Leon Clarke provided Chris Wilder with a timely reminder of his goalscoring prowess against Crystal Palace under-23’s earlier this afternoon.
The former Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sheffield Wednesday centre-forward was on target as Travis Binnion’s development squad beat their rivals from London 1-0 at Bramall Lane.
Clarke, who was taking part to maintain his fitness level as he serves a three match suspension, headed home in the second-half of a match which also saw new signings Cameron Carter-Vickers and Ben Heneghan make their first appearances since arriving from Tottenham Hotspur and Motherwell respectively.
But with Wilder watching from the stands, Clarke’s contribution was especially significant given the fitness issues which have plagued United’s attack in recent weeks. Caolan Lavery is expected to be out for around eight weeks after suffering a horrific facial injury during the recent Championship victory over Derby County while fellow strikers Ched Evans and James Hanson are nursing minor complaints.
“We’ve lost a few,” Wilder, who swooped for Birmingham City’s Clayton Donaldson on transfer deadline day, said. “So the sooner we get everyone back the better.”
Clarke will miss this weekend’s visit to Sunderland after being dismissed during last month’s meeting with Barnsley. But the 32-year-old, who had started all of United’s first three league fixtures since being promoted from League One, could return to action when Wilder’s side travels to Bolton Wanderers next Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Nat Shaw scored a ha-trick as United Ladies beat Birmingham and West Midlands 6-0 at the Steelphalt Academy. Millie Kenyon, Kim Brown and Jen Pearson were also on target.