Nigel Clough, the Sheffield United manager, has quashed suggestions his team is facing a selection crisis at centre-half after Chris Basham’s three match suspension was confirmed.
Officials at Bramall Lane attempted to overturn the red card Basham received during last week’s game at Port Vale before yesterday’s League One encounter against Scunthorpe was postponed due to the “treacherous” conditions surrounding their stadium.
Although the Football Association elected to uphold referee Stuart Attwell’s decision, which Clough later claimed had been influenced by Michael Brown’s reaction to their first-half challenge, the former England international insisted his squad are equipped to cope with a situation exacerbated by Paddy McCarthy’s potential return to Crystal Palace.
“We’ve got Terry Kennedy and Harrison McGahey who can both play there,” Clough told The Star. “Obviously it’s a blow to lose Chris, especially because he’s been doing so well of late.
“But what’s happened will create an opportunity for someone else. They are good young lads with plenty to offer who have shown what they are capable of in the past.”
McCarthy’s temporary contract with United is scheduled to expire this week. The 31-year-old, who has made 10 appearances since arriving on a short-term basis from Selhurst Park, has started their previous two fixtures on the bench. But McCarthy’s situation in the capital has been complicated by Palace’s recent announcement that they have parted company with Neil Warnock.
“We could ask about Paddy but, really, it’s out of our hands,” Clough explained. “The arrangement with Neil was always that he wanted him to go back for their FA Cup tie (with Dover Athletic).
“Potentially we could ask but, really, there’s nothing we can do. We’ll wait and see what happens and take things from there.
“But, like I say, we’ve got lads who can come in.”
United also return to action when they visit Queens Park Rangers in the third round of the competition on Sunday after it was deemed their meeting with Scunthorpe could not go ahead as planned due to the amount of snow and ice on the approach roads around Bramall Lane.
Referee Mark Heywood, who had been set to take charge of the contest, expressed concerns about the safety of supporters making their way to the ground despite praising United’s efforts to try and rescue to contest.
“The pitch, by 3pm, would have be playable so player safety was not a concern,” Heywood admitted. “But the surrounding areas, including approaches to the Kop stand, were simply treacherous for supporters.
“Even with the man power to try and clear it, it would have still been dangerous by the time the turnstiles opened. Common sense has to prevail and it simply isn’t safe.”
“I’ve called the game off on health and safety grounds,” Heywood added. “It was the right thing to do.”
Although a new date for the game has yet to be confirmed, tickets already purchased will remain valid with refunds offered to those supporters unable to attend when it does take place.
Mal Brannigan, United’s managing director, acknowledged: “We’ve had a lot of staff in and around Bramall Lane working to get the game played.
“The pitch is fine but from a health and safety point of view, access to the ground is treacherous.
“Financially, the game being called is detrimental to the club but the safety of supporters is of paramount importance.”
Clough will combine United’s preparations for this weekend’s visit to Loftus Road with efforts to bolster the options at his disposal in the transfer market. Chesterfield’s Jimmy Ryan features on a list of potential targets although, should Kennedy or McGahey sustain injuries during Basham’s absence, United could be forced to revise their recruitment plans.
Basham was dismissed following a tackle with Vale midfielder Brown during United’s 2-1 defeat in Staffordshire. Despite their numerical disadvantage, Clough’s side deservedly dragged themselves back on level terms when Jamal Campbell-Ryce cancelled-out Ben Williamson’s opener before Dany N’Guessan’s late penalty prolonged their search for a league win to six outings.
Clough said: “I’m amazed he (Brown) got up. When you see someone in so much pain you think there’s no way they can possibly continue but he completed the whole game.
“There was no sliding. No jumping in from Chris.
“If the referee was going to send him off then surely, when their centre-half goes in two footed and with his studs showing on the half-way line later on, he should go too?
“We don’t have any issues. All we are asking for is a little bit of consistency.
“I don’t think the referee could see what happened (between Basham and Brown). I think it was given on the advice of his assistant. But, like I say, consistency with things like that is all we ask for.”
“When one nil down, with 10 men, we could have folded,” Clough added. “We didn’t.
“There’s nothing wrong with the spirit out there and we played well in patches. Without the daft tackle which led to their penalty right at the end, we would have got something.
“But it didn’t work out like that. So now we’ve got to have the attitude that, whatever it takes, we’ve got to get that win.
“We’ve got to kill for it and do whatever it takes.
“It doesn’t matter whether it comes about in the first minute or the 91st minute. Just so long as it does.”
United’s attempts to close the 14-point gap between themselves and the automatic promotion positions will receive a boost if, as expected, Craig Alcock declares himself available for January 10th’s clash with Preston North End.
With Ben Davies also absent through injury, the full-back position has proven especially problematic for Clough of late with winger Ryan Flynn deputising for his colleagues until a hamstring strain curtailed his involvement.
“Craig was one of our most consistent performers at the start of the season,” Clough said.
Yes, he tailed off a little bit just before he picked up his back problem but we’ll be looking for him to show the same type of form that he did at the beginning.
“We had no issues at all with putting Ryan in there because, actually, it was something we looked very closely at during the summer.
“Still, it will be good to have Craig back because he’s a quality defender with good experience. He brings at lot, as we all know, to the table with him.”