Match preview: Stevenage v Sheffield United

Dani Lopez runs off to celebrate after scoring the opener against Sheffield United last season. Phot

Dani Lopez runs off to celebrate after scoring the opener against Sheffield United last season. Photo: Harry Hubbard - Credit: Archant

Boro hope to move out of the relegation zone with a win over Nigel Clough’s Blades

Not long ago Stevenage and Sheffield United were battling it out in the League 1 play-off semi-finals in a bid to gain promotion to the Championship.

Fast-forward 19 months and both teams resume what has been a fascinating series of head-to-head matches with both teams hoping to avoid the drop down to League 2 come the end of the season.

For Boro, tomorrow’s (Saturday) match is the first of an intriguing run of games that sees six out of their next seven league matches – though sandwiched between is the FA Cup tie at Doncaster – against teams in the bottom nine.

Currently, Stevenage are 21st and the low-scoring Blades, who have scored just 18 goals this season, are 19th.

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Recent history

Boro have played Sheffield United six times, with each team winning two, drawing two and losing two matches.

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The last time the two teams met, which was also at the Lamex Stadium, Stevenage ran out 4-0 victors helped by a sensational display of football, and a hat-trick, from Dani Lopez.

After that match Boro went on a run of just one win in their next eight games, scoring just three goals in the process before the end of the season. United, on the other hand, won two and drew four out of their remaining nine.

Since that day, back in March, both teams have changed manager, with Graham Westley returning to Boro while both David Weir and current incumbent Nigel Clough have been in the United dugout.

Recent results

Stevenage have won just one of their previous six league matches, though in that time they have also record two victories in the FA Cup plus one win and one defeat in the FA Trophy.

Last time out in League 1, against Port Vale, Jordan Burrow scored two goals but after Michael Doughty was sent off for two yellow cards Boro conceded to a 90th minute Tom Pope goal as the hosts pegged them back for a point.

Sheffield United’s win over Swindon Town on Saturday was only their second win in six league games, though it was their second victory in successive games following their triumph over Cambridge United in the FA Cup on December 8.

Scoring in both matches was Jose Baxter, though it is centre-back Harry Maguire who remains their top scorer this season with five goals.

Team news

Stevenage will be without the suspended Michael Doughty and Roarie Deacon, though both Filipe Morais and Simon Heslop return from suspension. Jon Ashton, who it was initially feared had broken his ankle last time out against Port Vale, is likely to miss out, though the defender is not as badly injured as first feared.

Lucas Akins and Peter Hartley, who both missed the 2-2 draw at Vale Park, could both be back in contention, while Burrow will be hoping to retain his place in the side up front alongside top scorer Francois Zoko.

Stephen McGinn could return for Sheffield United after the Scottish midfielder missed the game against Swindon due to a knee injury at Cambridge in the FA Cup.

Marlon King, the striker, has been suffering from a knee strain of late.

Christmas fixtures

Saturday, December 21: Stevenage v Sheffield United.

Thursday, December 26: Colchester United v Stevenage; Sheffield United v Oldham Athletic.

Sunday, December 29: Bristol City v Stevenage; Sheffield United v Tranmere Rovers.

Wednesday, January 1: Stevenage v Gillingham; Walsall v Sheffield United.

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