Sheffield United: Defender hails a managerial master-stroke as Chris Wilder provides a fitness update on star duo
John Egan, the Sheffield United centre-half, believes Chris Wilder's decision to hold a squad meeting ahead of tomorrow's visit to Preston North End could prove a master-stroke in the battle for automatic promotion from the Championship.
Wilder revealed last night how he had addressed his players 48 hours after a defeat by Bristol City had seen them surrender second place in the table.
The United manager, whose side travels to Deepdale two points behind Leeds with seven games remaining, also held discussions after August's loss to Middlesbrough and the draw with Aston Villa two months ago.
"At any stage of the season, you reflect and football is about how you bounce back," Egan, describing the talk as "really positive", said. "You can't win every game in a season or keep a clean sheet in every game of the season. We know that. We've worked hard on the training ground and shown the right approach and attitude."
United had gone 10 matches unbeaten and kept seven consecutive clean sheets before City ended that run. Speaking at Bramall Lane earlier today, Wilder insisted "a few things went against us then", with fatigue following the international break and an injury to Mark Duffy cited as factors behind an imperfect performance.
Duffy, who has been receiving treatment for an Achilles complaint, is in danger of missing the trip to Lancashire but "will be given every opportunity" to prove his fitness, according to Wilder. Defender Jack O'Connell is expected to feature after making progress in his battle to overcome a calf problem.
"We've had defeats in the past, it's a game of football.," Egan said. "You win some, you lose some and obviously we've won more than we've lost. When you win, you don't think about it too much. When you lose, you see what you could have done better."
United will enjoy the backing of nearly 6,000 supporters when they face a Preston team only three points outside of the play-offs.
"It's brilliant," Egan said. "The support away from home has been incredible all season. As players, when we walk out and see that, it really drives us on as players. It drives us on playing for those fans who we know want to see us do well."