Millwall head back on the road this Saturday as The Lions prepare to take on promotion-chasing Sheffield United in the Sky Bet Championship. As Neil Harris' side prepare to face Chris Wilder’s Blades, we take a look at our opponents’ results so far this campaign.
Chris Wilder made several reinforcements to his squad ahead of 2018/19, looking to improve on last season’s mid-table exploits and mount a serious challenge for the top six. Players such as David McGoldrick, Dean Henderson and Oliver Norwood arrived at Bramall Lane, with Millwall’s record signing Ryan Leonard arriving at The Den from South Yorkshire. David Brooks also departed, joining Premier League side AFC Bournemouth. Pre-season saw The Blades remain unbeaten, including a draw with Inter Milan and a win over Portuguese outfit Maritimo.
The Championship season got underway at home to Swansea, with Wilder’s side defeated by two goals to one – followed up with a second reverse, 3-0 at Middlesbrough. This was to be the extent of the poor start, however, as United went on to win their next four matches. Earning their first points on the board with a 2-1 victory at QPR, a last-gasp winner then secured the same scoreline at home to Norwich. A 3-0 turnover of Bolton rounded off August with The Blades seventh in the division, albeit with a First Round exit on penalties to Hull in the Carabao Cup.
Starting the month with a 4-1 beating of Aston Villa, minor blips in the form of a defeat at Bristol City and goalless draw at home to Birmingham momentarily dropped the side in the Championship table. Consecutive 3-2 wins then compensated for Wilder’s men, both through late deciders from David McGoldrick versus Preston and then at The Den against Millwall. The contest in SE16 finished September, as Billy Sharp’s opener was quickly turned around by Jake Cooper and Lee Gregory. McGoldrick’s late double however was to take the three points back north, seeing The Blades into fourth in The Championship.
Five League games in October brought about a mixed bag of results for United. Victories over Blackburn and Hull with clean sheets were followed by a narrow defeat at Derby. Playing out a 1-1 share of the spoils with Stoke, Wilder’s team then came out on top 4-2 over Wigan courtesy of a Sharp hat-trick. The devastating attacking display saw the side sit atop the EFL at the end of the month.
A four-game League schedule for The Blades saw them tackle the challenge of maintaining their status as leaders as another 12 points became available. A setback followed in the form of a 1-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest, before back-to-back South Yorkshire derby draws with Sheffield Wednesday and Rotherham. They were however to dig out a win at the fourth attempt, a 3-2 victory at Brentford which saw the side sit fourth in a tightly developing race for promotion.
A busy December followed for the competing clubs in The Championship, with the absence of an international break combined with the demanding Christmas schedule. The team were to suffer frustrating home defeats to Leeds and West Brom, sandwiching a 2-0 win at Reading. The final game before Christmas saw United held 1-1 at Ipswich, before comfortable home victories over Derby and Blackburn to round off 2018 still safely in the Play-Off places.
Whilst League form looked to be picking up – certainly on an attacking front – with a 3-0 win at Wigan on New Year’s Day, the Emirates FA Cup Third Round was to throw up one of the competition’s biggest shocks in recent seasons at The Blades’ expense. National League Barnet secured a 1-0 win at Bramall Lane to eliminate Wilder’s side, who would get back to winning ways with a narrow Championship win over QPR. Despite losing 1-0 at Swansea and playing out a thrilling table-topping clash with Norwich to draw 2-2, United sat third going into February. Kieran Dowell, Scott Hogan and former Wednesday striker Gary Madine were brought in to strengthen the squad by Wilder for the second half of the season.
Sheffield United secured a 2-0 home win over Bolton to begin February on a high note, before a quite remarkable contest at Villa Park the following weekend, as another Sharp treble put The Blades into a stunning 3-0 lead. Aston Villa, however, netted three times in the final eight minutes to cost Wilder’s side a seemingly rubber-stamped extra two points. This was to spur the South Yorkshiremen into action, winning six of their next seven and keeping seven straight clean sheets. The incredible defensive streak started with a 1-0 win over Middlesbrough at Bramall Lane, before doubling up on home soil with a 4-0 success against Reading. A well-earned win by a solitary goal at West Brom concluded the month with United in the coveted top two.
The Blades’ sole dropped points during their seven-game clean sheet masterclass came in the Steel City derby, a second goalless draw in the fixture this season as neither side could break the deadlock at Hillsborough. Successive 2-0 home wins over Rotherham and Brentford continued the fine recent run, before what could turn out to be the most vital result of the club’s season – as Chris Basham’s winner earned a 1-0 victory at Elland Road against Marcelo Bielsa’s rivalling Leeds side. A frustrating blip then ended March sourly, as Play-Off-chasing Bristol City took a 3-2 win home from Bramall Lane via United’s first goals conceded since 8th February. A 1-0 win at Preston restored faith for Blades supporters the following week as April got underway, before taking a 1-1 draw from Birmingham last time out. The draw sees Leeds slip back in front of their Yorkshire rivals into second, with Wilder’s outfit a point behind the top two in a hotly-anticipated promotion race.