THE BIG MATCH

npower League 1's match of the weekend takes place in front of the Sky Sports cameras at Bramall Lane on Saturday when Sheffield United host promotion rivals Brentford in a 12.45pm kick-off.

The two sides are battling at the top end of the division, vying for a place in the line-up for the npower Championship next term, and this is a vital fixture in the race for promotion.

For the second-placed Bees, it's simple - three points and they would be top of the division at full-time, at least until Doncaster Rovers play later in the day. Uwe Rosler's men currently trail the league leaders by two points.

Sheffield United, meanwhile, are two points behind their opponents, so have their own incentives - a place in the top two ahead of Saturday's afternoon's matches for starters. They also have a game in hand over the three teams above them in the standings.

Despite their lofty position, the Blades have struggled at home this year, winning just one of five matches at Bramall Lane in 2013, and they come into the match with Brentford on the back of a 4-0 thumping away to Stevenage.

"All the best teams in the world have the odd bad result. It is how you respond," defender Neill Collins explained to the Star.

"We have not been at our best at Bramall Lane but it's not through a lack of effort. There is more pressure to play in front of your own fans. We have not been able to break teams down at home. It's down to us on the pitch to rectify it and get promoted."

Back-to-back wins, against Swindon Town and Preston North End, have lifted Brentford into the automatic promotion places and they will be eager to take top spot with a third successive victory.

And on-loan Everton defender Jake Bidwell insists everybody at the club remains grounded, despite the end of the season coming into sight with the Bees holding a strong position.

The youngster told the Hounslow Chronicle: "It can all change very quickly. A couple of wins can push you right up there but a few losses and you're back down to seventh or eighth again, so we can't get carried away.

"It's important not to get too high when we win, or too low when we lose. That's the way we've been all season. We need to carry that through to the end. We know it's going to be tough [against Sheffield United], but we've got to try and treat it as any other game."

KEEP AN EYE ON

Lee Johnson's managerial career got off to the perfect start in midweek as his Oldham Athletic side thumped Hartlepool United 3-0, and now the 31-year-old takes charge of his first Latics away game, against fellow strugglers Shrewsbury Town.

Johnson, 31, became The Football League's youngest manager when he took over at Boundary Park on Monday, and he watched on as his side eased past the Pools to end a run of three successive defeats on Tuesday.

The victory lifted Johnson's side up to 20th, directly above the relegation zone, and he will want to see his players build on that to move further away from danger with a win against the Shrews, who only sit five points above them, in 18th.

The new manager certainly isn't getting carried away, although he was impressed with his team's display against Hartlepool.

"The response from the players has been really good. They have been sharp, lively and really enthusiastic which, as a coach/manager, is all you can ask for," Johnson told www.oldhamathletic.co.uk.

"I was really pleased by the performance against Hartlepool. They players worked their socks off and there were some very good individual displays.

"It was a good game, but it has gone. The players shouldn't think they are a genius just because they had one good game.

"They have to keep the hammer down and show the same mentality as they did against Hartlepool."

Shrewsbury will hope to put a dent into Johnson's promising start as Oldham boss, and they are still involved in the battle against the drop, sitting six points above the bottom four.

Shrews skipper Matt Richards believes the Latics' recent appointment will probably have an effect on the game, but remains confident, particularly after two positive results in their last two matches - a 3-2 victory against Milton Keynes Dons and, most recently, a 1-1 draw with Crewe Alexandra.

He explained to www.shrewsburytown.com: "Oldham appointed a new manager this week and all the players will be wanting to impress him.

"They'll be fighting not only for survival in this division this season but also their careers at Oldham because things can change when a new manager with his own ideas comes in.

"No doubt they will come at us all guns blazing, but I think the way we've played the last few games we can deal with that and push for three more points.

"We're certainly not taking anything for granted as there's still a long way to go and a lot can happen over the final seven games. We've just got to continue to work hard."

ELSEWHERE IN THE DIVISION

Leaders Doncaster Rovers will hope to retain their place at the summit of the division when they take on lowly Scunthorpe United.

Rovers could sit second by the time their match with the Iron kicks off but three points would ensure they are sitting pretty at the summit come close of play on Saturday.

They have lost just once in eight, and take that record to 21st-placed Scunthorpe, who have suffered defeat in their last three games to sink into real danger at the wrong end of the standings.

Swindon Town are also in the mix at the top of npower League 1, sitting third, and they have home match with Notts County to contend with.

If other results go their way, Swindon could end up sitting at the top of the division at full-time, while Notts County will be aiming to move closer to the Play-Offs - they are currently six points off the top six.

Ninth-placed Walsall are one of three teams lying three points ahead of County in the table, and battling for a place in the Play-Offs.

And the Saddlers are the division's form team, without a loss since January 26th. Since then, they have won five and drawn four, and this weekend they take that run to Hartlepool United, who are seven points adrift of safety in 23rd.

Leyton Orient and Coventry City are the two other teams locked on 60 points with Walsall, three off the top six, and they are both away from home - the O's visit Preston North End, while the Sky Blues travel to rock-bottom Portsmouth.

Yeovil Town lie seventh and are another team with ambitions of moving into the Play-Offs this weekend. The Glovers are level on points with Tranmere, who are sixth and not in action until Sunday, so just need to pick up at least a draw when they make the long journey to Carlisle United to move into the top six.

And Tranmere's match on Sunday looks set to be an interesting one, as they take on managerless Stevenage in front of the Sky Sports cameras. Gary Smith departed the Lamex Stadium in midweek, following 14 losses in 18 matches, so the players will be looking to react well after his departure.

Bournemouth are the team directly above Tranmere Rovers in standings and they host relegation-threatened Bury, while Milton Keynes Dons, a side who would have harboured ambitions of at least Play-Off finish but now find themselves down in 12th, make the trip to 19th-placed Colchester United.

The remaining match in npower League 1 at the weekend takes place in West Sussex, where Crawley Town host fellow mid-table dwellers Crewe Alexandra.

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