Nigel Clough, the Sheffield United manager, has admitted the possibility of a League One play-off final against Chesterfield could influence both team’s selections when they meet at Bramall Lane on Sunday, writes James Shield.
But Clough, speaking at the Redtooth Academy last night, distanced himself from suggestions that he will field a weakened team in order to begin preparing for next week’s semi-final first-leg.
Like United, the visitors also enter the match assured of a top six finish and Clough said: “Both managers will be thinking they don’t want to give too much away. We have watched each other over the course of the last nine months.
“I don’t think either team that plays Sunday will be the team that plays in either the semi-finals or, hopefully, the final.
“There is mutual respect between us. They have done incredibly well.
“Like Rochdale, in seventh, they have been together a few years and been promoted. They are good teams with good managers, and that spirit, plus ability on the pitch, can take you a long way.”
United are fifth, two points ahead of Paul Cook’s side after drawing at Leyton Orient six days ago.
“We don’t want to make changes unnecessarily, so it will be people who are carrying knocks, that will be the reason they don’t play,” Clough added. “We have to have one eye on Thursday, but we still want to win. If we were going to write it off we would put the under-21s out there who have had a good season.
“We did something similar when Rotherham came here last season and won. Although we don’t have enough to field two teams, we’ve got more depth now.”
United will face Swindon Town for the right to appear at Wembley if they avoid defeat while Chesterfield are set to lock horns with either MK Dons or Preston North End if they fail to win.
Clough said: “As long as we are there (at Wembley) I don’t really mind. But I think us and Chesterfield would be a special game.”