Great Lane night of 1971

Likely starter: Nick Montgomery wants to play.
Likely starter: Nick Montgomery wants to play.
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IT was also a Tuesday night in April. Cardiff City were the visitors on that occasion too.

But there is no way tonight’s clash can rival either that occasion or even what was riding on the result - and that’s allowing for the fact both promotion and relegation are on the agenda at Bramall Lane tonight!

It’s a fair old time ago, beyond the memory of many who will turn up tonight. But, for those who there, that game in April 1971 turned into one of the truly memorable Bramall Lane nights - and tonight’s atmosphere won’t match it whatever happens!

Promotion to the top flight was on the line.

It was United’s penultimate fixture but they led Cardiff by only a point and the Bluebirds had a game in hand - ie, they’d two left after it whereas United would have only one.

Only one thing would do for the Blades. A win. Anything less and Cardiff would be set up to pip them for promotion. A Cardiff win and they would virtually be certs.

That was the scenario and nearly 43,000 crammed that night into Bramall Lane - and it was still three-sided then as well!

Anyway, no-one in red and white could have imagined it would turn out how it did - Blades fans roaring them home to a 5-1 win on a special night.

Now, exactly 40 years on, there is cer

tainly one similarity. They both need a win albeit for differing reasons.

Cardiff are the ones looking upwards this time at the top flight where they haven’t been since 1962.

United, after the agonies of the last-minute defeat to Middlesbrough on Saturday, know their Championship life is ebbing away unless they can find some wins from somewhere starting, against the odds, tonight.

With just six matches to go, United know the talking, all the brave words, will soon count for nothing if results continue to go against them.

Cardiff will have tension at the top to tighten their nerves and they are locked in an apparent four-way fight for the one automatic spot available behind champions-elect QPR.

The Welshmen are third, a point behind Norwich, but neighbours Swansea are on the same points, 69, whilst Reading - who have stormed up the table with seven wins and a draw in their last eight games - are three points behind and posing a mounting threat to everyone up there.

United have to put Saturday’s defeat behind them and strive to pull off the sort of surprise they managed recently against Forest and Leeds, two other clubs with aspirations to be in the division above.

“It was a real kick in the teeth to lose in that manner, in the last minute, and it’s tough mentally,” admitted Blades assistant boss Alan Cork.

“But, you know, hard though it was for them to take, the players came back in on Monday, they were lively, there were laughs and jokes and we got back at it, which was good.

“After something like Saturday, you want the next game to come round quick and that’s what’s happening; they’ve got tonight to focus on.

“And they know that the home performances have been okay, it’s just been the results. Had we taken our chances, well ...”

It seems likely that Nick Montgomery will be back in United’s midfield tonight having missed out on Saturday because it was essential to be with his wife and their new-born babies.

“Monty will let us know but the lad wants to be out there tonight,” added Cork.

Richard Cresswell and Ched Evans are likely to remain out of contention.

Cardiff were 3-1 winners at Doncaster on Saturday, a scoreline that didn’t reflect the flow of the game.

The win came courtesy of two stoppage-time goals from Jason Koumas who went on as a sub with just a few minutes left.

“They’ve got good players in there ... Bothroyd, Bellamy, the lad, Whittingham, but I really do believe we can cause them problems because we have players who can hurt the opposition,” added Cork.

Cardiff arrive unbeaten in their last four games with the last defeat being a 1-0 setback at Crystal Palace on March 8.

It is the reverse of the opening fixture of the season when the teams drew 1-1 at the City of Cardiff Stadium.

Elsewhere at the bottom tonight, Preston are at Doncaster, Scunthorpe are at home to Reading whilst Crystal Palace go to Leicester City.

MATCHFACTS

THE TEAMS

UNITED (possible): Simonsen; Nosworthy, Lowton, Lowry, Mattock; Riise, Montgomery, Doyle, Quinn; Bogdanovic, Henderson (4-4-2).

CARDIFF (possible): Heaton; McNaughton, Keinan, Samuel, Quinn;Burke, Olofinjana, McPhail, Whittingham; Bellamy, Bothroyd (4-4-2).

THE REFEREE

Michael Oliver (Northumberland): Now 26, was the youngest ever referee - at 25 - to take charge of a Premier League game. He and dad Clive were the first father and son to ref and assist at the same game, at Rotherham United’s 2005 Carling Cup tie v Port Vale.