Nigel Clough warns against underestimating Yeovil as Sheffield United look to cement play-off place

Nigel Clough
Nigel Clough

He spent the eve of Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Oldham sleeping rough at Bramall Lane to raise money for charity.

And although Nigel Clough spent last night in the rather more congenial surroundings of a hotel in Bristol, the Sheffield United manager is expecting anything but a comfortable reception from doomed Yeovil tonight.

“This could be our toughest test in a while,” the United manager told The Star.

“Relegation focuses them even more on next season, they’ll be trying to impress the new boss [Paul Sturrock] and he will know that any momentum they can build up now will help them next season.

“All that makes for a dangerous game for us.

“Honestly, as a manager these are the kinds of games that you worry about more than any others; the banana skins.

“Other clubs will look at us going there and say ‘they’ll get something there’. So if we don’t, that will give them a boost too. We’ve seen that ourselves in the past; so we want to avoid boosting any other teams too.

“They’ve got nothing to lose so they’ll come out and have a go. We have to go there and get a result.”

Yeovil, who face United having won just one of their last 13 games, were relegated on Saturday after a 1-1 draw against Notts County in Sturrock’s first game in charge.

Less than a year ago, the Glovers suffered a similar fate from the Championship and Clough added: “I was surprised they struggled again after coming down to League One but that’s the lingering effect of relegation.

“You see it sometimes the other way with clubs like Rotherham, who use the upward momentum of promotion to do it again straightaway. But there’s also a hell of a hangover when you get relegated.

“We also have no idea what team Paul will play so we have to totally concentrate on ourselves; we have to get the right team out there and then go about our business in a professional manner to come back with the three points.”

Yeovil’s plight comes less than 24 months after their play-off semi-final victory over United set them on the path to the Championship; which Clough believes highlights the importance of his behind-the-scenes overhaul at Bramall Lane, which is designed to ensure they thrive, rather than struggle, if they achieve promotion.

“That’s the idea,” the Blades boss, who confirmed that Jamal Campbell-Ryce will miss the next month after picking up an injury on loan at County, said.

“You’ve got to balance the short term and the long term, ideally. Of course, promotion remains the ultimate aim. There’s no getting away from that.

“But we want to do it in a way which is sustainable in the long term. We’ve seen people come in since January and they’ve made a big impact... we can do that now.

“I still think we’re a couple of players short but we want to get up there this season.

“If not, it would be nice to have another crack at it next season. But make no mistake, we will do everything in our power to make sure we get up there this season.”

If, as looks increasingly likely, United secure their ticket for this season’s play-off lottery, Clough believes his squad of players possess the mental toughness to cope - as highlighted by their fightback from 2-0 down to secure a point away at Oldham at the weekend.

“To come back to 2-2 shows a lot of character,” the 49-year-old, who could recall Steven Davies and Matt Done to his starting eleven tonight, said.

“And we’ll have to show more of that at Yeovil. The pitches are so difficult at times, too, but you look at Chelsea at QPR on Sunday; top of the Premier League against second-bottom.

“Chelsea would have settled for a point until the QPR goalkeeper miskicks one and they go on to win it with a goal in the last minute.

“Sometimes you have to show that character, no matter how good a side your are; at times you have to hang in there, as we did at times on Saturday. That’s especially important at this stage of the season.

“Chelsea did that and got the win. If it had gone the other way, or they’d have settled for a draw, everyone would have said they were rubbish!

“Instead, they nick a last-minute winner and it becomes a perfect away performance.

“It’s fine margins between the two but that character is the key.”