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Stead signing timely for Parkinson as Bradford battle Blades

All the talk in Yorkshire this week has been about a player that cannot feature in Sheffield United’s derby day trip to Bradford City; Ched Evans. The Blades have won on three of their previous four visits, though not last season, to Valley Parade, but both they and the hosting Bantams are rated equal 13/8 chances for victory with Coral.

Evans, a player United did not sack when convicted of rape, but rather let his contract run down and release him, has been touted to potentially rejoin them now that he has been released from prison. Deputy Prime Minister and Sheffield MP Nick Clegg asked the Blades hierarchy to “think really long and hard” about re-signing him.

A petition signed by 150k people has urged the Steel City side not to do that. While Evans is a free agent, United’s opposition Bradford have landed another striker on loan, in Jon Stead from near neighbours Huddersfield Town, who returns for a second temporary stint.

Now a veteran at 31, former Blackburn Rovers, Sunderland and Blades frontman Stead replaces Mason Bennett, who was recalled from the Bantams by parent club Derby County. Phil Parkinson is in need of cover in attack as top scorer James Hanson continues to struggle with a thigh injury. Aaron McLean, who netted on his last home appearance, is a 2/1 chance to be on target again anytime.

Bradford’s home form is poor, though. They have lost half of their six league outings at Valley Parade so far this term. Going into the weekend and their televised teatime encounter with United on Sky, the Bantams are just a point and four places above their opponents in League One. It’s Nigel Clough’s men that are much more fancied for promotion, though, at 5/2, with City 14/1 chances to go up.

The Blades are missing striker, and summer signing, Michael Higdon as he completes a three-match ban, but Marc McNulty may be promoted into their XI after netting in stoppage time against Leyton Orient last time out. It’s 23/10 that the Scot is on target anytime.

Compatriot and winger Jamie Murphy opened the scoring in last term’s reverse fixture back in January, and is a 13/2 chance to do so again. He is shorter than McNulty in the anytime market at 21/10. The versatile Ben Davies is United’s leading league marksman with four, and is 10/3 to add to that tally here.

A score draw, something like a repeat of the 2-2 at Bramall Lane in their previous encounter, represents attractive value for punters betting on this Yorkshire derby where south meets west. Backing the Bantams and Blades to share the spoils is 9/4, while a repeat scoreline comes in at 12/1.