OXFORD United manager Chris Wilder fears a Sheffield United backlash when the two teams lock horns at Bramall Lane tomorrow.
The FA Cup first-round tie will prove an emotional occasion for Wilder, who played over 100 league games for the South Yorkshire club, as he bids to heap further pressure on Danny Wilson’s side.
Wilson claimed Oxford would be encouraged by United’s loss to Bradford City in midweek as he issued a scathing critique of their performance during Tuesday’s JP Trophy Northern Area Quarter-Final.
But Wilder told The Star: “Danny and (his assistant) Frank Barlow are proper football people so I’m expecting a reaction. I’m not so sure it will be a good thing at all.
“Ask anyone in the game about them and they’ll tell you exactly the same thing. Not everyone in our business can say this - it’s not one great love-in - but they have the respect of everyone who counts themselves as a football person so we’re not expecting it to be easy.
“They’ll be wanting their lads to respond and that’s what we’re preparing for.”
Despite winning nearly half of their games under Wilson’s stewardship, some sections of United’s following have grown increasingly frustrated in recent weeks as disappointing results against Exeter City and Stevenage sees them fifth in the League One table. Oxford, who also exited the JP Trophy three days ago, are seventh in League Two.
Wilder, a lifelong United supporter, said: “Sheffield United will be favourites because they’re at home and have more players who have consistently played at a higher level than us.
“But, like everyone entering the competition at this stage, we’re trying to get at least to the third round. Even the biggest names in the draw, like Sheffield United and Charlton, will be desperate to do that.”
Wilder, who steered Oxford to 2010 Conference Play-off Final success, added: “Oxford will reach League One or the Championship at some stage. I don’t know when in the future but I’m convinced it will happen, not least because of the support we get.”