Under Blades boss Danny Wilson United have shown resilient strength since there Play-Off Final defeat (to Huddersfield Town) last May and since there fifth Wembley woe have stacked up twelve matches unbeaten. However, of the five games have managed three of these on the road and should automatic promotion prevail then these home ties must be turned into victories. Striker Dave Kiston has become somewhat of a lucky mascot away from Bramall Lane for United, he netted his third goal of the campaign in a 1-0 win at Preston last weekend, a delicate lob over German keeper Thorsten Stuckmann (42 minutes) after Tony McMahon had hit the visitors on the break with a Liverpool style 'long pass.'
Victories at Deepdale have been hard to come by of late, winning just three in the last decade - but that single goal result nailed on the Blades second successive victory their after a 4-2 win last season. The maximum points claimed retained there third position but took some comfort in Tranmere's 3-1 loss at Bournemouth, leaving the Blades the only team in the Football League without defeat.
In last seasons encounters the two results ended 3-2 with the respected home side winning each fixture. Bramall Lane (16 August) was the setting for the first fixture, but were given hard work and on a Tuesday night had to come back from two goals down after former Blade Kevan Hurst (46) and Will Grigg (51) had given the Saddlers an early second half lead. But goals from Matt Lowton (59) and Lee Williamson (68) drew the sides level and on 74th minute Richard Cresswell struck home a match winning penalty after Willismson had been brought down; 3-2.
At the Bescot Stadium (6 March), again a Tuesday night fixture - the Blades were twice forced to come from behind but left the Midlands club without a point and once again all the goal action coming in the second half. Sam Mantom (55) got the scores rolling, giving the home side the lead before Lee Williamson (65) levelled ten minutes later. Former Barnsley striker Jon Macken (73) retained there lead before the reliable Ched Evans (76) soon brought the scores level - but there was to be no reply once substitute Alex Nicholls (81) bulged the Blades net; 2-3.
Blades boss Danny Wilson may have top ring in the changes and despite Dave Kiston netting the winner at Deepdale he is likely to sit this game out after playing through the first half with a virus and was apparently sick in the changing room - with either veteran Richard Cresswell or Chris Porter as his replacement. George Long will continue in goal for the absent Mark Howard (thigh), but United are boosted by the returns of Neill Collins who was included on the substitutes bench on Saturday.
Although not likely to be handed a first choice role, defender Darryl Westlake could be amongst the seventeen man squad to face his former club. He came through the youth ranks at the Bescot Stadium - making his debut in August 2009 in a 2-2 draw at home to Southend United and during his three year stay netted just once, a 1-1 draw with Oldham Athletic in January 2011and upon his contract expiring left the Midlands club in July 2012 to join the Blades having made 70 (+8) appearances for the club and scored just once.
The Saddlers come into this fixture without a win in five matches following a 2-2 home draw with Crewe Alexandra, but will be disappointed to end the match all-square after Jamie Paterson (12) and Florent Cuvelier (26) had fired them into a two goal lead, but before the break Mark Ellis ( 44) had pulled one back for the Railwaymen and deep into stoppage time substitute Chuks Aneke (90) levelled the scores.
The visitors will have almost a fully fit squad with only former Doncaster Rovers defender James Chambers (hamstring) doubtful ahead of tonight's clash.Tactically things are unlikely to change much as Smith favours a consistent squad selection as demonstrated by the lack of changes despite a run of disappointing results; they expect top scorer George Bowerman to return to the starting line up and for The Saddlers to employ a version of the 4-4-1-1 tactic.
Saddlers manager Dean Smith is likely to field Andy Taylor against his former club who only left Bramall Lane this summer when his contract came to an end. He had initially been signed by Kevin Blackwell in July 2009 but during his spell with the Blades was hampered by injury, particularly last season where he recovered in time for the Play-Offs. He made his debut in a 0-0 draw at Middlesbrough and was part of the team which was inevitably relegated into League One and left the Lane after making only 38 (+7) appearances in three years.
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