Sheffield United v Middlesbrough – Blades backed to respond positively to Villa Park setback

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder applauds the fans after last Friday's 3-3 draw at Villa Park. Picture: Nick Potts/PA
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder applauds the fans after last Friday's 3-3 draw at Villa Park. Picture: Nick Potts/PA
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SHEFFIELD UNITED manager Chris Wilder is confident that his players will carry no psychological scars from last Friday’s punishing late finale at Aston Villa.

Wilder’s side, who welcome Middlesbrough in a key Championship fixture at Bramall Lane this evening, dramatically relinquished a 3-0 lead in their televised encounter at Villa Park with the hosts staging one of the comebacks of the season to take a point in a 3-3 draw.

Frank discussions were held following Friday’s drama by a group who have prided themselves on their strong mentality during two-and-a-half seasons of success under Wilder.

With a line having now been drawn under proceedings the Blades’ chief is fully expecting his players to pick themselves up internally this evening as the hosts seek a fifth successive Championship win at Bramall Lane.

Victory against a direct rival in the shape of a seemingly resurgent Boro would certainly provide a timely response.

Wilder said: “There is no bigger supporter of that group than me. It comes from the characters within it.

Jack O'Connell, Chris Basham and George Baldock leave the field frustrated at Villa Park. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Jack O'Connell, Chris Basham and George Baldock leave the field frustrated at Villa Park. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

“I do not think we go overboard, we are just honest. If people make mistakes people see them. There is no point in pretending they have not happened.

“They are an honest group, that is a great quality to have and that is something we do look at in terms of recruitment.

“They understand if something has to be said it will be said. But they also know they have got our backing.

“Yes, the players were obviously very disappointed afterwards. But they have not let anybody down, by the way (this season), they deserve an enormous amount of credit.

Yes, the players were obviously very disappointed afterwards. But they have not let anybody down by the way (this season), they deserve an enormous amount of credit.

Chris Wilder

“They deserve an enormous amount of backing, even though I am possibly contradicting myself, because they do not need it to pick themselves up.”

Friday was an occasion when United proved the architects of their own downfall with two uncharacteristic mistakes from goalkeeper Dean Henderson and a similarly unusual error from defender Jack O’Connell enabling Villa to secure a draw, cancelling out a milestone hat-trick from Blades captain Billy Sharp in the process.

It was a night that underlined the unpredictable nature of the Championship although Wilder was keen to afford some perspective to events given his side have been beaten just once in their past six league matches.

“Everyone makes individual mistakes,” added Wilder. “Deano (Henderson) has made them and Jack has made them. Billy, as strange as it sounds, has missed chances and David McGoldrick, as great as he has been, missed a penalty in the (Sheffield United) derby. It happens. You get on with it.

MUTUAL RESPECT: Middlesbrough manager Tony Pulis. Picture: Richard Sellers/PA

MUTUAL RESPECT: Middlesbrough manager Tony Pulis. Picture: Richard Sellers/PA

“We are delighted with the way things are going. We are looking forward to kicking on.”

United face a Boro side who were also left to rue late developments in their own previous fixture, Kalvin Phillips nodding home a Leeds United equaliser in the 11th minute of stoppage-time to deny the Teesside club three points at the Riverside.

Beaten just twice away from home in the Championship this season, Tony Pulis’s side can move within a point of the Blades if they triumph this evening.

The reverse fixture in August saw Boro produce arguably their strongest home performance of the campaign in a 3-0 victory as Wilder’s side suffered their heaviest league defeat of 2018-19.

Incentives may not be in short supply for either side this evening, but Wilder insists that whatever transpires the mutual respect will continue between himself and Boro counterpart Pulis.

Both have paid their dues in the lower divisions in their playing and managerial careers and, despite being the best of enemies for 90 minutes tonight, they remain kindred spirits, according to Wilder.

He said: “I enjoy Tony’s company. I have met him a few times and he has had a great career.

“It is a dying thing in football. Our backgrounds are similar. He is a lot older than me, but I would love to have his career, by the way, with the time he has worked at the highest level.

“With what he did at Stoke speaks for itself and do not take away what he did at West Brom either.

“He speaks the same language as me, and I am looking forward to welcoming him and his staff in afterwards.”

Last six games: Sheffield United LWLDWD Middlesbrough WDDWLD.

Referee: A Woolmer (Northants).

Last time: Sheffield United 2 Middlesbrough 1; Championship; April 10, 2018.