TALK may be centring on a freezing cold Siberian blast that is soon to hit UK shores, but Sheffield United midfielder Mark Duffy is rather more inclined to speak about the Blades’ “second wind”.
Heading into tonight’s televised game at Yorkshire rivals Hull City, seventh-placed Blades are in a good place again after back-to-back Championship wins for the first time since mid-November – and the play-off ‘dark horse’ mantle clearly sits snugly with them.
Momentum served manager Chris Wilder’s side well in last season’s exemplary final third as they overpowered a stack of rivals to turn the League One promotion race into a procession.
It may be foolhardy to expect something resembling a re-run, but the players’ innate belief in their own abilities, resolve and togetherness is just as strong, according to Duffy.
He said: “It just sort of snowballed last year and we went into every game full of confidence and, the way we play, teams can get a little bit tired.
“We are just on the front foot all of the time. Last year we were catching teams out and teams probably did not expect us to keep up that energy and momentum, but we did.
We are in that position where we feel we can push on a little bit, which at this stage of the season is brilliant.Sheffield United midfielder, Mark Duffy
“We are getting a bit of a second wind and, for me, we are sort of going again, which is a great feeling.
“We are in that position where we feel we can push on a little bit, which at this stage of the season is brilliant.
“They always say that the teams just outside of the play-offs are the danger teams if they pick up that run of results to take into the play-offs.”
Victory this evening would see the Blades return to the Championship’s top six and a measure of the impact that they have made this season – whatever happens between now and May – has certainly resonated in recent times.
Wilder’s troops have already received justifiable praise this month from Ian Holloway and Paul Heckingbottom – in charge of the last two teams that the Blades have beaten in Queen’s Park Rangers and Leeds United – while imitation is also proving the sincerest form of flattery throughout an outstanding season.
Such has been the success of their highly proficient 3-5-2 system that a number of rival managers are electing to go like-for-like in an attempt to combat the Blades and there is a good chance that tonight’s opponents Hull, who switched to three at the back against Middlesbrough in midweek, could do the same.
But Duffy insists that the Blades will find the answers to any side who aim to stymie them.
The Liverpudlian, who signed a new deal with the Blades last month, said: “I watched the Leeds game on the TV (against Derby) and they seemed to change the formation a little bit to be like ours.
“To be honest, a lot of teams who we are coming up against are trying to match us up. (But) the gaffer says, in his team talks, that we have been playing this system a long time.
“It is not as if we have just thrown it on in the last minute.
“I would like to think we can play this system as good as anyone in the country. If teams do match us up, we will find a way of creating chances.
“Maybe some teams put a man on me, so I have got to get out of the middle and, instead of getting me on the ball, it could be straight into the strikers and we go off the strikers.
“There are different ways of playing that system and we just have to find a way of finding their weakness really.”