Sheffield United: Ben hopes to do some dead-ball damage

Sheffield United's Ben Davies � copyright : Blades Sports Photography
Sheffield United's Ben Davies � copyright : Blades Sports Photography
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Andrea Pirlo thinks about his children, writes James Shield. David Luiz imagines joyous scenes of celebration back home in Brazil.

But, when Ben Davies prepares to take set-pieces, he simply stares at goal.

“There’s no secret or special method,” he said. “Not for me anyway.

“It’s just practise, practise, practise. That might sound boring but it’s true.”

Davies, the Sheffield United midfielder, has spent hours perfecting his technique at dead-ball situations.

And for good reason too. With the dividing line between success and failure in the third tier becoming uncomfortable slim - only four points separate sixth from 15th ahead of this weekend’s round of games, any advantage gained over the opposition could prove the difference between reaching the Championship next term or spending another season in League One.

“We do a lot of work on free-kicks,” Davies told The Star. “We’re disappointed we haven’t scored more of them.

“I do work on them everyday, individually and as a group. I do that for 20 minutes or half an hour after every training session. “It’s a really important part of the game. I’ve done that all the way through my career because I know, if I don’t put the ball in the right areas, people are going to moan. And, if I do, we’ve got people here who can attack the ball.”

United travel to Scunthorpe tomorrow ranked fifth hoping to record their fifth victory in nine outings following last weekend’s defeat by Fleetwood Town. A positive result is crucial as Nigel Clough’s side, having almost certainly surrendered its hopes of automatic promotion, now focus on securing play-off qualification at the earliest possible opportunity.

Despite making only three starts since recovering from injury two months ago, Davies’ ability to beat a wall or deliver a perfectly flighted cross could prove crucial as United attempt to negotiate safe passage through their remaining 12 games.

“The first goal, especially in this league, is vitally important,” he said. “That’s something we’ve not done enough of at times because it enables everyone to relax and gets the crowd going too. Even away from home because, with the following we get, when they are right behind us they really make themselves heard.”

Davies, who represented the likes of Shrewsbury Town and Notts County before joining United on a permanent basis from Derby County during the close season, acknowledged the same is true at home.

“We’re fortunate to play in front of 18,000 every week. That lifts you when the fans are right behind you.

“But it can also make it harder to because, no disrespect to most other teams, they are used to being out there in front of two or three thousand at times.

“It’s the first game at lot of teams coming here will look for at the start of the season, I know because I’ve been on the other side, and they’ll automatically lift their performances because of that. “They’ll look at coming here as being a great day out because this is a Championship club and more. But if we raise our game and get the first goal, then we know our quality will shine through.”

With his namesake Steven arriving on loan from Blackpool and both Matt Done and Jamie Murphy in a rich vein of form, Davies insisted Jose Baxter’s recent return from suspension can help United tick another important box. However, Chris Basham’s suspension means their back four, particularly at centre-half, will come under particular scrutiny tomorrow after Clough confirmed that Terry Kennedy is unlikely to recover from a knee injury until “the end of the month” at least.

“If you want to be successful then you’ve got to have your midfielders getting goals,” Davies said.

“Jose is so comfortable on the ball and can play in a number of different positions because of that.

“You want to get the ball to your match-winners as much as possible and Jose is among two or three of those we’ve got in the group.”

Twitter: @JamesShield1

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