Sheffield United: Howard’s penalty pledge

Mark Howard after his heroics at West Ham � copyright : Blades Sports Photography
Mark Howard after his heroics at West Ham � copyright : Blades Sports Photography
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Sheffield United goalkeeper Mark Howard will stun his team mates by again volunteering to take a penalty if tonight’s Capital One Cup tie at Leyton Orient finishes all-square, writes James Shield.

Howard was the hero of last month’s second round success over West Ham after denying Enner Valencia, the Premier League club’s £12m summer signing, during a dramatic shoot-out which ended 5-4 in favour of Nigel Clough’s side.

But, not content with saving spot-kicks, Howard told The Star: “I absolutely love penalties and I want to take them as well. Put me among the designated five and I reckon I’ll score.

“Everyone knows I can whack the ball a long way but I can strike it really cleanly as well. It wouldn’t bother me one little bit if I was asked.

“In fact, do you know what? I really hope I am.”

Howard, who is set to make his 49th appearance for United against Orient, also revealed he was convinced the visitors would reach the third round stage after drawing 1-1 at the Boleyn Ground.

“The goalkeeping coaches and Mikey Allen, our analyst, were a massive help to me beforehand,” Howard added. “I actually should have saved two because they predicted Mark Noble, who took their first, would put it left but I changed my mind.”

With United set to host Gillingham four days after their latest trip to London, the 28-year-old also rubbished claims progress in knockout competition could have a detrimental effect upon performances in League One.

“We’re not a team that makes any excuses and the gaffer wouldn’t let us be that sort of team,” Howard said. “There’s a hunger and desire here to do well, that’s why we are so ready to battle and scrap no matter what.” Clough, the United manager, could make several changes for the third round tie. James Wallace (groin), who missed last weekend’s defeat at Swindon Town, should feature but Jose Baxter (hamstring) is unavailable. Stefan Scougall will be assessed by medical staff this morning after making his comeback from a knee complaint at Colchester seven days ago.

“Mark works on penalties in training with the rest of the lads and, to be fair, he takes them really well,” Clough said. “I’ve got to admit, I’m not so sure about letting him do it because goalies tend to be better with the hands than their feet but he was badgering us to let him take the sixth one at West Ham if it had gone that far.”

*Twitter: @JamesShield1