The third month of Steve Claridge's reign sees what was a six point gap at the top of the table closed to two after a poor end to the month but, nevertheless, Sheffield United are still leading the charge for promotion...
Game 19- Skybet League 1;
Shrewsbury 1-1 Sheffield United; Jose Baxter
Game 20- FA Cup R1; Sheffield United 2
-1 Chester; Billy Paynter, Jamie Murphy
Game 21- Johnstone's Paint Trophy R2; Sheffield United 3
-0 Accrington Stanley; Neill Collins, Ryan Flynn, Jose Baxter
Game 22- Skybet League 1; Sheffield United 1
-0 Gillingham; Marcus Tudgay
Game 23- Skybet League 1;
Bristol City 0-7 Sheffield United
; Jose Baxter (2), Stevie May (3), Harry Maguire, Marcus Tudgay
Game 24- Skybet League 1;
Sheffield United 0-2 Walsall
Game 25- Skybet League 1;
Leyton Orient 1-1 Sheffield United; Stevie May
continued to impress this month with another handful of goals to add to his lengthy collection so far. Billy Paynter
made his comeback from injury in the hard fought cup tie against Skrill Premier side Chester, where we needed an 87th minute winner to complete the comeback after going a goal down in the first half. The Accrington game was the second potential banana skin against lower league opposition but this one was far more straightforward as an easy victory was recorded. Without a shadow of a doubt, the best result was the comprehensive 7-0 away battering of Bristol City, where everything went as well as could be expected. The same, however, can't be said about the next game when an appalling performance led to a 2-0 home defeat to Walsall. May
got a late equaliser in the last game of the month to leave the Blades with a two point cushion ahead of Walsall in second, and a further four points ahead of Brentford in third.
Now we are getting through the season, each month I will bring you a bit of an update on how the men in each position are doing. This month, the goalkeepers and defence...
For any team who wants to win football matches, a solid defence is necessary, and it seems that Steve Claridge has this at his disposal...
GK- George Long
21 apps, 21 conc, 5 clean sheets, 7.04
Tipped by the club's staff as to having the potential to be a handy Premier League goalkeeper in the future, he is a very solid League 1 goalkeeper at the moment and is a very valuable assett to have at the club. A regular England under 21 squad member, he is first choice keeper.
GK- Mark Howard
4 apps, 2 conc, 2 clean sheets, 7.05
Back up to Long, he has featured in some of the cup matches as well as the matches the first choice goalkeeper has been on international duty. A seemingly dependable deputy to Long, he doesn't complain about not being first choice and, touch wood, he will continue not to.
RB- John Brayford (loan from Cardiff City)
20 apps, 0 goals, 1 assist, 7.04
In on loan from Cardiff City, Brayford missed a month or so of the season due to injury but he came back to great effect and helped the club to consolidate their place at the top of the league. In an ideal world, he will stay at the club long term, but I doubt he will want to as he is far too good for this level. Nevertheless, he is the first choice at right full back.
CB- Harry Maguire (C)
22 (1) apps, 1 goal, 1 assist, 6.97
One of Claridge's first moves as manager was to appoint the homegrown centre half Maguire as the club captain, partially as a bid to keep him at the club and, secondly, as he is a nailed on starter and would hopefully lead by example. He has performed solidly and, although he is agitating for a move to a bigger club, the promise of promotion will hopefully keep him at Bramall Lane. First choice centre half, could be the cornerstone of a Sheffield United team for well over a decade if he progresses like he should.
CB- Jamaal Lascelles (loan from Nottingham Forest)
17 (4) apps, 0 goals, 2 assists, 7.01
A solid performer, he was initially brought in as competition for Maguire and Collins, but he has performed so consistently that he is now the first choice partner for the former and they have formed a rather dependable pairing. Another loan signing who I would have liked to keep longer term, it remains to be seen whether that is a possibility. A player with big potential but very good at League 1 level as it stands.
CB- Neill Collins
16 (3) apps, 3 goals, 0 assists, 7.08
The third good quality centre half at the club, Collins is an old head who is very dependable and solid and filled in well when Lascelles had to cover for Brayford at right back. Chips in with a few goals here and there, I would be confident with him pairing Maguire if Lascelles were to leave the club. Solid.
LB- Bob Harris
25 apps, 0 goals, 6 assists, 7.16
A very good start to the season for the only recognised left back at the club, Harris has started every game this season, partially due to the lack of no second left back, but he has performed admirably in the role and, like all good full backs, he gets forward enough to get some assists. In January, I will look to bring in some back up as I feel he may get a bit jaded were he to continue playing every game, but I'm very happy with him as the main left back at the club.
is the last defender to have featured this season, but due to the form of the other defenders, he has only made four substitute appearances. He also got injured in training before the start of the season thus hindering his ability to get some early appearances under his belt. May or may not feature later in the season and, if not, he may find himself loaned out.