Blades are still not certain for play-offs, warns Clough

EIGHT points clear of the chasing pack and having won four of their last five, Sheffield United look to be firmly on course for a third tilt at the play-offs in four years.

Nigel Clough
Nigel Clough

Nigel Clough, however, is adamant that the Blades are far from certain to finish in the top six despite Tuesday’s enthralling 3-2 victory at home to Doncaster.

In the process of beating Paul Dickov’s men, United all but ended their south Yorkshire neighbours’ hopes of gate-crashing the promotion deciders.

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However, with Chesterfield snapping at United’s heels and seventh-placed Rochdale having a game in hand, Clough is adamant there is still plenty to do yet in the quest to extend his side’s season beyond May 3.

“We aren’t enough points clear,” said the former England international.

“Until we are there in terms of points, then we are not in the play-offs. There are eight points in it but still many more than that to play for.

“We are by no means in it yet. It gives us a nice position but a few weeks ago we didn’t win for five games. If we go on that sort of run in our final five games and get three draws then Rochdale will catch us.

“Teams will play like Doncaster did because they have nothing to lose. Once you are in there, you have something to lose. Last year, we played with freedom in the final weeks because no-one expected us to get there.”

United had to dig in on Tuesday against a Rovers side who were massively improved on the one that had lost so poorly at home to Bradford City on Good Friday.

Doncaster should have taken at least a point but the manner in which United dug in delighted Clough, who added: “The score could have been anything, I said that to Paul afterwards. I was just amazed it stayed at 3-2. The two goals Doncaster scored were stunning strikes.

“On another day, they might have flown in the stand but they went in the top corner.

“The pleasing thing is we are scrapping. We are fighting. Saturday’s performance at Barnsley was quality. But it is not going to be about that every week.

“We will need different things, which is why I brought on Michael Doyle. We needed those qualities in the final half-hour.

“Doncaster have the second best away record in the league and had clearly had a rollicking after losing to Bradford. They came very positive. In a funny way, I didn’t think we played as well against Doncaster as we did against Crewe. But we lost that game and got three points against Doncaster.”

Jamie Murphy missed the Rovers game with a bad back, while Terry Kennedy was also absent with a groin problem. Adding to Clough’s headaches ahead of Saturday’s trip to Oldham Athletic is Bob Harris, who limped out of Tuesday’s derby win after tweaking his groin.