Sheffield United manager Nigel Clough, has told his team that derbies against Barnsley and Doncaster Rovers represent perfect opportunities to silence their critics by seizing control of the play-off race.
Clough was speaking after United, who visit Oakwell on Saturday before hosting Paul Dickov’s side at Bramall Lane, were booed-off the pitch by sections of their own support following last weekend’s defeat to Crewe Alexandra.
“The way we’ve got to view these matches is as a chance to consolidate our position,” Clough said. “And, at the same time, hurt those teams around us.
“There’s seven games to go and we need to get a few more points.
“I think they (Barnsley and Doncaster) will be good games and good atmospheres. I think that’s when we are probably at our best.
“Our priority is not to lose against them and not let them gain points on us. But we also want to win and, if we can, it makes a big difference.
“There’s so many teams in that top half. All will feel, with seven games to go, that they have a chance to make the play-offs. The biggest frustration today was not pointing further space between us.”
United remained fifth despite failing to complete a hat-trick of victories, five points clear of seventh placed Barnsley while Rovers are 11th.
“It wasn’t so long ago that everyone was writing us off and saying that we didn’t have a hope in hell of getting into the top six,” Clough added. “Then, as we went into the (Crewe) game on the back of two good results, everyone was saying that we were nailed on when, actually, neither is true. Nothing is certain at this stage but we’ve put ourselves in a good position and we don’t want to give that up.
“Our players are most effective when things are fluid. When they’re changing positions and moving all across the field.”