Gillingham v Sheffield United: Swift start required if Blades are to excel

Mark Howard

Mark Howard

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IF the last two seasons have taught Sheffield United anything it is surely the importance of a good start.

A year ago, the Blades lost their first two league games and were playing catch-up for the rest of a campaign that never saw the club rise higher than fifth in the table.

The 2013-14 campaign was even worse with United managing just one win in the first 11 games to effectively kill off any hopes of even reaching the play-offs.

Mark Howard, as one of the longest-serving players at Bramall Lane, knows United cannot afford a repeat of those slow starts this time around as Nigel Adkins prepares to begin his reign today at Gillingham.

“A good start does play a massive part, particularly in League One,” said the 28-year-old goalkeeper, who is about to start his fifth season with the Blades.

“Not just in terms of our own belief but also in terms of how the opposition view us. If we are doing well, they will be going into games knowing they are going to be up against it.

“Momentum is massive in football. It is a tough start so it will be a good test but, hopefully we will get a good result and kick-on. We want to put a good run together.”

The last two seasons have seen United become a force in knockout football with an appearance in the last four of both the FA Cup and Capital One Cup.

Howard enjoyed both runs as much as anyone but admits the league has to take priority this time around.

“It is hard to say if the cups affected us,” he said. “Our league form could have been just the same.

“We enjoyed them but, this year, we would happily trade them in for the league. The Cups have been a bit of a disguise for us over the past two years in the league. Now we need to do it in the league.”

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