Boss warns Blades to keep Jay on tight leash

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Nigel Clough, the Sheffield United manager, has identified Jay Emmanuel-Thomas as the greatest threat to his team’s chances of beating Bristol City, writes James Shield.

The former Arsenal attacker enters today’s fixture at Ashton Gate having claimed 14 goals in 22 appearances for Sean O’Driscoll’s side this term.

Bristol City's Jay Emmanuel-Thomas  (left) and Bristol Rovers' John-Joe O'Toole during the Johnstones Paint Trophy match at  Ashton Gate.

Bristol City's Jay Emmanuel-Thomas (left) and Bristol Rovers' John-Joe O'Toole during the Johnstones Paint Trophy match at Ashton Gate.

With seven of those coming in his last five outings, Clough last night warned that a repeat of the defensive errors which have cost United dear in recent weeks could have disastrous consequences in the south-west.

“Jay Emanuel-Thomas is one of those on his day who can score from anywhere,” he said. “We have seen that in the past.

“He can smash one in from 30 to 40 yards into the top corner. He can hit the corner flag as well!

“He can do something incredible out of nothing. There are times when you think he shouldn’t be on the pitch and there are other times when he just puts one in from 30 to 40 yards.”

Like Clough, O’Driscoll has acknowledged Emmanuel-Thomas is a footballing enigma. With City 19th in the League One table after being relegated from the Championship seven months ago, the 22-year-old’s inconsistencies have contributed to a situation whereby they prepared to face United unbeaten in five but only above the relegation zone courtesy of a superior goal difference.

The visitors, meanwhile, remained 23rd following last weekend’s defeat by Gillingham.

Clough said: “They seem to be hitting a bit of form in the last couple of weeks. They seem to be a bit more confident now, having gone a few games unbeaten.

“It will surprise many people from the outside to see where Bristol City and ourselves are in the league but you don’t get anything for the size of your crowds, the tradition or anything like that.

“You only get three points on a Saturday if you deserve them by the performance of the team. Nothing else.

“Both clubs have got the potential to get back into the Championship and maybe beyond. It is just going to take both a little bit of time achieve that.”

O’Driscoll, previously of Nottingham Forest and Doncaster Rovers, took charge of City in January and Clough added: “I watched Bristol a few weeks ago at Crewe. Sean has not stamped fully his mark on the team.

“He established his team at Donny over a few seasons, not over a few months. He had a very clear signature and he will achieve that, without doubt, over time at Bristol.

“It does, however, take time to sort the squad out.”

*Twitter: @JamesShield1