The Blades secured their first home league victory since beating Yeovil Town on 21 October after their victory over Preston North End last Saturday but despite such a disappointing record the S2 side remain 6th in the table. They have however started 2015 in good stead after beating Queens Park Rangers (3-0) in the FA Cup away from home and recorded a 2-1 over the Lilywhites last weekend. They next face Tottenham Hotspur in the first leg of the semi-finals of the League Cup before once again facing Preston in the FA Cup.
Second-half goals from Marc McNulty and Jamal Campbell-Ryce kept Sheffield United's faint hopes of automatic promotion alive as they stunned Preston 2-1. McNulty scored his 10th of the season with a superb finish following a scramble in the penalty area before Campbell-Ryce ended the visitors' hopes after combining well with Jamie Murphy. It was a deserved and crucial victory for United who, despite beating the likes of Southampton, West Ham and QPR of late, have struggled to translate their form in knockout competition into a positive run of League One results. Substitute Josh Brownhill set up a nervous finish by converting a 90th minute free-kick but United held on.
Simon Grayson has fashioned North End into a formidable unit since taking charge at Deepdale. And, with the vastly experienced duo of Jermaine Beckford and Kevin Davies spearheading their attack, they presented a young United team with a fearsome physical challenge. However, despite looking dangerous on the break, North End were powerless to prevent Nigel Clough's side causing them plenty of problems during the first half with Murphy shooting wide from distance early on before captain Michael Doyle followed suit. Terry Kennedy, another product of United's youth system, bravely tried to bundle home after contesting a high ball with Thorsten Stuckmann but the North End goalkeeper stood firm. Stefan Scougall and McNulty combined well midway through the opening period but the latter shot wide.
Another excellent passage of play, this time insitgated by Doyle, saw McNulty force Stuckmann to save just before the break but there was still time for Paul Gallagher to serve notice of the threat North End posed when he swept wide. United deservedly took the lead in the 54th minute when McNulty turned home beyond Stuckmann and they should have doubled their advantage soon after but Doyle prodded wide. Campbell-Ryce did increase the lead in the 70th minute after slipping the ball through Stuckmann's legs following Murphy's driving run. North End responded by producing their best period of the game with Brownwhill reducing the deficit in the 90th minute.
Blades boss Nigel Clough will once again be without key player Chris Basham who serves the last of a three match suspension having been dismissed in the Boxing Day defeat at Port Vale. The former Blackpool midfielder has already missed victories against Queens Park Rangers (3-0) in the FA Cup and last weeks win over the Lilywhites. Meanwhile United will once again be without James Wallace who picked up an 'unknown' injury in the U21's 7-0 victory over Coventry City recently and is unknown as to when he will return.
MK Dons will be looking to complete the double over the Blades after they grabbed a late one-nil victory at Bramall Lane on 2 December. The Dons lay 3rd in the table after coming from two goals down to draw 2-2 at Crawley Town last week but that vital point was enough for the Stadium:MK side to move above Preston North End on goal difference.
Will Grigg and Dele Alli scored late goals as MK Dons battled back from two goals down to grab a point in a 2-2 draw at struggling Crawley. Former Dons striker Izale McLeod wasted a glorious chance to open the scoring in only the third minute when he mis-kicked with the goal at his mercy after being set up by Gavin Tomlin. But McLeod put Crawley ahead from the penalty spot in the 14th minute with his 10th goal of the season. The striker, who missed a spot-kick against the Dons in August, coolly sent goalkeeper Dave Martin the wrong way after being tripped by former Crawley defender Kyle McFadzean.
Crawley's Danish goalkeeper Brian Jensen was forced off injured six minutes before the break when dislocating a finger while diving at the feet of the on-rushing Samir Carruthers. With no goalkeeper included in their five-man bench, veteran striker Matt Harrold took over between the posts. McLeod cashed in on poor defending to double Crawley's lead three minutes after the break with a low shot from the edge of the area. There was a moment of controversy when Dons midfielder Carl Baker ran off the field and jabbed a finger towards a spectator, but referee Graham Salisbury took no action after speaking to Baker and a steward.
Stand-in goalkeeper Harrold, with Jensen standing behind the goal to encourage him, produced saves to deny Ben Reeves and Alli. Harrold was beaten in the 76th minute when Grigg looped in a header from an assist by Reeves and Alli grabbed a point for the Dons by scrambling home an equaliser deep into stoppage time.
Dons boss Karl Robinson will host the Blades without striker Benik Afobe who has seen his loan deal with MK Dons (from Arsenal) ended in order for him to join Wolverhampton Wanderers in a perminant deal. The 21 year old netted 19 goals in 30 appearances for the club including a double strike in the clubs 4-0 home win over Manchester United in the League Cup earlier this season.
Blades-Mad Prediction: MK Dons 0 Sheffield United 2