Chris Wilder has insisted Sheffield United will not abandon their attacking principles at Hillsborough tomorrow despite admitting five centre-forwards, including leading goalscorer Billy Sharp, are in danger of missing the game through injury.
With Clayton Donaldson and Leon Clarke also facing a race against time to declare themselves fit, Ched Evans could be the only recognised striker at Wilder’s disposal for the meeting with Sheffield Wednesday.
Although Evans recently confirmed he is playing through the pain barrier after postponing ankle surgery, the United manager said: “We won’t take a backward step. We’ve never taken one since I’ve been here and we’re not going to start doing it now. We’ll be on the front foot, as we always have been. That’s the way we want to play.”
Wilder was suspected of subterfuge when, speaking at his pre-match media conference earlier this week, he indicated Evans could again lead United’s frontline after starting against Norwich City last weekend. But, having already ruled Caolan Lavery and James Hanson out of the derby, there are genuine concerns Sharp, Donaldson and Clarke will also watch the match from the stands. If those fears are realised, it would leave Wilder desperately short of creative options on the bench. Losing Sharp, who claimed 30 goals as United lifted the League One title last season, would be a particularly heavy blow.
“We are hopeful of having some (centre-forwards) available,” Wilder said. “Whatever happens, it’s up to us to try and formulate a plan to win the game. They (Wednesday) have a lot of experience. I don’t know how they’ll rock-up but we’ll get a performance out of whoever we’ve got on the pitch.”