Wilson hails Beattie’s impact as Blades hoping for Owls’ slip in promotion race

Sheffield United's James Beattie.
Sheffield United's James Beattie.
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Danny Wilson is confident he has enough firepower at Sheffield United to deliver League One promotion for the Blades.

The loss of Ched Evans, jailed for rape, plus injuries to Richard Cresswell and Will Hoskins have left United without their first-choice strikers as the season reaches its climax.

United – who have slipped to third after failing to win their last two games – travel to Exeter tomorrow needing to win and hope city rivals Wednesday slip-up at home to Wycombe in the race for automatic promotion. Failure to do so will mean the play-offs.

Their dip in form has coincided with the loss of Evans, but Wilson points to the Blades’ opening nine games of the season when the striker was absent, that his side are not reliant on their 35-goal top scorer.

“At the beginning of the season we didn’t have Ched available to us for about nine games, and if my stats are right we won seven, drew one and lost one.

“So it’s a mindset that people have outside of our club that feel it’s a big difference to us and it’s not because we had some good results at the start of the season.

“Talking generally, you always miss your best players, of course you do.

“You take any team in the Premier League, if you take Wayne Rooney out of Manchester United, would they miss him? Of course they would.

“That’s not rocket science. You have someone who is on form, and take him away, it takes a little time to replace him. But will it have an impact on the team? No it won’t, we are too professional for that.”

Wilson is hoping defender Neil Collins and Cresswell can shrug off injuries, but has been hampered in team selection by a packed treatment room.

“We are not too sure who is going to be available to us. We have had quite a few injuries, particularly after Saturday’s game,” he said. “Matty Hill is not available to us yet, Neil Collins and Richard Cresswell we will assess, Marcus Williams I don’t think will be available to us.

“We are just going to have to wait and see who is available to us in the next 24 hours.

“Cresswell is walking wounded, hopefully he will be okay with his shoulder. But we will wait and see and leave it until the last minute.”

Cresswell and James Beattie came off the bench to help turn a 2-0 deficit into a 2-2 draw against Stevenage last weekend and Wilson knows the experience of former England striker Beattie could be key.

“We never thought we had to rely on James for 90 minutes every game, he’s more of an impact player,” he said. “And I thought that showed on Saturday, he came on and did tremendously well.

“We changed the approach of our play to a certain degree – slightly more direct – and it worked in our favour, it was just unfortunate we couldn’t get that winning goal that the pressure might have deserved.

“If you have someone of James’s ability it’s pointless throwing balls down the channel and asking him to sprint after things. You play to the player’s strengths, we went a little bit more direct and it worked well for us.”

Owls defenders Reda Johnson and Julian Bennett are both ruled out tomorrow.