By Tony Leighton
Sheffield United's contentiously 'prolific' goalscorer Neill Collins will be aiming to once again put his name on the scoresheet when the Blades entertain Tranmere Rovers in Saturday's big npower League 1 promotion clash at Bramall Lane.
As third-placed United look to overtake their top of the table opponents, central defender Collins, who with five goals to date already has his best ever haul for a season, will doubtless be delighted to add to his tally.
The delight of the former Sunderland, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Preston North End and Leeds United player just might, however, be matched by the chagrin of one or two team-mates who have recently been a little miffed by Collins' goals.
His opener in the 4-1 win against Stevenage was claimed by striker Chris Porter, and then his victory-clincher in last week's 3-1 victory at Carlisle United should have been a Michael Doyle goal - according to captain Doyle.
Porter claimed that the ball had touched him on its way in, while Doyle reckoned his shot was already over the line before Collins bundled it into the net. What does Collins himself think? Of course they were his goals.
"The Stevenage goal isn't even worth discussing," scoffed the 29-year-old defender. "I think Ports knows it was my goal, but you know what strikers are like - especially when a defender is ahead of him in the goal charts.
"At Carlisle I just wanted to make sure the ball was over the line. We've seen many times goals not given when the ball is [adjudged to have been] cleared off the line. It might have already been in the net, but I wasn't going to take that chance because we knew that a third goal would kill Carlisle off."
All friendly banter no doubt, but Collins and his colleagues will not be caring one way or the other about who gets the goals against Tranmere as long as there are enough of them to produce what could be a key victory in the race for promotion.
Collins will almost certainly need to be at his best at both ends of the pitch as the Blades look for a win that would take them two points clear of Rovers and give them top spot, unless second-placed Doncaster Rovers - currently level on points with Tranmere - beat Coventry City at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Ronnie Moore's Rovers are the surprise package of League 1 having unexpectedly set the pace from the start of the season. Surprise package or not though, Collins has total respect for a team that are proving they have staying power.
"After 21 matches you are only at the top on merit," said Collins, "and so I reckon that they'll be there for the duration now. It's down to us amongst others to try and peg them back, but they've sustained their good start for quite a while now which tells you that they're a strong team.
"It's obviously going to be very tough, but it should be an entertaining clash because they've scored a lot of goals this season. Their main strength is going forward, so we'll have to be on our guard defensively.
"We drew 1-1 with them twice last season and both games were hugely competitive. We know that they've made good progress from last season, but so have we and so it will be a very interesting game."
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