THE clue is in the nickname. With Martin ‘Mad Dog’ Allen at the helm, Sheffield United are not expecting next week’s encounter with Notts County to be a relaxed, low-key affair.
Instead, the Bramall Lane club are bracing themselves for a tooth-and-nail scrap against opponents determined to savage their hopes of taking another step towards automatic promotion.
“You always know one thing when you come up against Martin,” United manager Danny Wilson said. “And that is it’s going to be a very competitive game.
“He’s brought his own kind of players in and he’s started to put his mark on things there.
“Also, I’m sure that coming here is going to inspire them.
“But football is a selfish business and that’s what we are going to try and be.
“If we can get another win then it will put us on track towards having a very good festive period.
“But, by and large, we are pretty much on course at the moment with regards to getting where we want.”
Wilson’s words reveal the confidence coursing through United veins following a run of six straight wins in both League One and FA Cup competition.
Last weekend’s victory at Bournemouth saw them climb to third in the table and move within touching distance of second-placed Sheffield Wednesday.
County’s own Championship ambitions have suffered a few blows of late but, despite slipping to ninth, they make the short journey north on Tuesday still regarded as one of the most awkward teams in the division.
Allen publicly claims to hate his canine sobriquet but it does provide a valuable insight into the 46-year-old’s character.
Nevertheless, the former West Ham and Queens Park Rangers midfielder will have to be at his snarling best to orchestrate the downfall of a United outfit which has conceded just two goals in over nine hours of football.
“We always give our opponents respect,” said Wilson. “But equally we are always confident of making inroads and catching those above us in the table.
“All of the teams above us can be caught. Of course they can and we’ve already clawed back a lot of points on them.
“But we’ve achieved nothing as yet. It doesn’t surprise me to see the table shaping-up as it is because there are teams up there with a lot of experience and tradition.
“However, in my experience, there are always one or two that make a late run.
“There is a long, long way to go yet.”
United will be without suspended midfielder Lee Williamson for their first meeting with County since January 1999.
Full-back Andy Taylor is still unavailable but is making good progress in his battle for fitness following a long-standing injury.
“Andy had a little setback a while ago but he’s working fine again now,” Wilson said. “The only shame for the lads coming back is that there are no reserve team fixtures.”