Notts County v Sheffield Utd: Clough urges caution as Blades target top two

Sheffield United manager Nigel Clough.
Sheffield United manager Nigel Clough.
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Sheffield United manager Nigel Clough has cautioned against fans getting carried away by recent form that suggests they can emulate last season’s charge out of trouble.

The Blades were entrenched in the bottom four at the start of February before a seven-match winning run – allied with their FA Cup journey to a Wembley semi-final – saw them climb all the way up into the top half before they eventually finished seventh.

A starting point of eighth at the beginning of this month which they have now transformed into fifth after three wins in four – including victories against the top two – has got the Bramall Lane faithful thinking about automatic promotion to the Championship.

Although Clough is confident the 12-point gap can be made up in the final 18 games, he believes comparisons with last season are wide of the mark due to the difference in mentality required.

“The pressures of fighting to get out of the bottom four to the pressures of chasing the top two are completely different,” said Clough.

“Last season we just had a target of getting outside of that 
bottom four, which turned out to be easier than it looked on February 1.

“You have to play differently. The mentality last year going away from home was let’s try and keep it at 0-0 and then you nick a goal and you win 1-0, and we had a lot of those results during that time.

“When you’re chasing the 
top two you won’t have as many 1-0s, because it’s a different mentality.

“We were frustrated in the first half on Saturday because we didn’t have a shot and couldn’t create more, but we put that right in the second half.

“When you’re bottom half and away from home that’s easier for people to take.

“We want more than a point away from home, we feel we’re good enough to do that.

“We’ve still got 18 games to go, that’s a third of the season. We’ve done playing the top four now as it stands, so there are some exciting times ahead.”

Last six games: Notts County WDLLW; Sheffield United DWLLWW.

Referee: D Bond (Lancashire).

Last time: Notts County 2 Sheffield United 1; January 11, 2014; League One.