Wigan boss’s Sheffield United verdict as he issues challenge to his side

Blades host Wigan on Saturday looking to strengthen their position in the table
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Shaun Maloney has challenged his Wigan Athletic side to rise to the challenge they will face on Good Friday when they travel to Bramall Lane to take on promotion-chasing Sheffield United.

The Championship’s bottom club are hoping to cause an upset against the second-placed team as they battle against relegation – a quest which wasn’t helped recently by a three-point deduction for failing to pay staff wages.

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Wigan are five points off fourth-bottom Cardiff City, having played a game more this season, and Maloney expects a tough test in South Yorkshire.

“Sheffield United have done very, very well this year," he said.

"They are one of the best teams in the league, especially out of possession and being aggressive. And this is why we have to be better on the ball than we have been.

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"We have to raise our level again because of the team we’re playing against, but that’s the challenge of this league and I’m looking forward to it after the way we played against QPR."

That performance against QPR brought Wigan a much-needed victory, with Maloney glad to see the focus and discussion being on matters on the field rather than on it.

"The performance was very good against QPR, and you saw both sides of what we can do,” he added. “We had to defend in the second half but I was really happy with the first half and how we played.

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"I felt a different atmosphere, too, with how many people were at the game. It works both ways and we have to make people want to come - so I understand it’s a two-way street.

"The last three or four games, I could ask no more of the players. But now it’s about the football. We played really well in the first half, but now we have to put it across 90 minutes.

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"But I felt a connection and an atmosphere in that last 15 minutes when the players really needed them, and I know we’re going to have a really good away support on Friday.

"I’m really looking forward to the game on Friday, it’s going to be a big challenge, but we have to be ready for it."

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