It is crunch time for Sheffield United’s hopes of securing automatic promotion from the Championship this season.
The Blades are currently three points behind Leeds United in the league standings and know that they have to make an instant return to form if they are to overcome their Yorkshire rivals and finish in the top-two in May.
Last week’s disappointing draw with Millwall was the second game in succession where Chris Wilder’s side have thrown away a lead, a habit which simply has to be extinguished over the next four fixtures, starting with today’s clash against Nottingham Forest.
United’s preparations for this game have been far from ideal as they are likely to be without three of their regular starters. Whereas John Egan will miss out due to suspension after being sent off against the Lions, Chris Basham and Billy Sharp are also major doubts after picking up knocks (via Sheffield Star) which they have failed to shake off this week. Although it cannot be argued that the absence of this trio will have a profound impact on the quality on show at Bramall Lane, it could provide the opportunity for one player in particular to earn the respect of the club’s supporters.
Having arrived on loan from Cardiff City in the January transfer window, Gary Madine has had to try and shake off his previous association with arch-rivals Sheffield Wednesday. The forward enjoyed a successful five-year stint with the Owls earlier on in his career and therefore had it all to prove after signing for Wilder’ side.
Despite experiencing a slow start to his spell with the Blades, Madine, who is valued at £3.6 million (by Transfermarkt), suddenly burst into life in February by producing a stunning performance against Reading which saw him score a brace whilst also providing an assist in a 4-0 victory.
However, any lasting memories of this showing were extinguished a month later as he received a straight red card against Brentford which could have put his side in serious jeopardy if it wasn’t for the brilliance of David McGoldrick and Oliver Norwood.
After returning from his three-match ban as a substitute at Birmingham, Madine created the right kind of headlines last week as he scored against Millwall in a display which must have impressed Wilder. With the only other viable alternative in the striker’s position being Scott Hogan, it would be surprising if he doesn’t start against Forest.
Indeed, when you consider Madine’s recent disciplinary issues, United will be taking a risk if they are to bring him back into the fray yet it could turn out to be a masterstroke if the 28-year-old embarks on a run of form in-front of goal.
What do you think Blades fans? Does Madine deserve another opportunity to impress? Or should Wilder bring in someone else to fill the hole left by Sharp against Forest? Let us know below.
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