Sheffield United v Portsmouth: Blades chief is wary of crisis club Pompey

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DANNY WILSON has hailed the firefighting job done by counterpart Michael Appleton at crisis club Portsmouth – and is tipping them to be in the promotion shake-up in the Spring.

The Blades head into tonight’s televised home encounter as the only unbeaten side in the Football League and victory will see them go level on points with League One leaders Tranmere Rovers.

But Pompey are also a side in decent form, having won four of their last six matches with tonight’s game seeing Dave Kitson line up against his former club, while Lee Willamson, Johnny Etrl, Brian Howard and Jon Harley make a return to Bramall Lane.

Wilson said: “I am expecting a very tough test. I know their squad has only been put together at the beginning of this season to a certain degree, but they have some quality and if everything starts to settle down – when that will be, I don’t know as it is a long-running saga – I can see them certainly being in a position to challenge at the end of the season.

“I think Michael has handled what has happened down there with so much dignity. He has been absolutely fantastic.

“He has had so much stuff thrown at him, but he has come out with some much credit.

“He has done remarkably well for someone so lacking in experience at management level. I think he has done brilliantly.”

Wilson reports no fresh injury problems, with Kitson expected to feature against his old club despite suffering from a virus last week.

Meanwhile, Oldham Athletic midfielder Lee Croft insists football’s anti-racism drive has been damaged by false claims he racially abused a ball boy in the Latics’ game at Bramall Lane.

Croft, who has apologised to the youngster for swearing and who will face no further action from South Yorkshire Police after the incident late in the game, said: “There was no accusation whatsoever from the ball boy of racist abuse. It was always from a minority of fans at the Sheffield United end.

“It makes the whole kick racism out of football campaign take a step back.

“The next time this happens are people going to say is this just another false allegation?”

Croft, 27, added: “I’ve had a few threats – people saying they hope I break my leg, they would love to bump into me in the street and see if I’d say it to them.

“People who don’t know me think I’m a racist. I couldn’t be anything further from that. I can laugh about it now, but at the time when you are getting a lot of abuse, and being accused of such a terrible thing, it’s not nice.”

Last six games: Sheffield United WWWDWW; Portsmouth LWWLDW.

Last time: Sheffield United 1 Portsmouth 0; Sat Sept 18, 2010; Championship.

Referee: M Russell (Hertfordshire).