Sheffield United: Clough queries play-off planning

Jamie Murphy celebrates his goal during Sheffield United's victory over Swindon Town earlier this season � copyright : Blades Sports Photography
Jamie Murphy celebrates his goal during Sheffield United's victory over Swindon Town earlier this season � copyright : Blades Sports Photography
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Nigel Clough, the Sheffield United manager, has called for an urgent review of how the League One play-offs are scheduled ahead of Thursday’s semi-final first-leg against Swindon Town, writes James Shield.

Clough issued his plea after questioning why teams in the third tier of English football are being forced back into action before their Championship counterparts despite finishing the regular season 24 hours later.

“I don’t know who plans it - I am sure it’s around the Premier League - but it does seem daft that it’s three weeks to the final, yet you play the two semi-finals within a week,” Clough said. “It’s a quick turnaround, we have three big games in eight days and then a long wait.

“I’m sure there’s a reason but, from our perspective, it does seem a bit strange. We’re all in the same boat but it’s something that might need looking at again.

“There’s almost two weeks from the second leg until the final. I don’t understand that.”

United secured fifth place - and a two legged tie with Swindon - after drawing 1-1 with fellow promotion contenders Chesterfield on Sunday afternoon. They visit Wiltshire on Monday evening while the other semi-final, between Preston North End and Paul Cook’s side, will be decided this weekend.

Championship clubs, who concluded their regular campaigns on Saturday, compete on May 8/15 and May 9/16 respectively.

“We all appreciate the demands of television and stuff like that,” Clough said. “We understand why it has to be a consideration but it’s still a little hard to understand.

“Having said all of that, though, we’re still glad we’re in them and we’re hoping to make the most of the opportunity. The same as everyone else involved will be.”

United are set to recall Chris Basham, Jamie Murphy and Paul Coutts for the visit of Swindon.

Clough, who has guided his team into the last four of both the Capital One and FA cups since taking charge last term, said: “It will be a patient game, a bit like Chesterfield in that they had the ball a lot. The important thing is we don’t get impatient ourselves.

“We need to be a little bit more on the front foot, that’s for sure. But I think having the likes of Basham back out there will help us in that respect.”

“They weren’t involved for the Chesterfield game because we wanted to give them a little time to recharge their batteries.”

Twitter: @JamesShield1

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