NIGEL CLOUGH believes lessons learned in derby football this season can help Sheffield United come out on top today as League One’s quartet of Yorkshire clubs go head-to-head.
The Blades welcome Barnsley and former manager Danny Wilson to Bramall Lane, while Doncaster Rovers travel to Bradford City.
All four White Rose outfits will be desperate to claim local bragging rights after an opening three months of the season that has seen wildly fluctuating results in derby clashes. The Blades, for instance, beat Bradford City a fortnight ago, but had lost at Chesterfield at the start of last month on an afternoon when striker Michael Higdon saw red for a reckless challenge.
Clough said: “Keeping your heads is the key in derbies. The last thing you want are rash tackles. We found that out at Chesterfield. We should have been 1-0 up playing against 10 men but, instead, we were 1-0 down playing with 10 men.
“No rash challenges, but be competitive and physical. That is the message for the players.
“Hopefully, we have learned that already. We went down to 10 men at Chesterfield and lost but kept 11 on against Bradford and won the game.
“It is hard enough winning games with 11 on the pitch and I hope we have learned from that Chesterfield game.”
Wilson, sacked by United in the Spring of 2013, will be determined to get one over his old club and Clough admits to looking forward to the latest instalment of derby football in the third tier.
Clough, who will sit down with Paddy McCarthy to discuss a possible extension of his loan move from Crystal Palace after today’s derby, said: “A good away support always adds to the atmosphere.
“I think back to last season when Nottingham Forest brought so many fans. That was a great atmosphere.
“We had the experience of Rotherham last season (when United won 1-0) for South Yorkshire derbies and we expect it to be similar to that.
“I really enjoyed that night, with Rotherham bringing a good following.
“Wednesday is obviously the one but Barnsley, Rotherham and Chesterfield are not far off.
“It being a Yorkshire derby, you never quite know how it will pan out. Will the tackles be flying? Will it be a good football game? It could be feisty. The one thing is both sides do try to get the ball down and pass it so, hopefully, that should help.
“I don’t think there is a favourite. Form goes out the window in local derbies. If you are on a bad run of form, you want a local derby because anything really can happen.
“Players raise their game and the atmosphere sweeps everyone on. Danny will also want a little bit more from his players. When you come back as an ex-manager and were successful at a club, you want that little bit more.”
As for Wilson, who came so close to taking the Blades up in 2011-12, he, too, is eagerly anticipating Barnsley’s visit to the Lane.
He added: “It is a game everyone will have looked at when the fixture list came out. Derby games for all fans adds extra spice and this is a good Yorkshire derby with a lot at stake as well.
“They come into the game in fantastic form and they have had some great results in recent times and certainly a great one in midweek at MK Dons and they are coming into the game really firing.
“From our point of view, we go into the game quite confident and playing quite good as well. It will be a good spectacle with a bit of luck.”
The White Rose derby at Valley Parade pits two county rivals with similar recent records, City having won one in seven and Rovers having mustered a solitary victory in five outings.
“Obviously we have lacked consistency (in derbies),” said Bantams manager Phil Parkinson. “But some of it has been our own doing.
“Against Leeds (in the Capital One Cup), we were great. Against Barnsley we were good for 45 minutes but then had a poor second half, and against Sheffield United we were down to 10 men, but should have got something from the game.
“There is no common thread in derbies, but we need to come out on top in one this weekend.”
To accomplish that, Parkinson has challenged his players to attack Doncaster and get the Valley Parade faithful on their feet.
“Hopefully, we have still got their backing,” he said. “But we have got to play positively so they stay right behind us.”
Further Yorkshire derby previews: Pages 2 and 3.