Preview: Sheffield United

Where We Are

A win and a defeat on penalties in the JPT makes this a somewhat positive week. That early season hot-streak appears to be in the rear-view for the moment with neither the team or individuals really on top form. The main news this week though is that Cyrus Christie will miss the next month with an injury picked up last Saturday against Stevenage. Given his recent performances a rest may not do him any harm and hopefully any replacement won’t put pressure on Pressley to rush Cyrus back too early.

The options at right-back appear to have further dwindled. Jordan Willis picked up an injury against Leyton Orient and had to be replaced by Aaron Phillips, making only his second appearance for the club. According to the Coventry Telegraph, Phillips put in a strong performance, especially defensively, which may tempt Pressley to hand Phillips his first start for the Sky Blues. However it seems to be Pressley’s policy of not rushing in younger players in order to protect them so don’t be surprised to see Jordan Willis (also quite young mind) to resume at right-back, the first time he’ll start two Coventry games in a row should it come to pass.

There doesn’t appear to be any definite news in regards to Carl Baker’s fitness, but that would suggest to me that he’s not fit enough yet to play. Billy Daniels featured from the bench on Tuesday night and could be asked to start on Sunday, given both that Adam Barton has struggled on the right and the absence of Cyrus Christie further decreases our threat from the right. After a very strong start Daniels appeared to struggle against Preston in his 3rd game of the season and has since struggled with injury so it will be interesting to see what level of performance constitutes the ‘real’ Billy Daniels. Alternatively that option could be to start with Louis Garner after an interesting cameo against Stevenage although that would be a massive risk and one that I doubt will be taken by Pressley.

Last Time We Met

Beating Sheffield United hasn’t usually come easily for Coventry City (remember that FA Cup semi-final?) but last season we drew at home and then beat them at Bramall Lane. The win in Sheffield was part of a highly important sequence of fixtures which culminated in home defeats to Crewe in the JPT and Yeovil in the league and ultimately with the departure of Mark Robins. It felt though that winning at Bramall Lane would springboard our push to promotion and with Leon Clarke scoring both goals there was optimism that life could continue without Dave McGoldrick. Unfortunately that never came to pass, although seems do seem to be OK without McGoldrick.

Where They Are

Thank god I didn’t write this last night as they’ve just sacked their manager David Weir. After an opening day win at home to Notts County things seemed to be looking rosy for the Blades. Further news that a Saudi paper magnate (one of those) had invested in the club seemed to herald the start of a brighter future after years of uncertainty at Bramall Lane following their relegation from the Championship a few years ago.

However they failed to win another game after the opening day and ultimately it’s cost Weir his job. In recent weeks the side has both been defensively sloppy and poor at even creating chances for their strikers to miss. Everything you don’t want your team to do, and that was despite signing Marlon King. Replacing Weir on the touchline will be everyone’s favourite elbowy centre-back Chris Morgan (who once broke a man’s cheekbone with his razor sharp elbows) luckily he’ll struggle to hurt anyone from the sidelines, although he’s likely to try.

Clearly though King will be the key player although there’s some confusion as to whether he’s been called up for the Jamaica national team although it seems now that he hasn’t been (according to Wikipedia and a Jamaican online newspaper I read). Sheffield United are not only massively underperforming in terms of the history of the club but also the talent they have in their squad. Febian Brandy, Jose Baxter and Jamie Murphy are all forwards with the pedigree to win games at this level with both Brandy and Baxter having proved it at Walsall and Oldham respectively.

In addition to that they have Harry Maguire and Neil Collins in defence who are one of the most solid and consistent defensive partnerships in the league and both probably should be playing in higher leagues. That they’re not is down to some poor fortune and poor management at the club over the past few years but should Morgan be able to get the team producing the level of performance that they should be then this is one of the best sides in the division. Morgan led Sheffield United over the line and into the play-offs where they lost to Yeovil after Danny Wilson was sacked but you wonder whether Morgan will be able to get Sheffield United performing to the required level with just a day to work with the players himself and the side completely out of form.

Prediction

Had Sheffield United already had a new manager in place for tomorrow (which they might well go and do) then I would really worry about this game being an opportunity for the side to perform to their expected level. Although being the pessimist that I am, I was worried about this game even when Weir was still at the helm and I think that eventually the penny’s going to drop for this Sheffield United side and they’ll rocket up the table in a month or so, a la us last year or Bournemouth.

I’ll try and be optimistic even though we’ll be without Christie and Baker for tomorrow and say that we’ll be able to edge past this side. It’s not going to be easy, Chris Morgan’s probably going to play a more physical and direct approach than Weir would have, but I just think that Sheffield United will be too low on confidence to battle us wholeheartedly, especially if they lose an early goal.

Prediction: 1-0 to Coventry.

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