SHEFFIELD United manager Danny Wilson has told his players that the hard work has only just begun.
The Blades bounced back from a Steel City derby defeat with a narrow 2-1 victory against 10-man Scunthorpe United in midweek.
It was enough to re-establish a five-point lead over third-placed Sheffield Wednesday and tighten their grip on second spot.
Next on the agenda is a home game with Oldham Athletic, who were beaten 2-0 by the Blades on the opening day of the season.
“It’s up to us now,” said Wilson. “We have worked very hard to get into this position and I can guarantee that we will work even harder to stay there.
“It was important to get that five-point gap because a defeat would have been a good result for the teams around us,” he reflected.
“Psychologically, I think it was a great boost for us and a downer for the teams chasing us.
“We have got to maintain that now,” he stressed.
“We have worked very hard to get where we are and it’s important to keep that gap if not make it bigger.
“It’s not been easy and there has been a lot of pressure on everyone to try and deliver for the club.
“By the end of March, I am hoping we are in an unassailable lead and no one can get nearer us – but I don’t expect us to be. I think it will be tight until the end of the season.”
Although Oldham are 15th in the table and seven points clear of the relegation zone, Wilson knows they still have plenty to play for.
“Three points for a win keeps the season alive for nearly all clubs,” he said. “You hardly ever get a club now that is comfortable and cannot go up or down. Oldham find themselves in that position. I expect a totally committed performance from my players – as we got in the first game of the season – and I would enjoy the same scoreline, too, if I am honest.”
After coming off the bench to score the winner against Scunthorpe, midfielder Stephen Quinn is a contender to start.
Looking back on the Scunthorpe game, Wilson said: “After losing the derby, the rebound we wanted was three points. The peformance didn’t matter so much.
“We were not at the races for long periods but we stuck in there and found another gear.”