Sheffield United will continue to adopt a safety-first approach towards Jose Baxter, manager Nigel Clough confirmed last night, writes James Shield.
The former Everton and Oldham Athletic midfielder, who has scored four goals in eight starts for United this season, is scheduled to make his third appearance following injury at Bradford City on Saturday.
But Clough said: “We won’t be taking any risks with Jose whatsoever. That’s because we don’t want any set-backs or reoccurrence of the problem he’s had.
“He’s an important figure for us. We all know the qualities that he’s got and so that’s why we’ll always be careful as he’s coming back.”
Baxter missed five games after being diagnosed with a hamstring complaint last month. His prowess in the opposition’s final third, coupled with Michael Higdon’s absence through suspension, means Clough is expected to again place him at the heart of United’s plans for the visit to the Coral Windows Stadium.
Reflecting on last weekend’s draw with Leyton Orient, which saw Baxter withdrawn after 61 minutes, Clough added: “Jose wasn’t quite ready to go the full 90. I’m sure he would have done so if required but, like I say, we don’t want to push things or ask him to do too much too soon.
“By looking after him and using him properly, that’s going to ensure he is going to be able to start and finish a match sooner rather than later.”
Baxter scored on his return to action when United beat Hartlepool in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy earlier this month.
Jamal Campbell-Ryce was also on target at Victoria Park and made a positive impact after entering they fray during the closing stages of what proved a dramatic match with Orient.
Paddy McCarthy and Marc McNulty both scored in the 90th minute after Jay Simpson had earlier given Kevin Nugent’s side the lead before Romain Vincelot’s 98th minute header ensured the contest finished all-square.
“We were frustrated with the result,” Clough said. “Especially after getting two ourselves and given the timing of the equaliser.
“But the lads showed great character out there as well.”