Football: Nilsen returns to boost the Blades

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The Independent Online
SUNDERLAND aim to consolidate their position at the top of the Nationwide League First Division when they make the trip to promotion hopefuls Sheffield United this afternoon.

Sunderland's new signing, Gavin McCann, will start the game on the bench after his pounds 500,000 move from Everton, while, for the Blades, Roger Nilsen is back from suspension and returns at the heart of the defence. Their manager Steve Bruce also has his striker, Lee Morris fit to fill the hole left by the departure of Gareth Taylor to Manchester City.

The Bury captain Chris Lucketti believes their Lancashire derby against Bolton would be the perfect time to record their first away win of the season.

"Derby games always have a special atmosphere and there's no reason why we can't go there and get a result," he said.

Paul Warhurst could make his Wanderers debut after joining on a month's loan from Crystal Palace, and their manager Colin Todd believes he will be a useful acquisition.

"It's good to have Paul here because he's capable of playing different positions on the pitch," Todd said.

The Birmingham manager Trevor Francis is refusing to panic ahead of their match against the relegation-threatened Bristol City after seeing his side lose their last two games.

"The League position does not concern me at this stage," he said. "Points are more important and we are seven better than we were at this stage last season."

The Portsmouth defender Andy Thomson is determined to prove to manager Alan Ball that he deserves a regular starting place with a composed performance at Stockport. Thomson, who has had an ankle injury, gets his chance because Adrian Whitbread and Russell Perrett are both missing.

"If I get that chance I know I have to take it because I want to show I can be a valuable member of the defence at Pompey," Thomson said.

The division's bottom club Crewe Alexandra face Ipswich at Gresty Road today without Dave Walton and Seth Johnson, to the annoyance of their manager Dario Gradi. "This is just our luck at the moment," he said. "We face one of the best teams in the division and two of our best players are out."

Tranmere's manager John Aldridge has called for a big effort from his depleted side against Port Vale at Vale Park today. "It does not look healthy with all the injuries and suspensions, but we must knuckle down," he said. "We don't want to find ourselves in a bottom-four place again."

Bradford City's manager, Paul Jewell, wants the same display, but a different result from their recent 2-1 defeat against Huddersfield when they tackle Queen's Park Rangers at Valley Parade today. "I've had calls all week to say that is the best Bradford City have played for a long time," he said. "All that was missing was the goals."

Swindon's manager Jimmy Quinn has called on all his players to remain committed to the club - even if they are out of the first-team picture. Swindon travel to Grimsby tomorrow and he said: "At a club like Swindon, where I am unable to bring in new players, I need everyone available to me."

The Grimsby manager Alan Buckley had his squad in for Sunday training after last Saturday's defeat at Bury and he said: "I feel the players will want to go out and put things right."