Sheffield United v Southampton Championship SHEFFIELD United have lodged an appeal with the Football Association over the dismissal of defender Matthew Kilgallon against Sheffield Wednesday.
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Manager Kevin Blackwell wants the red card to be wiped out so that Kilgallon is free to play in tonight's home game with Southampton.
Kilgallon was sent off for an 'dangerous' challenge on Owls midfielder Sean McAllister although television replays suggested that contact was minimal.
If the FA rule that referee Mike Dean was correct, Kilgallon will serve a three-game ban and also miss the games against Preston North End and Bristol City in the next seven days.
The Blades slipped to sixth in the Championship table as a result of the 1-0 defeat at Hillsborough but Blackwell was adamant that the result would have been different if Kilgallon had stayed on the field.
After previously recording a hat-trick of consecutive victories, Blackwell hopes his side can make a swift return to winning ways against a Southampton side that has been struggling near the relegation zone.
"We are delighted to have a game as quickly as this, and at home, to get what happened at Hillsborough out of the system," he said. "But although it was a disappointing result, it was not a disappointing performance. I have spent more time sulking about the decision making than the team – so that means this team cannot be too far away."
Blackwell is considering the possibility of handing a full debut to Anthony Stokes who made an impressive introduction as substitute in the Steel City derby.
Stokes, 23, is primarily a striker but could yet offer a solution to United's problems down the left wing.
Blackwell has experimented with a number of different players in that position over the last eight months including Stephen Quinn, Danny Webber, David Carney, Lee Hendrie and Lee Martin, who was on loan from Manchester United. Winger Nathan Dyer is currently on loan from Southampton but is not allowed to play against his parent club and Northern Ireland international Keith Gillespie has been put up for sale after a fall-out over team selection.
"Anthony has a bright mind and is pushing for a start," said Blackwell. "He has not played that much for Sunderland this season so we want to get him back to match sharpness. He only turned up on Friday morning and was thrown straight into a Steel City derby but he put down a marker and acquitted himself well."
Midfielder Brian Howard will also make his first start at Bramall Lane since arriving on a three-month deal from Barnsley although nursing a swollen eye as a result of a loose arm in the game at Hillsborough. Defender Gary Naysmith is another slight doubt after jarring his knee in a tackle with Owls midfielder McAllister.
"I have got a few match-winners in the side and Howard will take a few games to settle down," said Blackwell. But it was a great introduction for him at Hillsborough and now he knows what it means to be a Blade."
If Kilgallon's appeal is rejected, Blackwell will partner club captain Chris Morgan with former England international Ugo Ehiogu at the heart of defence.
"I am happy to go with any two out of those three," said Blackwell.
"The competition for places in certain areas is fierce; there are no makeweights.
"We have always known that Ugo, Morgs and Killa are three strong centre-halves. My dilemma is pairing up two and leaving one out but I must say that Ugo has never put a foot wrong for me."
Southampton will be without the services of striker Jordan Robertson who moved on loan in the opposite direction as part of the Dyer deal. Dutch manager Jan Poortvliet has pinned great faith in Southampton's youngsters since taking charge in the summer and fielded a side with an average age of just 22 in the weekend defeat at Watford.
Last six games: Blades LLWWWL, Southampton DLWWLL.
Last time: Blades 1 Southampton 2; September 29, 2007, Championship.
Referee: CW Oliver (Northumberland).