SHEFFIELD UNITED manager Chris Wilder has ordered his players to keep their “foot on the gas” as they aim to extend their best unbeaten run for four years at home to managerless Bury tonight.
Buoyant Blades are riding the crest of a wave and head into the game with the struggling Shakers on the back of a 13-match undefeated streak in League One.
They have won 10 of those games, taking 33 points from the last 39 available in the process.
After a slow start to the season, the Bramall Lane outfit – who propped up the League One table after their last league defeat, a 2-1 reverse at Millwall on August 20 – have emerged as Yorkshire’s form side of the autumn, jumping up to second place in the division.
They are enjoying their best sequence of league form since the start of the 2012-13 season when they went 16 matches without seeing their colours lowered, with their current run being a far cry from their position this time around 12 months ago when they sat 12th in the table.
While delighted with United’s recent return, Wilder is equally anxious for his side to push the bar higher and continue to drive standards forward.
Wilder said: “The staff will not take their foot of the gas and we would like to think the group we have got here now won’t either. This is a really important time for us now, to try and cement our position up there and (continue to) show that consistency we have of late.
“We have set a high bar and it is important we keep striving to reach those levels.
“We would like to think the table is taking shape, but there is a long way to go. We want to get as high as we can as early as we can and stay there.”
United may be riding high on a peerless streak, but the reverse most definitely applies to Bury, where Wilder spent a six-month spell as assistant-manager in 2008, when his current No 2 Alan Knill was in charge at Gigg Lane.
The Lancashire club are reeling after conceding 14 goals in their last three games in all competitions – including an aggregate of 10 in heavy league and cup defeats to AFC Wimbledon.
Last week’s 5-0 FA Cup loss to the Dons prompted the club to axe former Barnsley manager David Flitcroft and Bury head into tonight’s game on the back of a torrid eight-match losing sequence in League One.
The form book may point to nothing less than a comfortable home win tonight, but Wilder – whose side are currently on a run of four home League One matches in five at Bramall Lane, where United have not been beaten in six matches since August 16 – is anxious to avoid any vestiges of complacency.
Issuing a warning ahead of the game with the Shakers, who triumphed 3-1 in South Yorkshire last season, he added: “The players keep on top of each other and we have got a group who know this is a potentially difficult game.
“If the mentality is spot on, it gives us a great opportunity of winning. If it is not, then that is not there.
“It Is important that all of us – staff, players and supporters – do not take anything for granted.
“It is important they, the supporters, keep on giving us the backing that we need.
“They (Bury) are at a bit of a low, but we cannot be complacent in any way shape or form.
“The game is not won on statistics or previous performances. The game is won on the night.
“They (Bury) will be saying to themselves there is no better place to get the result they want than at Bramall Lane.”
Wilder will make a late decision on the fitness of Kieron Freeman, Paul Coutts and Mark Duffy, with the trio all coming off after picking up injuries in the weekend win over Shrewsbury Town.
Freeman jarred his back and Coutts was forced off after sustaining a nasty gash to his shin following an ugly challenge from visiting player Abu Ogogo.
Duffy is also a major doubt after coming off early on with a tight calf, but despite issues regarding the trio – who have all come to the fore impressively during the Blades’ fine upturn in form – Wilder is confident that the supporting cast will step up to the plate if called upon.
He said: “We are assessing them and will give them the best opportunity. They are all at different stages. We are hopeful they will play but, if they do miss out, we have enough capable replacements to take us forward.
“It Is disappointing because they have been influential players recently. But we have good, versatile players here.
“We had good players on the bench at the weekend and good players who are not in the squad at the moment.
“They are not long-term injuries and we are thankful of that, especially in Paul’s situation.”
Last six games: Sheffield United DWWWWW, Bury LLDLLL.
Referee: R Joyce (Cleveland).
Last time: Sheffield United 1 Bury 3; September 12, 2015; League One.