Sheffield United: Injury concerns overshadow Clough’s preparations

Nigel Clough, the Sheffield United manager, has delayed naming his squad for this weekend’s visit to Fleetwood Town after revealing Craig Alcock and Chris O’Grady are still battling to overcome injury, writes James Shield.

Medical staff at Bramall Lane had hoped the duo would be eligible for selection against Graham Alexander’s side as last season’s FA Cup semi-finalists attempt to close the gap between themselves and the automatic promotion positions to just four points.

Craig Alcock is a doubt for Saturday's League One fixture at Fleetwood Town � copyright : Blades Sports Photography

Craig Alcock is a doubt for Saturday's League One fixture at Fleetwood Town � copyright : Blades Sports Photography

But Clough, speaking at the Redtooth Academy yesterday, described both as major “doubts” for United’s first ever appearance at Highbury Stadium.

“Alcock and O’Grady are not certain to be ready and still there are still one or two other knocks from our last game,” he said. “Well, not so much from that game in particular but more of an accumulation because we’ve had a very busy spell.

“We will get our best side out there and balance it with the demands of Tuesday also.”

Clough, whose team overcame Plymouth Argyle in the FA Cup second round five days ago, was referring to next week’s Capital One Cup quarter-finals which will see United attempt to add Southampton’s name to the list of scalps they collected en route to Wembley last term.

However, with United ranked fifth in the League One table, beating Town is the former England international’s immediate concern.

Alcock has been absent since November 22nd’s draw with Oldham Athletic due to a back complaint while O’Grady, signed on emergency loan from Brighton and Hove Albion, is nursing a calf problem.

“It was a bit innocuous really but backs are funny things with how they heal,” Clough said. “I’m sure a lot of people will testify to that.

“We have just got to be careful with Craig at this moment in time. One day he will wake up and it’s gone and then next it is hurting again. It is not as straightforward as a groin or hamstring.”

O’Grady was substituted midway through the first-half of United’s defeat by MK Dons after reporting discomfort in his lower leg.

Marc McNulty or Michael Higdon will be asked to spearhead the attack if the striker is again ruled-out while Ryan Flynn is expected to again deputise for Alcock at full-back.

Clough said: “It is very similar to what Chris did last week, so we are slightly cautious with that. There’s plenty of games left to play between now and the end of the season if he can get fit.

“So that’s not really a big concern for us.”

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Twitter: @JamesShield1