JOHN BRAYFORD, who could be facing up to six months out through injury, was a key absentee during Sheffield United’s play-off exit, according to manager Nigel Clough.
The popular defender suffered a knee injury during last week’s first leg against Swindon Town and yesterday went to see a specialist.
United should know more about the severity of the problem either later today or tomorrow, but there is genuine apprehension that he could miss a large chunk of next season.
“We are devastated about John,” said the Blades’ chief. “We will know more about what we are looking at this week.
“It could be six months, we’ll have to wait and see. But it is as serious as that.”
On how much United missed Brayford during a night when goalkeeper Mark Howard was beaten five times by Swindon, Clough added: “If you lose your best player, you have less chance of winning the game.
“Whatever the result was last Thursday night, losing John was a bigger blow to come out of that game.
“I would rather have gone into the second leg with a two-goal deficit and have John Brayford in the team.
“We wouldn’t have conceded five with him in there. I think we’d have scored five. But, if John had played, we definitely wouldn’t have let five in.”
Clough was also left unimpressed by the post-match pitch invasion on Monday night that ended in violent scenes as police had to draw their batons to keep apart rival fans.
Following on from Sunday’s invasion at Preston when Chesterfield defender Ian Evatt was allegedly struck, the United chief admitted that some form of preventative action should have been taken by Swindon.
He added: “I would have thought that, after what happened on Sunday, then something could have been done.
“It is a fallacy that you can’t stop people coming on the pitch. You just put police around the edge of it. Hopefully, the FA will look into all of that.”
For a side who shared 10 goals in one match and 13 across the tie, United also missed a host of chances across the 180 minutes.
Clough added: “We talked about courage beforehand. Gary Crosby was saying you need all different types; physical, mental, the courage to get on the ball.
“We had three chances, they had three chances. They took three, we took one. We scored six and could have scored a lot more.
“Ultimately, Thursday cost us.”