Chris Basham confident Sheffield United will hold nerve in promotion race

CHRIS BASHAM insists that Sheffield United’s players will not be too harsh on themselves after their derby draw at Sheffield Wednesday, which saw them pass up the chance of leapfrogging Leeds United into second spot in the Championship.

Derby battle: Sheffield United's Chris Basham, left, and Sheffield Wednesday's Liam Palmer.

A dour Steel City spectacle saw the Blades play out a low-key 0-0 stalemate at Hillsborough on a night when an away victory would have seen manager Chris Wilder’s third-placed side jump above Leeds on goal difference.

As it stands the Blades are two points adrift of Leeds and a further two behind leaders Norwich City with 11 matches of the season remaining.

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Despite failing to secure a fourth successive victory United remain in a very good place, according to defender Basham, with the draw seeing the Bramall Lane outfit extend their unbeaten sequence to seven league matches.

The north-easterner admits that he fully expects a compelling race for automatic promotion only to be decided towards the end of the season and believes that several twists and turns will occur between now and May 5.

This was reinforced by events last week when Leeds, beaten 1-0 at QPR on Tuesday, bounced back with a thumping 4-0 win over West Brom on Friday.

On not being too critical following events against the Owls, Basham – part of a Blades side who will visit Elland Road for a key showdown in 10 days – said: “It is exactly what the manager said.

“He said, ‘Do not be beating yourselves up when you get home or on the bus’, which we will not.

TO THE WIRE: Sheffield United central defender Chris Basham is expecting plenty more twists and turns. Picture: Steve Ellis.

“We know that a point at Sheffield Wednesday is tough to come by especially with the way they have been playing and the way the derby was.

“There was only going to be one goal in it.

“No one is going to win every game. If they do, fair play to them – they deserve to go up. But I do not think everyone will.

“We have still got to go to Leeds yet and, hopefully, we can go there and beat them.

“We were all happy with the (Leeds) result at QPR. It is just the way the games are going. Like the manager does, we are just focusing on ourselves.

“We are in a really good position for this group of players and budget we have got and every player is an outstanding one in that dressing room. That is why they have mucked in so well.

“Everybody is stepping up to the plate.

“I think it is going to go quite far to the end. We are not ones to calculate what you need here and there. I think it is a case of trying to win as many games as we can and make our home ground a fortress and not get beaten away if we can and win as many as we can at home.”

Only Leeds, with 39 points, have taken more points on home soil in 2018-19 than the Blades, who are now focusing their attentions on back-to-back Bramall Lane appointments against neighbours Rotherham United and Brentford before heading to Elland Road on Saturday week.

Wilder’s troops have won their last six home matches – and have not conceded a league goal at S2 since Boxing Day.

“It is outstanding,” said Basham. “We said at the start of the season that we wanted to try and make it (Bramall Lane) a fortress.

“But we did not think it was actually going to be like this and that is really important for us.

“We have only lost once in 13 games and we are keeping clean sheets now, which is very important. We have kept 14 clean sheets now this season and if we keep five or six more that will be perfect.”

The Blades’ next derby assignment on Saturday lunch-time sees them welcome a relegation-threatened Millers side who have not won an away fixture at second-tier level in 42 attempts stretching back to April, 2016.

The form book may strongly point towards a home victory, but Basham maintains the last thing that he and his team-mates will be doing is treating the visitors lightly, with the Blades fortunate to salvage a point in a 2-2 draw at Rotherham on November 24.

He said: “They gave us the toughest test this season so far. We went there and maybe did not go there with the intent we should have. It was a kick up the backside for this game and we are going to be right at it.

“They are all big games now because of the position we are in. We could have been playing Rotherham and in mid-table and safe. But we are fighting for the top of the league and that is where we want to be.”

Basham has paid tribute to the character of goalkeeper Dean Henderson, with the on-loan player registering his fourth clean sheet on the spin on Monday night to provide the perfect response to his fraught evening in the 3-3 draw at Aston Villa on February 8.

Hailing the resolve of Henderson at a key juncture of the season, Basham, who returned to the starting line-up on Monday evening, added: “Everyone is mucking in and Deano (Henderson) is keeping clean sheets for fun now, which is great to see.

“He has had a really good bounce-back from that (Aston) Villa game where he has held his hands up.

“We had a meeting about that game and the boys have bounced back, like what the gaffer expects, to be honest.

“He does not expect anything different.”