Sheffield United will attempt to overwhelm Millwall at The Den this weekend after Nigel Adkins, the visitors’ manager, acknowledged his team must take risks to qualify for the play-offs.
Adkins, vowing to persevere with the 3-5-2 system he believes has rescued United’s ailing promotion challenge, told The Star that adopting a safety first approach would, given the state of play in the League One table, represent a grave mistake as he race for a top six finish enters a decisive phase.
United climbed to 11th after beating Oldham Athletic 3-0 five days ago and, having analysed their performance against John Sheridan’s side, Adkins confirmed it will form the basis of his tactical template for a match set to define the remainder of the South Yorkshire club’s campaign.
“We started brightly,” he said. “In the last couple of games we’ve done alright but we’ve not converted our chances.
“I thought we were exhilarating at times, everyone was pressing in the right areas. Matty (Done) and John (Brayford), the two wing backs, have got a licence to get forward and I thought they did ever so well.
The fact of the matter is, we put the ball in the back of the net early on.”
Although fifth-placed Millwall will pose a much sterner test than relegation threatened Oldham, a closer inspection of their results this term reveals why Adkins is devising a bold gameplan despite the obvious risks involved.
The Londoners, who triumphed 2-1 at Bramall Lane earlier this term, boast the joint-best attacking record away from home in the division since but only the 15th best at home. Defensively, Neil Harris’ squad is also more effective on its travels.
Ryan Flynn, who impressed in a more central role against Oldham, could emerge as a pivotal figure as United attempt to exploit Millwall’s apparent frailty in front of their own supporters although fellow midfielder Florent Cuvelier could be available for selection after making progress in his battle to overcome a hamstring complaint. Chris Basham has also been receiving treatment on an ankle injury.
“There was a nice balance there,” Adkins reflecting on last weekend’s events, said. “Some pace at the back and people working hard individually and, just as importantly, effectively as part of their units.”
“That’s something which needs to continue,” Adkins added. “The key, though, was taking our chances, especially those early on because it enabled us to impose ourselves on the game and dictate what was happening.
“It’s simple. When you are on top, you need to score. That made the difference I thought.
“We’ve played well in recent weeks and not always got the results. We have played like that before and lost. On this occasion though, we were ruthless and the outcome of that is there for all to see.”