Sheffield United remain slightly in the relegation zone after winning their first away game of the league season at Bristol City at Ashton Gate last Saturday. A 78th-minute own goal from Aden Flint presented Sheffield United with a 1-0 victory at Bristol City in the battle of the League One strugglers. The centre-back turned a low right-wing cross from Tony McMahon into his own net from six yards to settle a poor game of few clear-cut chances.
City were booed off by their supporters at the end, having seen their methodical approach play hit a brick wall in the shape of United central defenders Harry Maguire and Neil Collins. The only clear chance of the first half fell to City skipper Sam Baldock as he ran on to a 36th-minute pass from Jay Emmanuel-Thomas. With Scott Wagstaff better placed square of him, the striker elected to shoot and was denied by goalkeeper George Long.
Emmanuel-Thomas shot narrowly wide following a 19th-minute free-kick and Nicky Shorey fired over for the hosts from the edge of the box. United's only attempt was a 31st-minute free-kick from McMahon, comfortably saved by City keeper Elliott Parish. The visitors threatened more after the break without testing Parish, while City had a late Karleigh Osborne strike ruled out for a foul.
Blades boss Nigel Clough is without Fabien Brandy whose red card at Shrewsbury on 2 November was his second of the season after he was dismissed at home to Milton Keynes Dons on 31 August and serves a four match ban. He will miss the fixtures against; Colchester United (a - fac), Gillingham (h), former club Bristol City (a) and former club Walsall (h) and be available for selection for the away trip to Leyton Orient.
And following his fifth booking of the season at Aston Gate young Harry Maguire will serve a one match ban. Meanwhile Florent Cuvilier and Darryl Westlake could be included to face their former club. Brandy - also a former Saddler is banned.
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 after making 70 (+8) appearances for the club and scored just once.
Belgium national Cuvielier spent one and a half seasons on loan at the Bescot Stadium, making his debut in a 1-0 defeat at home to Nott's County - he returned to parent club Stoke City at the end of the season before signing again on until March 2013. He made 36 (+4) appearances for the club and scored 7 goals before ending the season on loan at Peterborough United.
Brandy was signed by Walsall from Greek club Panetlikos in July 2012 and made his debut in a 1-0 win over Brentford in the League Cup. He made 28 (+9) appearances for the Saddlers and scored 7 goals - he was also sent off once before joining Sheffield United on a free transfer in June 2013.
Walsall drew 0-0 at Crawley Town last Saturday to take the Saddlers to eighth and within touching distance of the play-offs. Walsall had the better chances and Crawley keeper Paul Jones denied Craig Westcarr early on by going down to his left to save a low left-footed shot. Walsall forced their first corner in the 25th minute and an effort by James Baxendale was cleared before a free-kick from Crawley winger Nicky Adams was blocked after James Chambers had hauled down Andy Drury on the edge of the area.
Andy Taylor got in a good position for the Saddlers and his low shot was fumbled by Jones, while at the other end fit-again striker Billy Clarke had a shot on target saved by keeper Richard O'Donnell in first-half stoppage-time. Walsall went close four minutes after the break when Romaine Sawyers fed Westcarr and the striker crashed a shot against the post. Westcarr should have broken the deadlock after 68 minutes when he blazed over from eight yards having been set up by Milan Lalkovic. Crawley striker Jamie Proctor headed a Mat Sadler cross wide before Clarke's low shot from 20 yards was saved by O'Donnell.
The visitors to Bramall Lane tonight have no injury concerns and expect to name the same side which drew at Crawley last Saturday.
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.
The Midlands club also have Julian Gray on their books - in July 2009 he spent time on trial at Bramall Lane and participated in their summer tour of Malta but failed to obtain a contract.
Blades-Mad Prediction: Sheffield United 2 Walsall 1