Clough ready to play it again despite hectic Blades schedule

THE recent shoe-horning into an already hectic Sheffield United schedule of three postponed League One fixtures means Nigel Clough’s side has just three blank midweeks between now and the end of the season.

Nigel Clough
Nigel Clough

In that respect, the Blades are a victim of their own success with the runs to the Capital One Cup semi-final and FA Cup fourth round meaning they are already guaranteed a minimum 59 games this season. That is without factoring in any possible play-off ties.

No wonder, therefore, that a draw at Preston North End would be far from ideal due to it meaning one of those blank midweeks disappearing to accommodate a replay. Even allowing for that, however, Clough admits he would take another meeting with Preston early next month over a Cup exit any day of the week.

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“We only have three spare midweeks between now and the end of the season and that is without any more postponements, replays or further progress in the cups,” said the United chief.

“We are a bit tight already and it is bound to have an effect. In that respect, a replay against Preston would not be ideal. But I would take that rather than get knocked out.”

United beat Simon Grayson’s North End 2-1 just a fortnight ago at Bramall Lane.

The starting XI today, however, may be very different to the one that beat their play-off rivals as Clough juggles the demands of not today’s tie and Wednesday’s Capital One Cup semi-final second leg at home to Spurs.

Clough said: “Another cup-tie three days after Spurs might be too much for some of the players.

“Often, it is the one after playing a Premier team where you suffer. After beating Southampton, we played Walsall and drew 1-1. Everyone was bound to be a bit down after the sort of game we played at Southampton.”