everyone takes this competition seriously but I can assure you that nobody here thinks like that.
“We take every game seriously. We want to win every time we go out onto the pitch.
“Promotion, first and foremost, is what we are aiming for. But there is no reason why we can’t do both.”
Wilson will weigh up his options before making a final selection of the team tonight.
Competition rules stipulate that a manager cannot make wholesale changes to his starting line-up, but Wilson insists that is not a problem for him.
He added: “We have got one or two knocks but nothing that won’t stop us selecting anyone.
“We will, though, have to keep an eye on Saturday’s game (at Carlisle United).
“I have got no problems with the competition rules. The sponsors want value for money and credibility. It is the same for everyone, so that is fair enough to me.”
Jordan Chapell has been recalled from his loan spell at Burton Albion, where he scored once in four appearances, and the winger could feature in the squad to face Coventry.
Last six games: Coventry City WLWWDW, Sheffield United DLWDLW. Last time: Coventry City 1 Sheffield United 1; August 11, 2012; League One.
Referee: M Brown (East Yorkshire).