Sheffield United: ‘Forget Leeds, this game against Rotherham is equally important’
John Fleck has insisted tomorrow's game against Rotherham is as big, if not bigger, than next weekend's clash with second-placed Leeds after admitting that defeat to Paul Warne's side could deal a serious blow to Sheffield United's hopes of clinching automatic promotion.
With only two points separating Chris Wilder's side and their arch-rivals from Elland Road, the trip to West Yorkshire is already being billed by some as potentially decisive battle in the war for Premier League football.
But Fleck, whose fellow midfielder Oliver Norwood will miss that match and Tuesday's home game against Brentford is he is booked on Saturday, warned: "You can understand why the fans are thinking about it, but for us we have got two massive games before that. We need to try and win them at home."
"There can't be any distractions, for anyone. The only thing that matters is the next game and trying to get a result."
Norwood, one of United's most influential players, enters this afternoon's derby walking a disciplinary tightrope after being cautioned nine times so far this term. The Northern Ireland international must serve a two game suspension if he collects a yellow card against either Rotherham or the visitors from London. Under the Football Association's code of conduct, the 10 game threshold no longer applies after the 37th game of the Championship campaign.
Wilder, whose team have completed 35 rounds so far, last night backed Rotherham to avoid relegation but insisted United are determined to do them no favours at Bramall Lane. (Kick-off 12.15pm). Warne's men are 22nd in the table, having won once in 10 outings.
"Yes, I think they'll definitely stay up," he said. "And I also hope they do, because I've got a lot of respect for how they do things there. They've got a different target to us but I'm sure they'll achieve it, without a shadow of a doubt."
"Just because we've got admiration for them, that doesn't mean we want to make it easy for them here because we're playing for something huge as well," he added.
"We haven't got many home games left now and so, more than ever, hopefully the fans will create an atmosphere that makes it really difficult for the opposition. That backing will be crucial from now onwards. We always get great crowds but we need them to ramp it up even more now."