Preview: Sheffield United vs. Preston North End
Updated Friday, 17th February 2012
Sheffield United host Preston North End at Bramall Lane this weekend in the npower League One.
The Blades come into this fixture after double victories over Wycombe Wanderers (3-0) and Huddersfield Town (1-0) at Bramall Lane and Galpharm Stadium - six points earned from these games as also come as a bonus with our rivals Wednesday losing their last two against Exeter City (1-2) away from home and Stevenage (0-1) which has seen United steal second spot ahead of this weekend's clashes. Wednesday face struggling Chesterfield tomorrow at the B2Net Stadium and with an early 1pm kick-off may have had three points in the bag before the Blades kick-off against the Lilywhites.
Blades boss Danny Wilson can welcome back former Everton and England international striker James Beattie who has missed the last three fixtures through suspension following his sending off at Charlton Athletic four games ago. He missed the FA Cup defeat to Birmingham City (0-4) as well as wins over Wycombe and Huddersfield.
Veteran striker Richard Cresswell is likely to start against his former club. He was signed by the Lilywhites in March 2001 - initially on loan until the end of the season before making a permanent deal. Cresswell scored on his debut in a 2-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers and added a further goal at Barnsley (4-0) before the seasons end.
He stayed at Deepdale until August 2005 when he signed for Leeds United. North End made the play-off final in May 2005; beating Derby County in the semis before losing 1-0 at the Millennium Stadium to West Ham United, they were 90 minutes away from the top flight and failed. Along the way he netted hat-tricks at Leicester City in the League Cup and also against Sunderland on New Years Day and made a total of 172 (+20) appearances and scored 57 goals.
Neill Collins - who netted the winner at Huddersfield last Tuesday night is likely to retain his centre-half position against his former club. He too joined the Lilywhites after a successful loan spell; initially signing in September 2009 from Wolverhampton Wanderers and making his deal permanent in January. However he made little appearances before joining Leeds United on loan in February 2010. He had made his debut at home to Coventry City in a 3-2 win.
He scored his only goal for North End against Ipswich Town (2-0) and made his final appearance at Derby (lost 3-5) on 16 February before moving to Elland Road and signed permanent in the summer. He made a total of 20 (+2) appearances for the Lancashire side and scored just once.
Three years ago this fixture would benchmark the two clubs enthusiasm to reach the Premier League as they met in the semi finals of the play-offs; United winning two-one on aggregate before bowing out to Burnley in the final at Wembley. Since then both clubs have gone 'downhill' and were both relegated from the Championship. The Red and White Wizards are in a more healthier position
The Lilywhites come into this fixture following a 1-0 win over Hartlepool United, there first win since 14 January when they beat Wycombe Wanderers (3-2) at home. Since then they have recorded results against Leyton Orient (0-2), Nott's County (0-0) and Yeovil Town (1-2). Their win over 'The Pool' put them twelfth in the table and nine points away from the play-offs, it was also the clubs first victory under new manager Graham Westley.
Deepdale boss Graham Westley will be without midfielder Paul Coutts ahead of this League One encounter. He missed the midweek victory over United though suspension and will serve the second of a two game ban at Bramall Lane tomorrow; he will be available for next weeks fixture against Walsall.
Meanwhile striking duo Iain Hume (hamstring) formely with Barnsley and former Liverpool and Sheffield Wednesday forward Neil Melor (knee) are long term absentees. They will also be without David Gray (hamstring) through injury.
The game against Hartlepool allowed defender Chris Robertson (Torquay United) as well as Nicky Hunt (on loan from Bristol City), Rhys Murphy (on loan from Arsenal) and Graham Cummins (Cork City) to make there North End debuts since joining the Lancashire side from there respective clubs. New signing Aaron Brown (Aldershot Town), a unused substitute on Tuesday night could make his debut against the Blades.
Chris Robertson, 25 could play against his former club. He was on the books at Bramall Lane between July and March 2007 where he failed to break into the first team.
Chester City handed him is Football League debut in a 5-0 drumming at Carlisle United whilst on a month’s loan in January 2006. In March 2007 he made a free transfer to Plainmoor, scoring on his debut in a 3-0 home win over Wycombe Wanderers.