Sheffield United v Bolton Wanderers: Mark Duffy is determined to get back on target with Blades

Sheffield Uniteds Mark Duffy aims to atone for his miss against Scunthorpe by scoring against Bolton today (Picture: Simon Bellis/sportimage).
Sheffield Uniteds Mark Duffy aims to atone for his miss against Scunthorpe by scoring against Bolton today (Picture: Simon Bellis/sportimage).
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Mark Duffy volunteered for extra shooting practice this week to try and solve his mini goal drought at Sheffield United.

The 31-year-old attacking midfielder has netted five times for the League One leaders, but has not scored for three months since a double against Swindon Town on December 10.

The goalless run extended to 11 games when he missed a glorious chance against Scunthorpe United last weekend, the Blades forced to settle for a 1-1 draw.

Today, it is another top-of-the table encounter as third-placed Bolton Wanderers arrive at Bramall Lane, and Duffy told The Yorkshire Post he is determined to make amends.

“Obviously, Bolton is coming up and there’s no getting away from it, it’s a big game,” said Duffy. “Looking back, I thought we were unbelievable against Scunthorpe but didn’t take our chances. I had a massive chance early on and, if I’d have taken that, then I think the outcome would have been different.

“If we’d have taken those chances, and they weren’t half-chances, they were really good chances, Scunthorpe would have had to come out at us which they didn’t want to do. We’ll learn from it and I’ll hold my hands up and take responsibility for missing it.

“I didn’t have too much sleep afterwards, to be honest, I kept playing it over in my head.

“The first thing I did on Monday was say, after training, that I want to work on my finishing because it’s an area where I need to improve. I’m due a goal.”

The former Doncaster Rovers wideman has been a key player in United’s rise to the top of League One.

With 13 games remaining, the belief is building inside Bramall Lane that their six-year exile in League One could be coming to an end.

Nearly 28,000 saw the Blades held by Scunthorpe last weekend, and today will be a similar turn-out, with Duffy revealing the buzz is not confined to the terraces.

He said: “It’s unbelievable when you go out in that (against Scunthorpe). You can feel the crowd trying to suck the ball in.

“The buzz begins through the week, with Billy (Sharp, captain) coming in saying there are going to be 26,000-plus here.

“It’s a nightmare getting tickets when Billy is handing them out and then there’s the gaffer wanting his 15, out of the players’ allocation by the way.”

United will be keen to avoid an unwanted hat-trick of defeats to Phil Parkinson’s Bolton today, having lost at Wanderers on the opening weekend of the season before an FA Cup exit.

The loss in Lancashire heralded a slow start to the season – just one points from a possible 12 – and Duffy believes it “gave the rest of the league a four-game head start”.

On Bolton, he added: “They’ve beat us twice this season and it’s not nice to get beat by anyone. We owe them one.

“It’s weird, because in both games I think we’ve dominated possession but they’ve done what they’ve done.

“They’ve got it forward early and up to (Gary) Madine who, to be fair, is good at what he does.

“They try and cause panic that way. They’re a good team but, hopefully, it will be a good day for us.

“This is a totally different side to which lost at Bolton. We virtually gave the rest of the league a four-game head start because we were a little bit all over the place.

“We changed formations, it was such a new team and took time to gel together. Between now and the end of the season, we will get even better.”

Blades chief Wilder has challenged his players to emulate their impressive display against Scunthorpe, where the only thing missing was goals.

“Scunthorpe was an outstanding performance, it was just that bit at the end,” he said.

“For the majority of the game, we were far superior in our play, and we need to turn that superiority into goals.

“Now we go again, against Bolton, on Saturday. The challenge to the players is can we reach the heights we did on Saturday?”

United have lost defender Joe Riley with a dislocated shoulder, but Harry Chapman will return on loan from Middlesbrough next week after recovering from a serious ankle injury.

His last United game was in November.

The winger has been back at the Riverside recuperating from surgery, and Wilder revealed the 19-year-old has visited Bramall Lane several times to monitor United’s progress.

Wilder said: “It will be great when he comes back.”