HEFFIELD United will assess Kevin McDonald’s fitness at lunchtime before deciding whether to name the former Scotland under-21 international midfielder in the squad which visits Notts County this evening.
Danny Wilson, the United manager, revealed last night that McDonald, who has missed seven matches with a hamstring complaint, could return to action at Meadow Lane providing he receives the all-clear from Bramall Lane’s medical staff.
“Macca’s had no reaction as yet but we’ve not pushed him as hard as we did today,” Wilson told yesterday’s pre-match press conference at Shirecliffe. “We’ll have another look at him before the game and then see how he feels.
“That’s what we’ve been doing with Macca all along - looking at him on a daily basis because that’s all you can do with an injury of that nature.
“But I’ve spoken to him and, in himself, he says that he feels fine, which is good to hear.”
McDonald’s absence has coincided with a marked downturn in United’s results. They travel to Meadow Lane still second in the League One table but having won only twice since he limped off during last month’s victory over Preston North End.
“Of course we’ve missed Macca,” Wilson said. “Because he was right on top of his game when unfortunately he picked up this problem.
“Willo (Lee Williamson) has done ever so well stepping into that central midfield role.
“But any club would miss a player in the type of form that Macca was in when he had to drop out.
“I think that goes without saying really.”
McDonald’s progress persuaded Wilson to allow Nick Montgomery, United’s captain and longest-serving player, to join Millwall on a loan before departing for the Midlands.
“In an ideal world, Monty wouldn’t be leaving. He definitely wouldn’t be leaving if Macca wasn’t anywhere near coming back,” Wilson said.
“But he (Monty) wanted to go because he wanted to play some games, which I can completely understand.”
Wilson hopes McDonald’s imminent return could provide United with a fresh source of goals as well as improving their fluency.
Striker Ched Evans, who scored his 26th of the season during Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Tranmere Rovers, has been responsible for 31 per cent of United’s efforts this term.
Throw Williamson and fellow centre-forward Richard Cresswell into the mix and that figure rises to exactly half.
said: “That’s something we’ve actually spoken about since (Tranmere).
“We want as many people as possible to chip in as possible from all different areas.
“That goes without saying.”
“I’ve told the lads that I won’t shoot them if they miss but I will if they don’t have a go,” Wilson added.
“Even if it’s not a clear cut chance it’s still worth trying something because goals come through all sorts of different routes including deflections.
“You never know what might happen.
“I’m not just saying that because of the stage of the season we are at. The same things goes whatever stage of the season you are at.”
With Montgomery leaving United for the first time in his professional career, Wilson admitted he could enter the loan market himself should finances permit.
Although he refused to shed light on those positions he wants to strengthen - “I know the areas I’d like to bring people in for and I know the people I’d like, but we’ll have to see if it’s possible” - Wilson is understood to view the flanks as section of the United squad which would benefit from an injection of new blood.
Nevertheless, Wilson insisted: “We’ve probably only got one out and out winger and that’s Ryan Flynn.
“But I do like wingers, people shouldn’t think that I don’t.
“Mind you, Quinny (Stephen Quinn) and Willo are both really effective out there even though they probably like to tuck in a little bit more.
“Quinny, for me, is one of the
technically most gifted players in this division and the same goes for Willo.
“People might remember the mistakes Quinny makes but I tell you why that is.
“It’s because he gets on the ball so much in a game and he constantly demands it.
“For me, that’s excellent.
“He probably has more touches in a game than anyone else and if something does go wrong then he doesn’t let it affect him.
“He doesn’t try and hide at all, he still keeps demanding the ball all the time.”
Teams and ref
NOTTS COUNTY (possible): Nelson, Chilvers, Sheehan, Stewart, Harley, Freeman, Judge, Hughes, Mahon, Bishop, Forte (4-4-2).
SHEFFIELD UNITED (possible): Simonsen, Lowton, Collins, Maguire, Williams, Williamson, McDonald, Doyle, Quinn, Evans, Cresswell (4-4-2).
Geoff Eltringham: The Tyne and Wear official cautioned Neill Collins when he took charge of Sheffield United’s Carling Cup tie at Hartlepool earlier this season. Three of the four red cards he has produced since August have come in matches involving League One sides. Averages just under three cautions per game.