By Andrew Smith
A bumper crowd is expected at Bramall Lane as Scunthorpe United look to close the gap to two points when they visit table toppers Sheffield United.
The Blades could be without key defender Ethan Ebanks-Landell, who continues to struggle with a hip complaint. However, the Wolves loanee did manage a second half cameo in United’s previous fixture against Bristol Rovers.
Sheffield United will still be without Leon Clarke as the striker has struggled this season with a recurring ankle issue.
Graham Alexander may bring Sam Mantom and Kevin van Veen on the short journey down the M18.
Mantom has endured a three-game layoff but Alexander believes he could be in contention to return.
Alexander told the Scunthorpe Telegraph: “Sam trained yesterday after two and a half to three weeks out so we will see how he is in training.”
Kevin van Veen, who was subject to £4m bid from China on deadline day, is also pushing to start.
Jordan Clarke is not likely to feature as he recovers from an ankle injury.
— Sheffield United (@SheffieldUnited) February 17, 2017
Billy Sharp is the current top scorer in League One, with 20 goals, his finishing ability is a major reason why the Blades have set the pace so far this season. Sharp spent two seasons with The Iron, and will be looking to inflict a major wound to Scunthorpe’s promotion hopes.
Jake Wright is unbeaten in 16 appearances for the Blades. The central defender won’t take the headlines away from Sharp and co, but the 30-year-old is the defensive rock that enables United to keep clean sheets. Wright guides Ebanks-Landell and Jack O’Connell into position either side of him, and he is the heart of United’s successful back five.
On the unbeaten streak, Wright told the Sheffield Star: “I know a lot of people have been talking about my record, but, really, it’s just one of those things. The best thing about this side is the togetherness, that’s our strongest point.”
Josh Morris has been Scunthorpe’s main goal-scoring option this season – the 25-year-old midfielder has taken the league by storm, building up a tally of 19 goals so far.
Van Veen and Paddy Madden have been very successful in supplementing the prosperous efforts of Morris. Kevin and Madden have ten and seven goals respectively this season and if Scunthorpe are to be promoted this season, their goals will have been a key part of the story.
Winner takes it all?
This victor of this game will land a key blow in the promotion tussle. If the Blades are victorious they will go eight points clear of Scunthorpe. Should The Iron win, the gap would close to two points and the Lincolnshire club could use their game in hand to reclaim top spot.