Sheffield United travel to Sunderland on Saturday hoping to maintain their decent start to the new Championship season.
Chris Wilder’s men stormed to the League One title last term by picking up 100 points from their 46 matches, thus sealing a return to the second tier after a six-year absence.
And they have made a solid start in their quest to re-establish themselves as a Championship side, having won three of their opening five matches to sit fifth in the division at the season’s first international break.
The Blades have won all three of their home games against Brentford, Barnsley, and Derby County, but have yet to pick up any points away from Bramall Lane, with a 1-0 defeat at Middlesbrough followed by a 2-0 loss at table-toppers Cardiff City.
Yet Wilder’s men will seek to finally pick up their first points on the road when they travel to Simon Grayson’s Sunderland this weekend, a game which the Blades should be relishing given the Black Cats’ poor home form in 2017, alongside their recent disappointing results.
Add in the likely nerves around the Stadium of Light given their 13-game winless run at home, and Sheffield United quite simply must seek to exploit those anxieties when they travel to the North East on Saturday.
Grayson’s Sunderland haven’t tasted success at home since a 1-0 victory over Watford back on December 17, and have since then played 13 times at the Stadium of Light, with no win forthcoming.
Their first two home matches of this term have followed a similar pattern with a draw against Derby followed by a 2-0 defeat to Leeds United, and Grayson has spoken this week to bringing a ‘feel-good factor’ back to the Stadium of Light ahead of the rest of the season.
Ultimately, Grayson will know how important home form is in a Championship campaign, just look at Sheffield United’s brilliant start at Bramall Lane, and the pressure will already be on to try and end their barren run and get the victory.
And that pressure and nervousness, going into a game that Sunderland are arguably expected to win, could seriously help Wilder’s men in their bid for their first away points of the campaign.
The Blades will be confident given their decent start to the season, and although they have lost both of their two away league matches, they could easily have got a result the last time they were in the North East, having gone down 1-0 to Middlesbrough in controversial circumstances after having a late goal disallowed for offside.
Thus, while the Blades will be buoyed after winning just prior to the international break, Sunderland have had another two weeks to wait for an opportunity to record their first home win of 2017 – Wilder’s men must use that to their advantage.
Exploiting the hosts’ nerves on Saturday, especially early on by frustrating them and creating a nervous and restless atmosphere in the stadium, will be vital in their quest for a first away win of the campaign, and first ever victory at the Stadium of Light.