Bristol Rovers v Sheffield United Match Preview
By Simon Gray
Bristol Rovers play another highflying Yorkshire based side in midweek as top of the league Sheffield United come to town.
Rovers drew 1-1 with fifth placed Bradford City on Saturday in a match where on loan goalkeeper Joe Lumley impressed making two brilliant saves to deny the Bantams the victory.
Rovers face the top three over the next four matches this month in what could potentially define whether they are play off contenders or not.
Sheffield United bring a stern test as they visit the Memorial Stadium after winning eight of their last 11 league games and assistant manager Marcus Stewart has described how great a job Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder is doing.
“They are a really good side. They are hard to break down and very fluent in their attacking play. That’s why they are top of the league,” Stewart told the Bristol Post.
“It was a tricky job for him. He got promoted with Northampton last season by playing in a completely different way than Sheffield United do now.
“They are where they should be in terms of the crowds they get and how much they can spend on players. But actually getting a club to simply meet the expectation is a lot easier said than done.
“It is also great to have the financial backing to go and buy players like (James) Hanson and (Samir) Carruthers but that also brings a different kind of pressure on the manager.
“The job he is doing cannot be underestimated. The pressure is on him like it was with us in the Conference. The fans expect you to be top of the league and you have to deliver that.
“He has fostered a real connection between fans and players and that can have a massive effect. The players are at it and working hard for each other and the whole town are behind them at the moment.
Sheffield United travel down to Bristol having won four of their last five away league games.
The Blades have a tough month of their own and like Rovers have matches against both Scunthorpe and Bolton before the end of February but manager Chris Wilder knows that his team needs to take it one match at a time.
“The next match is the only one that matters,” Wilder told the Sheffield Star.
“They’re all worth three points and, as the last six years have shown, you’ve got to work damn hard for those in this division.”
Rovers may be without midfielder Billy Bodin after he missed Saturday’s draw with Bradford through illness. If Bodin is not available then manager Darrell Clarke may opt to play the same side that started the Bradford match.
Rovers’ newest recruit Bob Harris may play against one of his former sides, the left back made 56 appearances for Sheffield United over two years but is yet to make an appearance for his new side.
Sheffield United head into the match with Paul Coutts and Ethan Ebanks-Landell in contention of making an appearance. Both players missed Saturday’s win over Peterborough United but Wilder was confident in his post match interview that both players would be available.
It is the first time that Sheffield United travel to face Rovers in the league since 1989, which ended in a 1-1 draw.
The last time these two sides met at the Memorial Stadium was in a FA Cup First Round match in 2012, it ended in a 2-1 win for Sheffield United. League Two Rovers opened the scoring through David Clarkson before League One Sheffield United came from behind thanks to goals from Nick Blackman and Chris Porter.
The fixture earlier this season between these two sides ended in a 1-0 Sheffield United win thanks to Harry Chapman’s header. Rovers ended the match with 10 men after forward Jermaine Easter was sent off almost straight after the Blades opened the scoring.