THE war of words surrounding the Steel City derby continues to rumble on but Danny Wilson, the Sheffield United manager, last night focused his attention solely on another potentially pivotal match in the scrap for League One supremacy.
This evening’s visit to Preston North End might not stir the emotions quite like an encounter with the old enemy from Hillsborough – as Nick Montgomery’s presence at yesterday’s press conference confirmed – but Phil Brown’s side remain one of the teams to beat in this most competitive of divisions.
Prevailing at Deepdale, where United’s latest opponents have not been beaten since August, would represent a step forward for Wilson’s men, especially following the exertions of Sunday’s battle at Bramall Lane.
“The lads put everything in to that game,” Wilson said. “They gave everything and were knackered in the dressing room afterwards.
“That’s all you can ever ask of a player. And if they don’t do that then the fans will soon pick them out, which is fair enough.”
The physical and psychological demands of derby football are illustrated by statistics revealing how vulnerable both teams are during the following game.
United have dropped nine of the 18 points available immediately after their last six derbies. Wednesday 13.
However Wilson, who acknowledged his men “need a result” to “avoid putting pressure on ourselves”, can “freshen things up” after signing Blackpool duo Matt Phillips and Billy Clarke on loan 48 hours before the 2-2 draw with Gary Megson’s charges. Stephen Quinn should start.
“They give us pace and experience,” said Wilson.
“They offer us something that, as has been well-docu
mented, we haven’t got in abundance.
“Both lads are very quick and bright and they’ve shown
a hunger to come here and play.
“They are in the same mould as their manager (Ian Holloway) at Blackpool in that regard, which is great to see.”
Phillips and Clarke had reportedly been destined for spells at Bristol Rovers before informing Holloway they would prefer month-long moves to South Yorkshire.
“I don’t know whether we’ll be able to extend their deals,” Wilson added. “A lot is going to depend on how things are going at Blackpool I’d have thought, and it’s down to them.”
United climbed to seventh despite relinquishing a two goal lead
against Wednesday while Preston are a place and a point higher in sixth.
“We don’t want to dwell on the last game but we do want to take the positives with us to Deepdale and there are plenty,” said Wilson. “To try and play our football in an atmosphere like that against a very physical team was, in my opinion, really brave of them.
“What this season has already shown is how physical this league is. People keep saying I should throw the young lads in but you have to be careful they don’t get eaten up.
“They need the right people around them and they’ll get their chance.”
“I don’t think either Preston or us have had a blip,” added Wilson. “As long as we’re in the mix at the key stage then we will be happy.”