Sheffield United: Relief for Blades manager Nigel Clough as Michael Higdon and Marc McNulty make comebacks in friendly

Marc McNulty in his mask as the Blades faced Bradford
Marc McNulty in his mask as the Blades faced Bradford
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Sheffield United strikers Marc McNulty and Michael Higdon staked their claims for starting places for tomorrow night’s League One clash with Notts County, after playing 45 minutes each in a friendly earlier this week.

Hamstring victim Higdon has missed United’s last six games, while McNulty has been unavailable for five after suffering a facial injury in an Edinburgh nightclub altercation last month.

Michael Higdon

Michael Higdon

But the striking duo - with McNulty wearing a protective mask - both played half of United’s behind-closed-doors fixture against Bradford City, which ended 1-1.

United also fielded Florent Cuvelier, making his return after an 11-month absence with a knee injury, and Kieran Wallace, a trialist from Ilkeston.

“Michael and Marc both played as planned and came through unscathed,” Clough said.

“Which means they are added to the squad and in contention to feature against Notts County, which is excellent news.

Sheffield United's Michael Doyle  Photographer Stephen White/CameraSport  Football - The Football League Sky Bet League One - Preston North End v Sheffield United - Saturday 30th August 2014 - Deepdale - Preston  � CameraSport - 43 Linden Ave. Countesthorpe. Leicester. England. LE8 5PG - Tel: +44 (0) 116 277 4147 - admin@camerasport.com - www.camerasport.com

Sheffield United's Michael Doyle Photographer Stephen White/CameraSport Football - The Football League Sky Bet League One - Preston North End v Sheffield United - Saturday 30th August 2014 - Deepdale - Preston � CameraSport - 43 Linden Ave. Countesthorpe. Leicester. England. LE8 5PG - Tel: +44 (0) 116 277 4147 - admin@camerasport.com - www.camerasport.com

“The plan was always to give Flo 30 minutes or so.

“We would have liked to have given him a bit longer but he felt something in training and we took the decision not to push him too hard too soon. He did OK and we plan to get him some more minutes in another friendly next week.

“Che [Adams] and Kieran did well too, so it was a very worthwhile fixture at this stage of the season.”

England under-17 international Wallace earned a reputation as one of Nottingham Forest’s brightest young stars when they reached the semi-finals of the FA Youth Cup two seasons ago, before being released.

And the 19-year-old could soon join former Ilkeston team-mate Che Adams at Bramall Lane, after impressing in a string of United U21 games.

United, meanwhile, go into the game against Notts County fifth in the League One table - and captain Michael Doyle believes his side are closer than ever to finally bouncing back to the Championship.

“To be honest, I think we’re still a long way away from where we want to be as a side,” Irishman Doyle, right, said.

“We’re probably the only side in that top half who haven’t yet been on a real winning run yet, and I still feel we’re due one of those.

“If we can get on that type of run soon, it’ll cement our place in the top two - as that’s where we’re looking.

“I feel we’re really close to being a promotion chasing side, which is the one achievement I want to get at this club. We haven’t managed to get up over the last few seasons, for a variety of different reasons, which is disheartening.

“But we’re really close this year without being disrespectful to the league. We’re as good as any team we’ve faced and there’s nothing for us to fear in this league.”

Doyle, who captained United to the FA Cup semi-finals last term, added: “We had a little taste of success at Wembley last season, and that cup run gave the whole club a lift.

“We want more of that.

“We’re not far away from getting on another good run and getting in and around that top two in the table.

“Everyone here is really determined to do just that... I’ve been here a long time and there have been a lot of disappointments along the way. To be honest, I’m sick of it really, like the players, the staff and the fans, I’m sure, are.

“It’s about time we got this club back up where it belongs and I feel we’ve got as good a chance as ever of doing that this season.”