The Sky television cameras will be present at Bramall Lane on Sunday as Sheffield United play host to Coventry City. Whilst The Blades edged past Oldham in the FA Cup last weekend, The Sky Blues were without a fixture so they have had an extra week to prepare for this match.
Over 20,000 supporters will be packed into the stadium and a vociferous atmosphere will undoubtedly resonate on to the pitch. Whilst the home section remain disappointed with their start to the season, the travelling fans will be in buoyant mood as their team targets a return to the top of the league.
Sheffield United were tipped as promotion favourites prior to the season getting underway, but they currently in 12th position. With supporters getting increasingly frustrated, Nigel Adkins is under pressure to galvanise his players into a winning side. In their last five outings, United have registered 0 wins, 3 draws and 2 losses.
Conceding goals has been a real contributing factor to The Blades’ failings, with their defence shipping 30 goals so far. They have, however, scored a respectable 32 goals themselves to ensure they sit in mid-table. Currently 6 points off of the play-off positions, another 3 points from this fixture will be welcome as they attempt to resurrect their campaign, however.
The Sky Blues are in fine form going into this encounter and they currently hold an unbeaten run of 11 games. Fans of the midlands outfit have witnessed some brilliant football so far this term. Tony Mowbray’s side have been fluent going forward whilst being relatively compact defensively, allowing them to sit 2nd and in the upper echelons of League One.
Coventry’s Adam Armstrong has scored 13 of his side’s 38 goals and he has gained a substantial amount of attention. At the other end of the field, only 21 goals have been conceded and The Sky Blues subsequently have the best goal difference in the division. In regards to the last five fixtures, 3 wins were followed by 2 draws and supporters will be hoping for a return to winning ways.
The home side have a healthy number of personnel to choose from as they search for victory. Only a couple of injury concerns are to be had with Ryan Flynn sidelined and David Edgar a doubt with a calf strain. Questions have been raised in regards to Bob Harris’ availability after he was stretchered off early into Saturday’s game, however, the club have recently published that he should be fit.
One other player that will certainly be missing out is former Coventry youngster Che Adams. The striker is United’s top scorer with 7 goals to his name but an unnecessary shove on an Oldham player warranted a red card. As with everyday dismissal, an opportunity to appeal the suspension was given to The Blades but they decided not to take it.
Coventry City remain without Reda Johnson and Ivor Lawton as the pair face an extensive spell on the sidelines. The club have revealed that Conor Thomas will be out for 3-4 months too after an operation on a hip problem. Jordan Willis is also still injured but he is making progress with his recovery and he should available in the coming months. An extra option has been drafted into the defensive line, however, as Martin Lorentzson signed a contract until the end of the current season.
Some more positive news has been handed to Mowbray and his side during this past week as Joe Cole and James Maddison both returned to fitness. The aforementioned hasn’t featured since a 4-3 win over Barnsley whilst the latter has been out since August after fracturing his ankle. Although forcing their way into the starting lineup may prove a difficult task, both should feature on Sunday.
Ones To Watch:
The versatile forward who can play either out wide or in a more central position made the move from Spotland earlier this year. A solid start to the 2014/15 campaign with Rochdale alerted a host of League One clubs and it was Sheffield United who triumphed in the battle to secure his services to sign him in February.
Despite not having the best of scoring records, his technical ability and link-up play is unquestioned and he can be deadly in the number 10 position behind a main striker. Relentless work rate and a dogged style means defenders never have a moments rest when he’s on the pitch.
City’s back four will certainly have to be on their guard to thwart him and his pace. With the capability of creating an opportunity out of nothing, Done is always a good bet to pop up with a goal and I wouldn’t be too surprised if he did find the net. He’s certainly a fans’ favourite at The Lane.
Another favourite of the Bramall Lane faithful, Brayford has recently returned from a lengthy spell on the sidelines and he’s lifted the mood. After starting his career at Burton Albion after progressing through the youth ranks, he then went on to play for Crewe Alexandra, Derby County and Cardiff City.
Following his inability to break into The Bluebirds’ first team, he first made the move to Bramall Lane on a loan deal in January 2014. After making a good impression on then manager Nigel Clough, Brayford signed permanently for The Blades in January 2015 after making a further 28 appearances for Cardiff City.
Known for his beard, the defender’s footballing talents are much more stylish and he’s very capable on the ball. Nigel Adkins’ side look much more assured with him in the heart of their defence and he’ll have a huge part to play on Sunday as City’s forward line attempt to prosper.
After coming through the Bolton Wanderers academy Basham failed to cement a place in the first team and the following few seasons weren’t very productive. He only managed to clock up 35 appearances between 2006 and 2010 at Bolton, Stafford Rangers (loan) and Rochdale (loan) respectively.
However, his career really took off when he signed for then Premier League Blackpool in the summer of 2010. He then enjoyed a four-year stint at Bloomfield road where he appeared 85 times, scoring 5 goals. In 2014 his contract expired and he opted to make the switch to Sheffield United.
Since signing, he has gone on to captain the club and he is a real leader whether he plays in the defence or in midfield. His versatility makes him a pivotal part of The Blades’ squad and he is a very good player at League One Level. A defensive nouse that could restrict The Sky Blues is also coupled with sound passing skills, he could be a danger.
“I think the two week break has been good. It has given us time on the training pitch, getting back on the grass.”
“It would have been nice to keep our run going – we haven’t lost in a couple of months in the league, but it gave us a chance to get Joe Cole and James Maddison up to speed.”
“We saw at Bradford how a bank of fans behind the goal – travelling fans, I mean – can make a difference.”
“We need to go, do what we do, ask questions of Sheffield United and perform. I’m concentrating on ourselves, and keeping the high positivity and confidence around the club.
“We need to go and transmit our positivity onto the pitch, but remember we need endeavour and hard work to match physical traits of the opposition otherwise it come come undone.”
“I enjoy games like Sheffield United, but it’s not about me, it’s about the players. The last time we had a game like this was at Bradford City, an away game of similar standard.”
“I think it’s that type of season. Sheffield United are 12th, but I’m sure they – and Nigel Atkins – would have expected to be higher. When their momentum comes they will be difficult to stop given the squad at their disposal.”
View From The Opposition – Andy Crosby:
“Obviously it’s a big game, it’s the next one, and Coventry have got off to a fantastic start. I think Tony (Mowbray) and Mark Venus have gone in there and done a good job of taking some loan players from big clubs.”
“They’ve found a style of play which is suiting them, they’ve got a goal scorer in Adam Armstrong and they’ve been playing consistently well.”
“It’s a good game, it’s a game where we can affect the team’s above us by starting to claw back some points. Obviously with it being live on TV it becomes that little bit bigger.”
“It will be a big crowd but we have to go out and perform and think about what Coventry’s strengths are, but we really focus on ourselves and what we can do to try and win this game of football.”
This tie is always one I keep my eye out for when the fixtures are released as it sees two sizeable clubs pit their wits against each other. Neither club should be in the third division but that’s football for you. Sheffield United are always tipped for promotion every season and it should be the sole target for The Blades. Coventry are a force to be reckoned with this season too, making it an appealing fixture.
I have been to watch Sheffield United on three occasions this term, only due to the fact I live approximately a minute walk away from Bramall Lane. The only SkyBet League One game I witnessed was against a struggling Colchester side and the team from Essex ran out 3-2 victors. I’ve also watched Adkin’s side thump Notts County 5-1 in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, as well as casting an eye over their narrow 1-0 triumph over Oldham last weekend in the 2nd round of the FA Cup.
Over the course of those three games I’ve built up a brief knowledge of their side and the way they play. They like to keep possession of the ball in a similar way to us, but they haven’t been as effective as Mowbray’s men. Despite not being the best side I’ve seen this season, they aren’t the worst either. Bramall Lane can be an incredibly difficult place to gain a result and I expect the same on Sunday.
However, I think the aim for us has to be grabbing an early goal. I’ve experienced how frustrated and negative the home fans can get. If we do take the lead and then frustrate them, it would be no surprise to hear a chorus of boos ring around the stands. We can then target this hostile atmosphere and pounce.
Of course, I am still wary of Sheffield United as they do possess a squad that’s capable of winning games. We just have to remain professional as always and ensure we do our job. We don’t want to be the team that they defeat to stop their winless streak in the league.
With Joe Cole and James Maddison both poised to return, I feel confident that they and the other City players can guide us to victory. The absence of Che Adams could hit The Blades hard and, of course, it denies the curse that ex-City boys seem to carry around with them. Connor Sammon is likely to replace him, but if we defend astutely then we should have enough firepower to breach a shoddy Sheffield United back line.
My Score Prediction:
Sheffield United 1-2 Coventry City