Caolan Lavery and Leon Clarke could be set for starting roles over the Christmas period after Chris Wilder, the Sheffield United manager, praised their contributions in recent weeks.
Lavery, the former Sheffield Wednesday centre-forward, hit the woodwork twice during Thursday’s win at Coventry City while Clarke’s performance after also stepping-off the bench was referenced by the 49-year-old during his post-match media conference.
With games against Oldham Athletic, Northampton Town and Bury set to test the resources at Wilder’s disposal, coaching staff could be tempted to shuffle their options although the postponement of January 7’s fixture with Fleetwood Town has eased some of the pressure on United’s first team squad.
But Wilder said: “I thought Caolan and Leon both did really well last time out, they made a real impression after coming on.
“Caolan gets better with every match he plays and we all know what Leon is capable of, he’s a clever player who can finish too.
“It’s good to have those options available to us either before or during games.”
Earlier this month, Wilder experimented by pairing Clarke with captain Billy Sharp before recalling Matt Done to the starting eleven.
Although Sharp, United’s leading scorer is one of the first names on Wilder’s team sheet, Done could come under pressure unless he rediscovers his touch in front of goal.
But Wilder’s team selection has been complicated by the fact Done’s movement and work ethic creates space for others, including midfielder Mark Duffy, to exploit.
Clarke is arguably a better finisher having netted 18 times in less than 40 appearances for Bury last term but appears to be lacking sharpness after recovering from an ankle problem. Lavery’s style, meanwhile, more closely resembles Done’s.
“We’re still a pretty young side,” Wilder said. “Given how long we’ve been here.”