Billy Sharp has warned Nottingham Forest that Sheffield United will travel to the City Ground this weekend ‘in confident mood’ as they look to consolidate their position at the top of the Championship table.
Blades skipper Sharp scored a hat-trick, taking his tally for the season to 11 goals in 14 games, in a 4-2 victory over Wigan last weekend to move Chris Wilder’s men two points clear of nearest challengers Leeds, Middlesbrough and Norwich City.
Aitor Karanka's big-spending Forest sit six points and six places behind the Blades in the Championship table, and went out of the Carabao Cup to League One Burton Albion in midweek.
And Sharp said: “The games don’t get any easier but that’s what the Championship is all about.
“We went close last season but ultimately came up short, it was one step too far, but we need to keep grinding out results when we’re not at our best like we did against Wigan.
“Going to Forest will be a very difficult game because they’re in good form in the league, and it’s always a tough place to go.
“But we’re in confident mood and will hopefully go there and get the three points.”
Forest manager Karanka blasted his players in midweek after their cup defeat at Burton, admitting he was ‘angry and ‘embarrassed’. The Spaniard is expected to revert to a more recognised line-up against the Blades after making ten changes to face Nigel Clough’s Brewers.
Wilder, too, may be tempted to make changes of his own at the City Ground, especially if John Egan (hamstring) and Mark Duffy (hip) declare themselves available after missing the Wigan victory with injuries.
David McGoldrick, the former Forest striker, is walking a disciplinary tightrope after picking up his fourth booking of the season against Paul Cook’s Latics.
Another caution against Forest, if selected, would rule him out of the Steel City Derby against Wednesday next Friday. Chris Basham is suspended on Saturday.
"We now go to Forest and it's brilliant we go there top of the league,” Wilder said.
“Our aim now has to be to stay in the top two.
"The games are coming thick and fast and we have to be ready, players need to be ready to step in, like Richard Stearman did at the weekend."
On skipper Sharp, who was rested for the draw against Stoke last midweek before coming back with a bang against Wigan, Wilder added: "He was nice and fresh, he'd trained well all week and this is one of the things we're learning to do… plot our way through this testing schedule.”