Gregory expects a test by Blades

Jamie Proctor bundles Crawley in front at Bramall Lane last season. Pic by Richard Parkes

Jamie Proctor bundles Crawley in front at Bramall Lane last season. Pic by Richard Parkes

First published in Sport by

Nigel Clough could be forgiven for feeling slightly nervous today.

The previous two managers to sit in the Bramall Lane hot-seat have both lost their jobs following poor results at home to Crawley.

Danny Wilson was fired within 24 hours of Crawley’s famous 2-0 win in April which dented their hopes of achieving automatic promotion.

Wilson’s permanent replacement David Weir lasted a bit longer – a whole week which included one more game – following a 1-1 draw last October which extended a miserable start to the season for the Blades.

Crawley boss John Gregory is adamant Clough has nothing to worry about today even if Reds do maintain their unbeaten record at Bramall Lane.

Clough turned United’s fortunes around in the league last year as they just missed out on the play-offs as well as guiding them to the semi-finals of the FA Cup.

The Blades have made a slow start to the current campaign after Clough shook up his squad in the summer but bounced back from losing their opening two games with victory at Peterborough on Tuesday.

Gregory has tipped them to go on and win promotion back to the Championship at the fourth time of asking and is aware his players will have to be at their very best to match them today.

Gregory, inset, said: “Sheffield were probably my favourites for promotion at the start of the season because of the way they finished last year.

“Nigel got his team playing well and turned things around, especially with that fantastic run they had in the FA Cup.

“They lost their first two games which was a bit of a surprise but they remain favourites in my opinion because they are a very good side.

“Their first two results were not what I would call the real Sheffield United but you sometimes get that at the start of the season.

“They are a massive club with a big following so it is going to be a big test for us all but we’ll be looking forward to the challenge.”

Gregory admits the 3-1 defeat to Bradford in midweek was a wake-up call for some of his players after winning their opening three games of the season 1-0.

The Reds boss had seen the warning signs during the smash-and-grab victory over Swindon last weekend but expects a certain level of inconsistency with such an inexperienced squad.

Gregory has little option to go with the same players again with skipper Josh Simpson and striker Matt Harrold unlikely to be available for at least another week.

He added: “Without doubt it is going to be a hard season for us but we’ve had a tough start and have got six points on the board so that is encouraging.

“It has not been made any easier by the fact I’ve not had the ability to change the team around. We’ve played four games in the space of ten days and it has been the same players who have gone out there and done it.

“I would have liked to have given Izale (McLeod) a breather on Tuesday because he has played every minute of every game but with Matt injured we have needed him.

“When you compare our squad and Bradford’s on Tuesday you can see what we are contending with.

“They have not got triallists or kids in the team and on the bench.

“They are all players with a lot of league matches to their name and that was probably the major difference.

“But when you are winning games you don’t talk about things like that.

“That is the situation we are in and we have got to make the most of it.”

Sheffield United (4-2-3-1, probable): Howard; Alcock, Collins, McGahey, McEveley; Doyle, Basham; Murphy Baxter, Davies; Higdon. Subs from: Butler, Campbell-Ryce, Flynn, McNulty, Reed, Harris, Turner, Scougall, McGinn.

Crawley (4-4-2, probable): Jensen; Oyebanjo, Leacock, Walsh, Bradley; Edwards, Smith, Bawling, Dickson; Tomlin, McLeod. Subs from: Essam, Rose, O’Connor, Henderson, Young, Banya, Richefond, Isaacs.

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