Sheffield United: Clough rounds on goalkeeper’s critics

Mark Howard enjoys the support of his manager Nigel Clough � copyright : Blades Sports Photography
Mark Howard enjoys the support of his manager Nigel Clough � copyright : Blades Sports Photography

Nigel Clough is ready to stand shoulder to shoulder with Mark Howard despite admitting the goalkeeper is suffering a dip in form, writes James Shield.

Howard was responsible for the error which ended Sheffield United’s seven match unbeaten run away from home when they were beaten by Yeovil Town on Tuesday.

But Clough told The Star: “Mark is a far better player than that, being fair to him. He’s not hit the form yet, after being out for a while, that he was showing earlier in the season.

“We’d love him to get back to that, he’d love to get back to it but, because he’s a good ‘keeper, we know he will.”

Howard, who was responsible for one of Oldham Athletic’s goals during last weekend’s draw at Boundary Park, has been hampered by a back problem in recent months. Clough could choose to recall Iain Turner for tomorrow’s meeting with Bradford City if medical staff decide the 28-year-old would benefit from a rest.

Ben Williams, Howard’s counterpart at the Coral Windows Stadium, is also under the spotlight after gifting Bristol City one of their six goals in midweek.

“It was a routine save for Ben and unusual for him because he’s been safe in those situations,” manager Phil Parkinson said. “That goal really knocked the stuffing out of us.”

Clough, whose side remained fifth in the League One table despite losing at Huish Park, is determined Howard’s recent errors must not overshadow his superb performances earlier this term.

“Mark’s not had one shot to save out there (against Yeovil), not one,” Clough said. “But we lost the game and it was a game we shouldn’t have lost.

“I don’t know whether that’s been because he’s missed a few here and there. Obviously that can have an effect.

“We’ll see but there’s nothing to be gained from going completely overboard about things. There isn’t a player out there who doesn’t have fluctuations in form.”

Twitter: @JamesShield1

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