RYAN FLYNN and Michael Doyle return from three-match suspensions today but it is not just Sheffield United manager Danny Wilson who is breathing a massive sigh of relief.
For Blades top scorer Nick Blackman is hoping the return of Flynn, a potential supply route for more goals, and the commanding presence of captain Doyle can help the former Blackburn Rovers striker get back on the scoresheet.
Edinburgh-born Flynn, 24, took the man-of-the-match plaudits after replacing the departed Stephen Quinn in the 5-3 victory over Bournemouth at the start of the month.
The former Liverpool wideman – who once scored the winner in an FA Youth Cup final for the Reds against Manchester City in 2007 – netted twice himself, and had a hand in most of United’s attacking play, including a sumptuous cross for a Richard Cresswell headed goal, and had Blackman and his fellow Bramall Lane strikers licking their lips in anticipation.
But a straight red card in the following game at Scunthorpe United – for an uncharacteristic high-footed lunge – saw Flynn endure a three-match ban.
The Blades managed to extend their unbeaten start to the season, drawing against Bury and Doncaster Rovers while winning at Yeovil last weekend, but only netted twice while Flynn and Doyle were missing.
Both return today for the visit of second-placed Notts County, and no-one is more relieved than 22-year-old Blackman.
“It’s great for the team, because Kevin and Ryan are great players,” said Blackman. “Hopefully they can come back into the reckoning and we can get three points.
“And set some chances up for me, hopefully that’s the idea.
“Ryan scored twice against Bournemouth and we all know what he can do. He was at Liverpool and you are not at Anfield for no reason. Hopefully he can come back and keep showing us what he can do.
“Ryan’s cross which created a goal for Richard Cresswell (against Bournemouth) was great.
“Hopefully he can put the balls in and put chances on a plate for the strikers.
“I know what he is going to do, so I just have to be on the end of it,” added Blackman, whose Blades side sit sixth in League One, winning three and drawing five of their opening eight matches.
“It’s been a satisfactory start to the season, we could have had a couple of more wins, but the boys are satisfied.
“We are undefeated, it’s always good to have that mentality and we want to keep it going.
“We haven’t reached top gear yet, once we get clicking we are going to be a devastating force in the league. We are getting closer to what we can achieve, hopefully it’s not too far away.
“I feel settled in Sheffield now, the lads have made me feel really welcome.”
Asked what his aims for the season were, Blackman replied: “Score. I have a target but I won’t be saying how many. Just keep going, scoring and contributing to the team and we get promoted.
“I just want to keep the target to myself, it’s not anything that anyone should worry about but me.
“The season has started well for me personally, hopefully it can just keep going.
“Keep working hard and hope the team keep winning and scoring goals.”
The Blades No 10 signed from relegated Premier League club Blackburn in the summer, but has experience having had loan spells at Blackpool and Oldham as well as stints in Scotland with both Motherwell and Aberdeen.
“There isn’t much difference (playing in League One). I have played here before and know what to expect,” said Blackman, who has scored four goals in his nine Blades appearances so far this term. “I’m getting kicked a lot, unnecessarily, but you just have to take it.
“You just have to keep playing. It’s part and parcel of the game, you don’t really get much protection from the referees.
“I enjoy the physical side of the game, I am not going to shirk away from it. I am not small, but I think I have got more about me than the big target-man role.”
While leaders Tranmere Rovers and County have taken the headlines this season, promotion-favourites United have seen their early form hindered by too many draws.
But a win today would take Wilson’s revamped team level on points with Notts County, and Blackman knows there is more to come from United.
“We should have won a lot of games which were draws, it is just a matter of being patient,” he said. “It’s very tight in League One this year, there are a lot of teams who have started off really well like Tranmere and Saturday’s visitors Notts County. We will have to be on top form. I think every game is the biggest, you can’t take any game for granted.
“They have scored a lot of goals, got a lot of points on the board, so hopefully it will be an entertaining game. We just want to keep the unbeaten run going and keep Bramall Lane as a fortress.”
One of County’s danger men is 23-year-old midfielder Alan Judge, a former team-mate of Blackman’s at Ewood Park.
“I played with Alan Judge at Blackburn, so know all about him,” he said. “I know he is a really good player, we have got to be careful with him.
“He has a great set-play delivery and he can strike a good ball from open play.”