Sheffield United v Southampton: Blades urged to be quick out of the blocks

Sheffield United need to build their season on home form after quickening up their play kick-started it, according to Billy Sharp.

The Blades’ football has gone up a notch in the last three matches, taking seven points and scoring 11 goals after two and one respectively in their opening five Championship games.

That momentum will be tested in the League Cup tonight at home to a Southampton side who have already taken points off both Manchester clubs and West Ham United in this season’s Premier League. The XI that takes to the field this evening will be different, but the Saints won 8-0 at Newport County in round two.

Sharp, who had a year-and-a-half at the club from January 2012, has seen a big improvement in his team’s football since September’s international break, and thinks the tempo of it is a big factor.

“We created chances on Saturday (at Hull City) and that’s a good thing because in the first few games of the season, we weren’t really looking like creating much in the final third which was frustrating,” admitted the centre-forward, who scored his third goal of the season before missing a penalty in the 3-1 win over the Tigers

“I think I saw something about us being the third-best team at not giving chances away, so we are doing something right and now we are scoring goals as well.

“We are starting to believe in it and starting to play a lot quicker, which we weren’t doing in the first few games, it was too pedestrian. Now we are looking a real force going forward.”

The Blades have been drawn at home in the first three rounds of the League Cup, and Sharp believes making the most of their support is important. They have the biggest home gates in this season’s Championship, averaging 27,475.

IN THE GOALS: Billy Sharp celebrates the opening goal for Sheffield United against Hull City at the weekend. Picture: Simon Hulme.

After a difficult start to the campaign, Slavisa Jokanovic’s side are unbeaten in five games in all competitions. They still have plenty of ground to make up in the league, but feel as though they are building the momentum to do it.

“It is a long season and we have more games to improve,” said Sharp.

“We have a cup game next and then a big game next Saturday at home again in front of our fans (against Derby County) and we need to make it a fortress again. We need to make sure we are winning a lot of games at Bramall Lane.

“On Saturday, the fans turned out in numbers (at Hull) and it helps so much when you are not playing well and when you are.”

COMING TOGETHER: Sheffield United manager Slavisa Jokanovic. Picture: Simon Hulme.

Both teams have utilised their squads in the competition, although the Blades rested Iliman Ndiaye in East Yorkshire having gone off in his previous two matches – his first starts for the club – with cramp.

“I think they (Southampton) will change the team quite a lot, like they did last time,” commented Sharp.

“But they have got a strong squad and I am sure it will be a tough game. We have not done too well against them in recent years, so we owe them one and we want to try to build momentum.”

Last six games: Sheffield United WDWDWL; Southampton DDDWDL

Referee: J Brooks (Leicestershire)

Last time: Sheffield United 0 Southampton 2, March 6, 2021, Premier League