Bolton Wanderers manager Phil Parkinson has backed his team to drive a wedge between Sheffield United and their supporters during this afternoon’s match at Bramall Lane.
Citing the Championship and top-flight experience of his players as a potentially decisive factor in the game, Parkinson insisted the visitors can turn what he concedes will be a hostile atmosphere to their own advantage.
Wanderers, who could recall former United goalkeeper Mark Howard, came from 2-0 down to claim a draw at Bradford City last week and Parkinson said: “Conditions in the first half at Bradford are going to be similar to the ones we face at Sheffield United. It will be a full house, and intense atmosphere. The difference is one of expectancy.
“When you are in a position like Sheffield United at the top of the league, at a club who have been down here for six seasons now, there is a tension. There is an underlying frustration which can – in the right circumstances – make it difficult for the home players to play.
“That is obviously our job. We need to be better than we were early on at Valley Parade and if we can quieten that crowd down then we know we are doing something right. I think if we start the game like we finished the last one there is no reason at all why we can’t beat the odds and get a result.”
Parkinson, who spent five years at Valley Parade before taking charge at the Macron Stadium last summer, has guided Wanderers to third in the League One table; two places and seven points behind leaders United. Howard also moved to Greater Manchester during the close season, having made nearly 80 appearances for the South Yorkshire club. With centre-forward Chris Long, on loan from Burnley, hoping to feature following injury, Ben Alnwick’s erratic performance during the first-half of Wanderers’ meeting with City could pave the way for Howard to return after a three month absence.
Despite questioning if United can handle the pressure associated with a promotion winning campaign, Parkinson has no such fears about his own squad’s mentality.
“I have a group of players, many of whom have played in the Championship or above, and others who want to be there,” he said. “They should be desperate to play in this sort of game.
“There is pressure. I don’t see anything wrong with it. At the start of the season this is the position we wanted to be in.”