Chris Wilder, the Sheffield United manager, believes the personal duel between goalkeepers Jamal Blackman and Simon Moore will help decide whether or not his team qualifies for the Championship play-offs.
Blackman, on loan from Chelsea, is expected to start Good Friday’s game against Brentford as United attempt to claw back the two point gap separating themselves from sixth-placed Middlesbrough.
But with only eight matches of the season remaining, Wilder’s admission that Moore continues to “push” the 24-year-old “hard” is expected to boost his effort to drive-up performance levels as United, last season’s League One title-winners, chase back-to-back promotions.
“We want our ‘keepers to be making big saves,” Wilder said. “And so, although obviously we don’t want them doing too much, it’s been good to see that happen of late.
“Our ‘keepers have never been that busy, they’ve never been over-run, which tells you something about how we’re doing. But arguably the only criticism you could level at them at the beginning was that they weren’t making enough of those. We saw it happen against us plenty of times. We saw opposition ‘keepers making big saves when it mattered; saves they had no right to make but which turned games. That’s what’s happening here now.”
Blackman told The Star earlier this week that he will postpone a decision on his long-term future until the summer after Wilder revealed United could be tempted to try and sign him permanently if “there’s a big finish.”
“If they are pushing each other hard, that can only benefit us,” Wilder added. “The matches are going to get even tighter, even more fiercely contested, from here on in.”