Swindon v Sheff Utd: Sense of injustice motivates Blades

Sheffield United's manager Nigel Clough pictured during the first leg of their League One play-off semi-final against Swindon Town (Picture: Nigel French/PA Wire).
Sheffield United's manager Nigel Clough pictured during the first leg of their League One play-off semi-final against Swindon Town (Picture: Nigel French/PA Wire).
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NIGEL CLOUGH is adamant that Sheffield United can tonight follow a trio of Yorkshire clubs in overturning a first-leg deficit to reach the League One play-off final.

The Blades have it all to do after succumbing to a dramatic stoppage-time winner by Swindon Town’s Nathan Byrne in Thursday’s first leg at Bramall Lane.

Since the play-offs were introduced almost three decades ago, only five clubs have reached the third tier final after going into a second leg behind – a tally that includes Bradford City, Barnsley and Leeds United.

But manager Clough believes the Blades, who finished eight points behind Swindon in the regular season, are more than capable of doing the same.

He said: “Teams have done this before so that gives us a strong belief that we are still in this tie.

“What also gives us belief is how we have done in big games away from home.

“We have been to Aston Villa and won. We have been to QPR and won. We also performed very well at Spurs.

“I thought that we performed well enough again (in the first leg) to suggest that we are good enough to get a result down there.

“We are in a nothing to lose situation. We are behind, we know what we have got to do. Let’s give it a go.”

Bradford were the first team to overcome a first-leg deficit to reach the final, Chris Kamara’s Bantams following a 2-0 defeat at Valley Parade against Blackpool in 1996 with a stunning 3-0 second leg triumph at the seaside.

Barnsley did something similar a decade later, overturning a 1-0 loss at Oakwell to Huddersfield Town with a 3-1 triumph in the return.

Leeds, meanwhile, lost 2-1 at Elland Road against Carlisle United in 2008, but hit back with a double by Jonny Howson at Brunton Park to reach Wembley.

Stoke City (against Cardiff in 2002) and Yeovil (versus Nottingham Forest in 2007) are the others to achieve a feat that Clough believes is very much attainable.

He added: “All the pressure is on Swindon. They are very strong favourites to get to Wembley. That puts a little bit of doubt in their minds.

“We only need one goal (to force extra-time and possibly penalties). Even if we do concede, it is a Spurs situation all over again.

“Like in the League Cup, we’d be two goals down on aggregate but, as we showed in that second leg, one goal, for us, at any time, would then completely change the game. Swindon will be more nervous than us.”

Clough cut a frustrated figure at the final whistle last Thursday, the dejection of losing so late on being compounded by a series of contentious decisions made by referee Darren Bond.

The United manager felt his side could have had three penalties. He also remains adamant that Matty Done’s second-half ‘goal’ should not have been ruled out for a foul.

Now, though, he wants the Blades to use that sense of injustice as motivation.

“We told the players in the dressing room afterwards,” said Clough, “to try and retain this feeling, that sense of injustice. Bottle it and keep it for two or three days.

“We are honest enough, as a staff, to hold our hands up (when United lose fairly) to say, ‘We could have done this or that but they were better than us on the day’. But the lads didn’t deserve what happened on Thursday.”

Stefan Scougall is out for the season with the hamstring injury that forced the Scot off near the end in the first leg.

John Brayford, also substituted in the 2-1 loss, is a major doubt, which could see Chris Basham having to move back into defence from midfield. His enforced switch at the interval saw United lose some of the drive that had so stunned Swindon in the opening stages so it will be a big call for the Blades’ chief.

Done, however, is fit to start after being left on the bench due to a niggling injury at the Lane. Clough added: “I don’t know how Swindon will approach it mentally.

“But I do know we got about them, and especially in the first-half. All that was missing was more goals. If we’d have been given the penalty, that might have changed things.

“What we need to do is replicate how we started the first leg and the way we came strong at the end. Against a team like Swindon, you are going to have a spell when they have the ball more.

“But we dug in showed what we are about. We must do the same again down there in the second leg. We all believe the tie is very much alive.”

Match preview: Page 2.