Norwich City v Sheffield United SHEFFIELD United caretaker manager John Carver has hailed the return to form of birthday boy Ched Evans ahead of today's trip Norwich City.
Evans, who celebrates his 22nd birthday today, has struck three goals in the last two games for the Blades – and his current tally of six is already better than his return for the whole of last season.
Today, Evans returns to Carrow Road where, three seasons ago, he enjoyed a prolific loan spell scoring 10 goals in 20 starts for the Canaries.
Carver said: "I am delighted for Ched because he has taken some stick but he is now getting his reward for a lot of hard work over the last three to four weeks."
The Blades paid 3m to sign the Welsh international from Manchester City two summers ago and his first campaign was a major disappointment. Yet this season, amid the changes in team management, Evans has stood out as one of the Blades' most consistent performers.
"He is a young lad and he needed to re-focus," said Carver. "He has got plenty of ability but is now showing the reasons why the club paid all that money for him."
Reflecting on his time at Norwich, Evans said: "It was a massive learning curve for me because it was a long way away from home and it really made me grow up quickly. I scored 10 goals and helped them stay up, so it couldn't have gone any better, but I want to go back there and score against them for Sheffield United."
The Blades are still assessing the leg injury suffered by Andy Taylor against Hull City on Boxing Day and there are fears that the leftback wil be out for months rather than weeks.
"It's still swollen and it's difficult to assess," said Carver. "He is still in a lot of discomfort and pain and the feeling is it could be a long termer."
Argentinian defender Elian Parrino, 22, has been added to the Blades squad for the first time since joining on a season long loan from Estudiantes but Matthew Lowton will start in Taylor's spot. Striker Richard Cresswell is back after suspension and midfielder Stephen Quinn (hip) faces a late fitness test.
The Blades are still in the process of interviewing managerial candidates with Carver expected to keep the job if results go his way.
Other names in the frame include Doncaster's Sean O'Driscoll, Port Vale's Micky Adams and Brentford's Andy Scott. Former Hull City manager Phil Brown and former Barnsley manager Paul Hart have also applied.
Today's opponents Norwich are fifth in the Championship and will provide a stiff test for the Blades.
Carver said: "They play entertaining, attacking football, and we know we are in for a tough game, especially with the travelling we will have to do."
Last six games: Norwich DDWWLW, Blades WWLLWL.
Last time: Norwich 1 Blades 0; September 29, 2008; Championship.
Referee: PT Crossley (Kent).