On paper, tonight’s match at Bramall Lane appears a guaranteed home banker.
Sheffield United, second in the table and unbeaten since August, versus a Bury team which has forgotten what it is like to win a League One game.
But, as Brian Clough was fond of reminding, football is actually played on grass. Where, following last weekend’s narrow victory over Shrewsbury Town, United’s players are acutely aware the odds seldom stack-up.
“You can’t play well all the time and the boys will have off-days,” midfielder John Fleck said. “There was some sloppy passing out there in the previous game and we just couldn’t get the final touch. When we are playing well we are hard to stop but fortunately, we’ve got some experienced boys who know, sometimes, you’ve just got to dig-in and grind the results out.”
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Although Saturday’s game against Shrewsbury was far too close for comfort, despite Paul Hurst’s side playing the entire second-half with nine men, it could prove a timely wake-up call. United entered the contest having scored 26 goals in only seven outings. But manager Chris Wilder used yesterday’s press conference to warn staff, squad members and supporters alike that his team can no be expected to overwhelm opponents every single week.
“It was a poor performance but it was also three points and that’s the main thing,” Fleck (pictured) continued. “We have to give them (Shrewsbury) a lot of credit, but we were disappointed with how we did. Ultimately, though, it was more important that we kept our run going and got another win at our place. I’m pretty sure everyone thought it was going to be a high scoring game when they went down to nine but it didn’t work out like that.”
Although Fleck insisted United must put their frustration behind them - “We’ve got another game coming up quickly and so it’s important to forget about all that.” - moving on will not be easy because of the casualties sustained en route. Mark Duffy (calf), Kieron Freeman (back) and Paul Coutts (shin) are all doubts for this evening’s contest with the latter falling victim to the poor challenge which led to Shrewsbury’s second red card.
“Their first sending-off (Jim O’Brien), if I’m honest I’m not so sure about it,” Fleck said. “The second one (Abu Ogogo) was a definite sending-off. It was a dangerous tackle all day long.”
With Billy Sharp scoring for the seventh time in five appearances during the 2-1 win, United will be grateful their captain is available to face a Bury team which has failed to win any of its previous 12 fixtures.
“Billy just does what he does,” Fleck, who provided the assist for his team mate’s strike, said. “Putting the ball in the back of the net. If you pick the right pass with him, you know it’s always going to be tucked away.”