Sheffield United: Blades continue to monitor Craig

Craig Alcock in action
Craig Alcock in action
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Craig Alcock, the Sheffield United defender, is being monitored by medical staff ahead of next weekend’s League One encounter against Rochdale, writes James Shield.

The former Peterborough full-back missed Saturday’s draw with Preston North End after being diagnosed with a thigh injury following the Capital One Cup success over West Ham.

Craig Alcock is nursing a muscle injury � copyright : Blades Sports Photography

Craig Alcock is nursing a muscle injury � copyright : Blades Sports Photography

As The Star reported last month, Clough considered naming Alcock in his starting eleven at Deepdale before being advised it could aggravate what has been described as a “relatively minor” complaint.

And the United manager has confirmed he will consult with the club’s physiotherapy department before giving Alcock to all-clear to resume full training ahead of Rochdale’s visit in nine days time.

“Craig hasn’t got anything that we believe is too serious,” Clough said. “But that doesn’t mean we want to rush him and, quite often, the best thing for problems like this is rest.

“However, the thing you’ve got to take into account with muscle problems is that they can be quite delicate until their healed properly. What we don’t want to do is ask him to come back too quickly and then lose him for four or five weeks.”

Alcock, who progressed through the ranks at Yeovil Town has been in impressive form since arriving at Bramall Lane during the close season, making four appearances en route to the Boleyn Ground. That second round success, achieved 5-4 on penalties, was rewarded with a trip to Leyton Orient scheduled for September 23.

“In all honesty, it probably wasn’t the draw we really wanted,” Clough said. “Because you always want to be playing at home in the cups if you can.

“It will be another tough challenge for us and I’m sure Russell (Slade, the Orient manager) is going to say the same.”

Handed a bye in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and with MK Dons, who had been due to visit South Yorkshire this weekend, postponing the fixture due to international call-ups, United will have been out of action for nearly a fortnight when they host Keith Hill’s newly promoted side.

“Ideally, we’d have wanted to carry on, trying to build some momentum after a positive result,” Clough, reflecting on the 1-1 draw with Preston, said. “But we’ll use the break to our advantage behind the scenes.

“We’ll have some rest, because that’s always important, and try to make sure everyone is refreshed and fit. But we’ll also be working hard on things behind the scenes.”

“There are still areas where we need to improve,” Clough added. “Defensively is one of them because, as we’ve all seen, we haven’t been keeping enough clean sheets.

“The game at Preston was a brilliant spectacle and a great advert for the Football League. It could easily have finished 3-3 or 4-4 because it was end to end stuff all the way throughout.

“But, despite that, we still conceded and that’s something we’ll be striving to try and stop doing as much as we have been lately.”

Clough, as managing director Mal Brannigan acknowledged 48 hours ago, wanted to bolster the defensive options at his disposal before Monday’s deadline for permanent signings. Having failed to make a late breakthrough in the transfer market, United are expected to resume a recruitment drive which has seen the acquire 11 new players when the emergency loan window opens shortly.

*Twitter: @JamesShield1