Sheffield United: Manager considers a selection ‘gamble’ as his team battles for play-off qualification

Leon Clarke hopes to face Aitor Karanka's side: David Klein/Sportimage
Leon Clarke hopes to face Aitor Karanka's side: David Klein/Sportimage
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Sheffield United will consider a number of variables, including the amount of games left to play this season, before deciding whether or not Leon Clarke and David Brooks start tomorrow’s game against Nottingham Forest.

Clarke, the club’s leading goalscorer this term, has missed United’s last three games with a hamstring injury while Brooks is still waiting for his first start since recovering from glandular fever.

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder (left): Robin Parker/Sportimage

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder (left): Robin Parker/Sportimage

With the race for a top six finish delicately poised - only two points separate seventh placed United from Middlesbrough in sixth - Chris Wilder is keen for both to feature against Aitor Karanka’s side.

But, describing both as potential “match-winners”, the United manager admitted: “There’s nine (games) to go. That’s a fifth of the season roughly left. That makes it more awkward in terms of the decisions with Leon. He’ll be okay after the break but it whether we take that chance.

“We’ll leave it with him because he’s the best to know what he’s body like, he’s got the experience to make a decision as well. He’ll not want to miss games. There’s still sensible decisions to be made.”

Speaking earlier this week, Wilder criticised the “conspiracy” theorists who claim United are using Brooks sparingly because of Premier League interest in the 20-year-old.

David Brooks is expected to feature against Nottingham Forest: Robin Parker/Sportimage

David Brooks is expected to feature against Nottingham Forest: Robin Parker/Sportimage

“Brooksy could start but it’s still 55 or 60 minutes,” Wilder said. “We’ve got that option though. We can do it the other way, where he comes off the bench. Leon is obviously the bigger gamble but he’s only been out two weeks. He’ll have to come through tests. Really, sometimes we’ll do them and he’ll feel good. Then, on another day, he’ll say it feels tight and we don’t want to push him through that next barrier. We were hoping it would be straight-forward but it’s not been unfortunately. We’ve also got to factor in the pitches.”