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It’s back to Curzon Ashton this afternoon for the under-23s who last played there on 9th December when we beat Bolton 5-0 to help set us up for a Christmas on top of the league.

Six of the players who were involved in the game that day are now out on loan with four of them making Football League debuts for their new clubs two days ago. Christian N’Guessan came on as a substitute for Oldham, Anthony Glennon had an outstanding game for Grimsby while both Ryan Cooney and Adam Phillips were in the Morecambe side that earned a 1-1 draw against John McGreal’s Colchester with Phillips scoring the much deserved equaliser with a header.

Scott Wilson was a fifth player and he was in the Blyth Spartans team that beat Curzon Ashton, who included Tunde Bayode who wasn’t in the squad against Bolton. The sixth player who was involved was Jordan Cropper and he’s now at Chesterfield who were without a game over the weekend although he could make his debut tomorrow in a friendly against his former club Ilkeston Town.

With Will Harris also out on loan at Warrington, that will leave Andy Farrell, still in charge of the under-23s, with a depleted squad today but still with some experienced players and he’ll have Jimmy Dunne to call on again with the central defender now back from Fleetwood.

We go into the game in second place in the table but now three points behind Nottingham Forest who beat us last week to end our unbeaten record in the league this season. They also have the better goal difference and a game in hand. We would have to win by seven clear goals to go above them today and that’s not likely to happen even against a Sheffield United side who are struggling near the bottom end of the table despite having two of the league’s leading goalscorers in their team in Reece York and Jake Young.

Phillips scored when we beat them 3-0 at Bramall Lane earlier in the season with Rob Harker (pictured) bagging a brace while in our two previous seasons in this league the home games have both ended with lots of goals. In the 2017/18 season they beat us 6-1 with our consolation goal scored by Dwight McNeil. Last season, however, we won 6-0. Tinashe Chakwana scored four of them with the other two netted by Dan Agyei and Mark Howarth.

Last week we included trialist Henri Ogunby, and 18-year-old wide player currently with Manchester City. With so many players out there might be opportunities for more trialists over the coming weeks.

Kick off today is 2 p.m. at the Tameside Stadium, Curzon Ashton. Season ticket holders are admitted free of charge on production of their season card. Otherwise, admission is £5.

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