SHEFFIELD UNITED: Rival Lee knows pain of defeat

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THIRD versus fourth, a combined total of 171 points, the same number of goals and 227 years of history between them.

Sheffield United against Huddersfield Town. A proper play-off final.

Yet, despite both teams compelling credentials, only one is destined to compete in the Championship next term.

Alan Lee, a former resident of the Steel City, conceded earlier this week that traditionalists might want Danny Wilson’s side to win tomorrow’s League One showpiece. But, as Town’s striker acknowledged before departing for the capital, there will not be a scintilla of sympathy in the away dressing room at Wembley if Simon Grayson’s men - who finished behind United in the rankings - prevail.

“This is a cruel game to lose,” Lee told The Star. “I know from experience.

“I’ve lived in Sheffield before and I’ve got friends who are United fans but I can’t wish them the best now.”

Lee, who counts United’s neighbours, Rotherham, among his former employers, was a member of the Town squad beaten by Peterborough at the same stage of the competition last season.

With their opponents attempting to gain promotion via the play-offs at the sixth time of asking, both teams could be forgiven for entering contest with trepidation.

But echoing the sentiments of his fellow Irishman Michael Doyle, Lee insisted history will count for nothing once the action gets under way.

“Michael’s right,” he said. “What’s happened in the past will have no bearing on this one.”

Big games hinge on small details so it has been fascinating to witness United and Town  prepare in different ways.

The majority of Wilson’s squad - Doyle included - have opted not to visit the stadium beforehand. Grayson, though, allowed his charges look around soon after arriving in London yesterday.

“That way,” Lee said, “Nobody is wandering around going ‘look at that arch’ when they’re meant to be preparing.”

Although Jordan Rhodes, scorer of 40 goals in his previous 45 appearances, is the most potent weapon in Town’s armoury, Lee provides Grayson with a more combative option should the situation demand.

Indeed, while Rhodes has yet to breach United’s rearguard, Lee impressed at Bramall Lane eight months ago before starting again when Wilson’s men avenged that defeat at The Galpharm Stadium in February.