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Sheffield United captain Michael Doyle insists league safety is their top priority

19 February 2014

By Tony Leighton

Sheffield United will put their tremendous FA Cup exploits to one side as they head to Gillingham on Wednesday evening for a game that could prove vital in their quest for Sky Bet League 1 survival.

Captain Michael Doyle is as enthused as anyone involved with the Blades about the run to the Cup quarter-finals, but as he looked ahead to the trip to Priestfield he told football-co.uk: "Staying in League 1 is our top priority, 100 per cent.

"We're in the relegation zone and battling hard to get out of it, so the Gillingham game is massive. It's a chance to put more points on the board after winning our last two League games before we beat Nottingham Forest in the Cup.

"Those wins have boosted our confidence, but we are aware that Gillingham are a more than useful side. They beat us 2-1 at our place earlier in the season, but like a lot of games back then we were the better side but ended up losing."

Playing well but losing was the story of United's early season, the trend leading to the dismissal of manager David Weir and replacing him with Nigel Clough.

The team's fortunes have turned around following Clough's arrival in late October, gradually so in League 1 but spectacularly in the FA Cup.

The Blades victims include Premier League teams Aston Villa and Fulham plus, in the fifth round on Sunday, Championship promotion chasers Forest.

Next up is a potential quarter-final clash with city rivals Sheffield Wednesday, whose fifth round match against Charlton Athletic was postponed on Saturday.

Whichever of those two Championship clubs United face in the sixth round, they will have home advantage - and victory will earn them a Wembley semi-final.

Midfielder Doyle, who was back in the side against Forest after serving a suspension for kicking out at an opponent against Fulham, said: "We've got a couple of carrots dangling in the Cup with the possibility of a game against Sheffield Wednesday and then the potential of reaching Wembley for the semis.

"I was so glad to be back and playing my part against Forest after letting everybody down against Fulham. I was sent off for a moment of stupidity, but you live and learn and hopefully I can make up for the mistake."

If Doyle leads his team to safety and, perhaps, a Wembley FA Cup appearance, he will be seen by Blades supporters as more than making up for his moment of madness.

With games against survival rivals Bristol City and Colchester United to follow the trip to Gillingham, the Blades have the chance over the next 10 days to make significant strides to ensuring that they do stay in the third tier.

Doyle said: "These next few games are all important, but earlier in the season we were guilty of looking too far ahead and we can't start doing that again.

"We have to take one match at a time, and all of our focus right now has to be on the game at Gillingham. I'm confident, though, that we'll stay up - absolutely."

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