Whatever the scoreline, Chris Basham believes Sheffield United have already made an important statement of intent in knockout competition ahead of their FA Cup fourth round replay against Preston North End tonight, writes James Shield.
Nigel Clough’s side, sixth in the League One table but 16 points behind second-placed MK Dons, beat both West Ham and Southampton en route to last month’s Capital One Cup semi-final with Tottenham Hotspur.
But if, as seems likely, that gap proves insurmountable, Basham is confident United’s big-game experience will serve United well should they be forced to plot a more convoluted route out of League One.
“These matches help set us up for the play-offs, if we end up in those, because we’ve shown we can handle the big occasions,” Basham said. “That one (versus Spurs) was probably the biggest game of my career and I want more of those.
“They’ve definitely brought us closer together. You saw that when Swindon Town, who were the leaders, came here at the weekend and got beaten. We had to weather the pressure and won.
“And the signings we’ve brought in, they buy into that idea. About sticking together.
“The gaffer ha only brought in lads who will fit in. There’s a good core here.”
John Brayford and Paul Coutts are among those to arrive at Bramall Lane during the recent transfer window but are ineligible for selection this evening. United will face their namesakes from Manchester or Cambridge in the fifth round if they overcome the visitors from Deepdale.
“It is difficult, knowing the prize could be a tie with possibly the biggest club in the world, but we have to make sure the only thing we’re focused on is beating Preston North End,” Basham added. “We’ve played Preston three times already now and we know they’re a tough team.
“They’re a tough physical team too. We need to keep playing our stuff and be solid at the back, not get dragged into what they want us to do.
“But we’ve got good confidence and it’s important to keep that going.
“If we get beat, then it counts for nothing. The main thing is trying to win and get to another semi-final or final.
“But possibly playing Manchester United, at Bramall Lane, would be a great occasion too. I’m sure the fans would love it so it would be great to give them that.”