Blades '˜never stopped' believing, says George
Goalkeeper George Long insists his Sheffield United teammates never gave up hope of gatecrashing the League One play-off places.
United’s top-six hopes were written off after an inconsistent campaign left them off the pace. But three wins and a draw in their last four games has left them four points behind sixth-placed Gillingham, ahead of Saturday’s mouthwatering derby against Barnsley - who are seventh.
Long is expected to make his 36th appearance of the campaign against Paul Heckingbottom’s Reds and, speaking after Tuesday’s 2-1 victory at Shrewsbury, the 22-year-old said: “We’ve never stopped believing.
“Our attitude at the moment is just take one game at a time, try to win it and see where it takes us. We aren’t looking three games down the line and worrying about that.
“At the minute, it’s working well for us.”
Long saved Kyle Vassell’s early penalty before goals from Billy Sharp - his 20th of the season - and Che Adams secured victory.
“The penalty save was a key moment,” he added.
“As a goalie, in those situations, you’ve just got to back yourself and it was an opportunity to give us a bit of momentum in the game. I watched which way I thought he was going to go with it, got to the ball and then all of the lads came in and cleared the danger.
“That moment was what the performance was about. Everybody working together.
“We are clearing balls on the edge of our box now, rather than in the middle of it, and keeping that high line means we aren’t scrambling for second balls on the edge of the area when they do get cleared.
“It makes a massive difference. People are putting their bodies on the line and stopping shots. If I have a quiet game, then great.”
Meanwhile, the Sheffield & Hallamshire County FA Senior Cup final - between Frickley Athletic and Shaw Lane Aquaforce - will be held at United’s Bramall Lane stadium next Tuesday (7pm).
Supported by Bluefin, the final will be the first played at Bramall Lane since 1976/77 - when Mexborough Town Athletic beat Worksop Town 2-1.
Dave McCarthy, United’s operations director, said: “Once again it looks like a game to whet the appetites of supporters of local football.
“We are hoping for a bumper crowd at Bramall Lane for the game between, other than our five professional clubs, the Sheffield and Hallamshire FA’s two highest placed teams in the national football pyramid.”
Entry is £7 for adults and £3 for children and concessions with tickets available only on the night of the final from outside the South Stand turnstiles.