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sheff utd prog bannerIt’s been a while since we played Sheffield United at Bramall Lane, just over nine years to be exact, and tomorrow will see us play there for the first ever time in the Premier League.

From the 2000/01 to 2010/11, we played them in all but two of those seasons, one when they had gone up to the Premier League and one when we went up, as it happens at their expense at Wembley in the 2008/09 Championship play-off final. Although we went straight down, the Blades were to have just two more seasons at Championship level before they dropped to League One.

We recently went to Aston Villa, where we earned ourselves a point from a 2-2 draw. I described it as a graveyard for Burnley in my early days as a supporter and the same could be said for Bramall Lane although I have to admit I witnessed my first ever away win there when we beat them in the FA Cup in 1962.

It’s not a good ground for us and in post-war football we’ve won only three of thirty league games played there. The first of those three wins came in October 1955 when goals from Albert Cheesebrough and Bobby Burke gave us a 2-1 win. Doug Collins and Martin Dobson were the scorers in August 1973 when we won 2-0 on our return to the first division and more recently, in December 2008. our goalscorers were Martin Paterson, Graham Alexander, from the penalty spot, and Chris Eagles in a 3-2 win. Despite our problematic record there, we are actually unbeaten on our three most recent visits with draws wrapped either side of that 2008 win.

We go there tomorrow having lost our two previous Premier League games but they, like all our defeats this season, have come against teams currently in the top five in the league. The first of those was, in my view, a very unfortunate defeat at Leicester which was followed by last week’s loss against Chelsea over which, overall, we could have no complaints.

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Midfielder Jeff Hendrick has been a versatile performer in recent weeks. When he came on at Brighton to score the late equaliser, it was just his second substitute appearance of the season. A week later he came in for Aaron Lennon and has kept his place now for five games, either out on the right or in the centre of midfield for two games while Jack Cork was out injured.

He admitted this week that the start of the season wasn’t the best for him as he took his place on the bench. He said: “It was tough for me and I just had to keep working hard, keeping myself ready if, firstly, I was called upon and in the back of my mind I knew I had games with Ireland to stay ready for. I went away and played a few games with Ireland and then I came back and I have played a good few games since, which I’m happy with and hopefully it continues.”

Besides the draw at Brighton, he also scored the winner against Everton at home. He scores some very special goals but by his own admission he probably doesn’t score as many as he would like. “I’ve talked about it for years. I want to get more goals and I need to get more goals,” he said. “I’ve got a few and I just need to keep going and try and get a few more and help the team out, helping the team to put points on the board.

“I try to get into the box as many times as I can. Sometimes it doesn’t fall for you, sometimes it does. I’ve got it into my head a little bit more this year. I need to be arriving into the box as much as I can and getting onto the end of things.”

Hendrick played on the right last week, giving way to his big mate Robbie Brady for the final few minutes. Brady did well when he came on and will be pushing for a starting place although Hendrick has also been in good form and I would expect him to continue in the team.

I don’t really envisage any changes. Chris Wood, who would step back in, is rated touch and go and that usually means he’ll be out in Dyche speak. We’ll have to wait and see with that one.

Phil Bardsley, still to play this season, is doubtful with a back injury while both Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson and Danny Drinkwater remain out of the reckoning although both are making good progress.

If Wood doesn’t make it, I expect the team will be: Nick Pope, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Erik Pieters, Jeff Hendrick, Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork, Dwight McNeil, Jay Rodriguez, Ashley Barnes. Subs: Joe Hart, Kevin Long, Ben Gibson, Charlie Taylor, Aaron Lennon, Robbie Brady, Matěj Vydra.

Matt Lowton started his career with Sheffield United and was there until moving to Aston Villa in 2012. He played once against his former club for Villa in the FA Cup but tomorrow will be his first appearance at Bramall Lane since April 2012 when he scored a late equaliser in a 2-2 draw against Stevenage in League One.

There are no former Burnley players in the Sheffield United squad but there is very definitely some claret and blue flavour in their dressing room with midfielder Oliver Norwood (pictured below) who was born and brought up in Burnley close to Turf Moor and was, and still is, a Burnley fan. The Northern Ireland international has made a habit of winning promotion to the Premier League. He did so with Brighton and Fulham prior to last season’s promotion with the Blades but this season has been his first opportunity to play Premier League football.

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He’s currently one of no fewer than eight players who have started every game for them so far this season on their return to the Premier League in which they last played in 2006/07 under Neil Warnock’s management. Bryan Robson, Kevin Blackwell, Gary Speed and Mickey Adams all managed them in the Championship with Adams taking them down to League One. David Weir, Nigel Clough and Nigel Adkins couldn’t get them back into the second tier but Chris Wilder did. He won promotion in his first season and then added a second promotion two years later to take them back up and, like the last manager to take them into the Premier League, he’s a Blade himself but, unlike Warnock, also played for the club.

They’ve made a really good start to the season and are currently in eighth place, five places ahead of us, although in a tight division they do only lead us by one point. Goals have been difficult to come by; they’ve scored just nine with only three of them at home, but they are outstanding defensively and, along with Liverpool and Leicester, with eight, they’ve conceded the least number of goals.

Wilder admitted that they had some injury concerns although he expected them all to be ok once assessed. The only player known to be injured is Callum Robinson. but his team is unlikely to show many changes, if any, from the one that drew at West Ham last week.

The team at West Ham was: Dean Henderson, George Baldock, Enda Stevens, John Fleck, Jack O’Connell, Chris Basham, John Lundstram, Callum Robinson, John Egan, Oliver Norwood, David McGoldrick. Subs: Simon Moore, Luke Freeman, Oli McBurnie, Phil Jagielka, Billy Sharp, Lys Mousset, Mo Bešić. The only three in that starting line up not to have played every game are John Fleck, Callum Robinson and David McGoldrick.

 

LAST TIME WE WERE THERE

 

It’s back to October 2010 when we last visited Sheffield United in our first season back in the Championship having just enjoyed our first ever Premier League season.

It was part of a first half of the season under Brian Laws when we had some good fortune at home when late goals helped us to beat Preston, Watford and Derby which was balanced out with some poor fortune on the road, none more so than at Sheffield United and Norwich although we could only blame ourselves for not winning this one.

We should have won it. We were the better side in a goalless first half when first Andre Bikey and then Chris Iwelumo missed good chances, the Iwelumo miss coming from good work by Wade Elliott and Chris Eagles who both had outstanding games. We should have been well clear by the interval.

It all changed early in the second half when we grabbed the initiative with two goals. The first was Dean Marney’s first Burnley goal, heading home from an Eagles cross and Eagles himself got the second when he scored a penalty given following a foul on Tyrone Mears.

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Mears had a poor game and was responsible for the home side pulling one back quickly when he late in Daniel Bogdanovic to score but with eight minutes remaining it looked as though we were going on to win it.

Their young substitute Matt Lowton, whose only contribution had been to get a yellow card, equalised for them but we came storming back for Jay Rodriguez (pictured) to restore our lead just as the fourth official was ready to hold up a board showing five more minutes.

Incredibly, we got ourselves two more chances, missed by Jack Cork and Steven Thompson, but with just over a minute of the five remaining we conceded a third through Mark Yeates and had to settle for a point in a 3-3 draw.

The teams were;

Sheffield United: Steve Simonsen, Jean Calve, Nyron Nosworthy, Chris Morgan, Ritchie De Laet (Stephen Jordan 85), Johnny Ertl (Matt Lowton 78), Leon Britton, Mark Yeates, Daniel Bogdanovic (Ched Evans 69), Richard Cresswell, Stephen Quinn. Subs not used: Richard Wright, Nick Montgomery, Kyle Bartley, Jordan Slew.

Burnley: Brian Jensen, Tyrone Mears, Leon Cort, Andre Bikey, Danny Fox (David Edgar 66), Jack Cork, Wade Elliott, Dean Marney, Jay Rodriguez, Chris Iwelumo (Steven Thompson 74), Chris Eagles (Ross Wallace 75). Subs not used: Lee Grant, Richard Eckersley, Graham Alexander, Martin Paterson.

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