He’s the boldest swinger in town

In the frame: Harry Maguire is available following suspension
In the frame: Harry Maguire is available following suspension
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EASTER Monday’s match at Reading was Sheffield United’s season in miniature.

The belligerence which saw them beat arch-rivals Leeds and the indecision which cost them dear against the likes of Scunthorpe and Middlesbrough.

Eight months of action condensed into 90 dramatic minutes.

Tomorrow, when Barnsley visit Bramall Lane for another eagerly-contested derby, Micky Adams’ and his players must summon the type of Herculean effort which puts their Madejski Stadium magic in the shade. Victory – possibly an emphatic one at that – is a must.

Adams remained convinced United can complete one of English football’s greatest escapes when asked to assess their prospects yesterday.

Reflecting on his experience as a member of the Coventry City side which won its final three games to avoid the drop in 1985, he said: “We played Everton, who were champions, on the final day and I scored. Don’t get me wrong, I think they’d been celebrating with a few beers, but we did it. It shows it can be done.

“The difference for me now is that I was playing back then. I could do something about it by kicking a few people and upsetting them.”

Despite a recent resurgence, United know even completing a hat-trick of wins by beating Mark Robins’ side might not be enough to stave off relegation. Should both Doncaster Rovers and Crystal Palace pick up points against Leicester and Hull respectively then League One beckons irrespective of whether they build on those triumphs over Bristol City and Reading.

“I’ve heard people say it’s not possible,” said Adams. “That’s not true.

“Yes, we need to win and then hope other results go for us. Even then we need an eight-goal swing but that’s not impossible either because if they (Rovers) lose 2-0 twice and we win 2-0 twice then it’s right down.”

It is precious little consolation but United can take some from the fact they are not relinquishing their Championship status without a fight.

Pricked egos and progressive team selections involving youngsters Jordan Slew and Harry Maguire have combined to catapult them above Barnsley in the divisional form table.

Despite being keen to downplay his own role, Adams has turned the anger and frustration which threatened to overwhelm United’s squad into a positive force. Darius Henderson is a perfect example.

Forty-eight hours after being booed off the pitch against City, the striker answered his critics in style with a brace in Berkshire. Henderson later cited the actions of some United fans as a factor behind his commanding display. Publicly, Adams refused to condemn the player’s detractors. Privately, as his expression during Saturday’s post-match press conference betrayed, he was fuming.

“Listen, these young lads need nursing through games,” said Adams. “Every one at that stage is the same and nobody has done more to get Jordan through than him (Henderson).”

MATCHFACTS

The Teams

UNITED (possible): Simonsen, Mattock, Collins, Lowry, Lowton, Montgomery, Quinn, Williamson, Riise, Slew, Henderson (4-4-2).

BARNSLEY (Possible): Steele, Shackell, Foster, Trippier, Hill, Doyle, Hassell, Butterfield, Haynes Noble-Lazarus, Gray (4-4-2).

The Referee

Graham Salisbury: With over a decade’s worth of National List experience under his belt, the Lancashire official is a familiar figure at Bramall Lane. His last visit there saw Kyle Bartley and Nick Montgomery cautioned during a 2-1 defeat by Ipswich Town in November. Later that month, Salisbury did not book a single player during Barnsley’s goalless home draw with Watford. The 44-year-old has issued 107 yellow and five red cards in just over 30 appointments this term.

Tale of the Tape

Barnsley will secure a league double - and relegate - Sheffield United if they win at Bramall Lane following December’s narrow win at Oakwell. Both meetings last season ended in a draw while United beat their neighbours twice during the 2008/09 campaign. Barnsley’s have not tasted success at this stadium since April 2001.