Sheffield United: Blades star explains why it would be dangerous to defy Chris Wilder ahead of the Steel City derby against Sheffield Wednesday

Marvin Johnson, the Sheffield United wing-back, has insisted his team mates' thoughts are not wandering beyond next week's derby at Hillsborough.

Wednesday, 27th February 2019, 15:06 pm
Updated Wednesday, 27th February 2019, 15:23 pm
Sheffield United aim to keep their focus: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

But for anyone daring to defy Chris Wilder's wishes by attempting to predict how the rest of the season will unfold, the 28-year-old has a warning; tables, particularly at this stage of the campaign, can be a notoriously poor guide of results.

"I think, this is the stage where you start seeing some unfamiliar ones," Johnson said. "There are clubs fighting to stay up, clubs fighting to get promotion and clubs fighting to get automatic. It's usually the ones who are safe who cause the most upsets."

Johnson's message is particularly pertinent ahead of Monday's game against Sheffield Wednesday who, despite reigniting their play-offs hopes by beating Brentford earlier this week, must still plot a course through some serious traffic in order to reach the top six. United, meanwhile, are preparing for the match in second following last weekend's victory over fourth-placed West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns, although the picture could have changed by the time the fixture kicks-off.

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If Johnson's theory is correct, and clubs unlikely to go either up or down represent the most dangerous opposition during the remaining 12 matches, then any loss of concentration could prove fatal to United's aspirations of securing a top two finish.

Fifty-eight per cent of their outings between now and May pit them against clubs currently in the top half of the Championship, compared to only 17 per cent against those occupying a play-off berth.

Intriguingly third-placed Leeds and fourth-placed West Brom are in similar positions (50 per percent). Only a quarter of Norwich City's games - Daniel Farke's side are leading the competition - see them face opponents in the upper portion of the rankings.

Marvin Johnson in action at The Hawthorns: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Johnson, who has started United's last two matches, said: "We can concentrate on that (the derby) and make sure we prepare right. Everyone knows what derby day brings. Anything can happen and it's not like any other game."

Speaking after Kieran Dowell's goal proved enough to settle their contest with Darren Moore's side, both Johnson and Wilder acknowledged that playing after their nearest rivals had all been in action had proven a test of United's character.

As they brace themselves for a similar challenge again, Johnson added: "You do look at results but you can't get sidetracked. We focus on us. The gaffer makes sure our heads are on Sheffield United and nothing else."

The Runners, riders and their remaining games this season:

Norwich City:  Millwall (a) Swansea City (h) Hull City (h) Rotherham United (a) Middlesbrough (a) Queens Park Rangers (h) Reading (h) Wigan Athletic (a) Sheffield Wednesday (h) Stoke City (a) Blackburn Rovers (h) Aston Villa (a)Top Six Teams to Face: 1Top Six Games at Home: 0Top Half Teams to Face: 3

Sheffield United: Sheffield Wednesday (a) Rotherham United (h) Brentford (h) Leeds United (a) Bristol City (h) Preston North End (a) Birmingham City (a) Millwall (h) Nottingham Forest (h) Hull City (a) Ipswich Town (h) Stoke City (a)Top Six Teams to Face: 2Top Six Games at Home: 1Top Half Teams to Face: 7

Leeds United: West Bromwich Albion (h) Bristol City (a) Reading (a) Sheffield United (h) Millwall (h) Birmingham City (a) Preston North End (a) Sheffield Wednesday (h) Wigan Athletic (h) Brentford (a) Aston Villa (h) Ipswich Town (a)Top Six Teams to Face: 3Top Six Games at Home: 2Top Half Teams to Face: 6

West Bromwich Albion: Leeds United (a) Ipswich Town (h) Swansea City (h) Brentford (a) Birmingham City (h) Millwall (a) Bristol City (a) Preston North End (h) Hull City (h) Reading (a) Rotherham (h) Derby County (h)Top Six Teams to Face: 2Top Six Games at Home: 0Top Half Teams to Face: 6

Middlesbrough*: Wigan Athletic (a) Brentford (h) Preston North End (h) Aston Villa (a) Norwich City (h) Bristol City (h) Swansea City (a) Bolton Wanderers (a) Hull City (h) Stoke City (h) Nottingham Forest (a) Reading (h) Rotherham United (a)Top Six Teams to Face: 2Top Six Games at Home: 2Top Half Teams to Face: 5 *Have a game in hand