Sheffield United: James Shield's team to face Reading at Bramall Lane

I get the argument about squad rotation.

Friday, 15th April 2022, 9:00 am

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But that doesn’t mean I like it. So, as Sheffield United prepare for two games over the Easter period set to define the rest of their season, I hope Paul Heckingbottom resists the temptation to make wholesale changes when Reading visit Bramall Lane today. This is the starting eleven I would select against Paul Ince’s side, the substitutes I’d pick and the thinking behind my choices. Then, once the match is over, we can begin considering how to approach Monday’s visit to Bristol City.

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Shield’s Starting Eleven: Foderingham, Uremovic, Egan, B Davies, Norrington-Davies, Baldock, Norwood, Fleck, Berge, Gibbs-White, McBurnie.

Shield’s Substitutes: A Davies, Robinson, Stevens, Osborn, Hourihane, Ndiaye, Jebbison.

Shield’s Thinking: Beginning the day sixth in the Championship table with five matches remaining, United are locked in a fierce battle for play-off qualification. Only 72 hours after this match, they will depart for Ashton Gate which, according to the league rankings at least, threatens to be a tougher test.

Sheffield United's Rhys Norrington Davies and Oli McBurnie: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

But that doesn’t mean the visitors from Berkshire will be pushovers either. Unlikely to go down despite being only one place above the drop zone, what United must not do is give them any encouragement. Particularly as they can go about their business with greater freedom.

That’s why I’d only make one change to the side which drew - and should have beaten - second placed AFC Bournemouth last time out. Rhys Norrington Davies might not be as expansive a wing-back as Enda Stevens, which I appreciate appears to contradict my point about the importance of grabbing this fixture by the scruff of the neck. But he is still good enough going forward and, with Stevens only just returning from injury, the Republic of Ireland international might benefit from a rest before returning to face City next week.

United must take care of this contest first before they start worrying about who may or not be available for the trip to the south-west. And, with the promotion race so delicately poised, they can ill-afford a slip up here. Too many alterations often leads to a disjointed start. United need to gnaw away at Reading’s confidence by making an aggressive one here.

The Star's Sheffield United writer James Shield
Paul Ince is the manager of Reading: Clint Hughes/Getty Images
Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom: Barrington Coombs/PA Wire.