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Paul Hurst Pre Sheffield United

17 November 2016

Gaffer looks ahead to taking on the league's in form side

Paul Hurst admits that Saturday’s game with Sheffield United will be his toughest test yet as Town boss.

Hurst’s side are unbeaten in four games and have won their last three with three clean sheets, but travel to a Sheffield United side that are unbeaten in their last twelve.

Paul has been delighted with how the side have improved since he took charge but admits there’s no magic formula

“It’s not a magic wand at all,” Paul told the Press.

“It’s the players performing, taking on board some information that we are trying to help them with regarding opposition or how we are setting and I think after that first victory gave them a bit of belief.

“There’s certainly a different atmosphere from when I first arrived, where every time a pass was misplaced there was a threat of an argument breaking out and potentially leading to something worse.

“I don’t want that to stop all together, were not just here to be friends, but now, if there is any of that, it needs to be with a purpose and not just getting at each other.

“I’m not going to pretend that we’ve drastically changed anything. I’ve just tried to tell the players that it’s a fresh start. I’ve tried to give a lot of the players in the squad an opportunity to impress on the pitch and see where it takes us, and thankfully they’ve responded to myself and Chris.”

Sheffield United remain one of the biggest sides in the division and are in brilliant form, winning 4-1 against Chesterfield last time out, but history means nothing when you get out onto the pitch.

“If you are playing Sheffield United at Bramhall Lane, it’s a tough task,” Paul said. 

“They’ve been in League One longer that they would like, but it just goes to show you that the name doesn’t win you anything and the history doesn’t win you anything, it’s the here and now, and this season they’ve certainly got going now.

“They’re 12 unbeaten, so I’m not sure there’s too much of a tougher test and added to that the crowd that will be there, but for me as a manager, I will be proud to lead the team out against one of my local teams.

“I am a Sheffield Wednesday fan, I’ve never hid that fact, but United have done extremely well. Grimsby played against them in preseason and I thought they looked an excellent side and they’ve kicked on from there.

“I think they are expected to be one of the front runners, with everything that they’ve got in terms of resources. Chris Wilder is a Sheffield United fan, it’s his dream job, he’s got a special bond with the fans and they’re all buying into that.”

Town enjoyed a brilliant win over Oxford last time out, the first time they had won in the league since September and Paul admitted that a win on Saturday would live long in the memory.

“Two or three weeks ago they’d have been rubbing their hands and thinking it’s an easy three points, whereas now we might have a little bit more respect going into the game,” said Paul.

“It would be great if at 5 O’Clock on Saturday evening we’ve gained a whole lot more respect. It is a challenge and as a player it’s one that I’m hoping you relish and these are the games when you become a pro that you dream about.

“We’ve had some lads that have played higher and in bigger games, which should stand them in good stead, but I do believe it’s the type of game, because of where we are, that if we could go there and get a result it will stay in the memory.”

“We have got to defend as a team, we’ve got to work extremely hard and they are two things that we’ve done well in the recent games, hence the reason that we’ve managed to get results, but at the same time we’ve got to carry some sort of threat going the other way, otherwise it will be a long afternoon.”

Paul’s biggest decision comes in goal where both Mark Halstead and Jayson Leutwiler have impressed in recent weeks and Paul admits he has yet to make the decision.

“I haven’t given it too much thought yet,” continued Paul.

“In training on Tuesday they both made some excellent saves and it looked like it was two ‘keepers that again are high on confidence.

“Jayson through going away with Canada, making some good saves and keeping a clean sheet in the half that he played, and Mark on the back of two clean sheets while Jayson was away.

“Whoever misses out is 100% not through being out of form or anything like that and my decision won’t be personal and I will explain that to whichever one misses out.

“I think as much as whoever it is will be disappointed, I certainly hope there will be an acceptance of why I’ve done it, even though they would have liked it to have fallen on their side to be in the team.”

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