Ryan Flynn and Paul Coutts left Sheffield United manager Nigel Adkins a happy man after both made their first league starts of the season.
The midfield duo have both been troubled with injuries - Coutts had not played since last season’s play-offs - but were key players in the 3-1 derby win over Doncaster Rovers at Bramall Lane.
Coutts supplied the cross for Conor Sammon to net United’s second goal, Chris Basham and Billy Sharp netting the others.
Rovers replied via Cameron Stewart, but saw Gary Mackenzie red carded for a crude challenge on Craig Alcock.
The Blades thought they had a late penalty, but referee Mark Heywood booked Che Adams for diving after an incident with Aaron Taylor-Sinclair.
But Adkins was happy to focus on the positives after the game, with Flynn and Coutts - plus several other longterm injured - all on the road back after injury.
“It was important that players who have been out for a long time, came back,” he said. “They did ever so well.
“We have a squad of players that want to contribute.
“We would have liked to have kept a clean sheet, but it put us back on track as we got three points.
“He (Coutts) is an excellent player, as is Ryan Flynn. But we have not had the opportunity to play them because they have been injured.
“They have come and did very well. There’s a collective spirit with everybody.
“At the start of the season we just had enough for the XI and the substitutes.
“Now the squad is starting to get healthier, which is important.
“I went down to Cardiff (in the Under-21s) to watch him (Coutts), several of the players coming back, and has been training for the last few weeks.
“He moves the ball ever so well and is a good football player. We are just delighted we could call upon him.”
The red card and penalty call were key moments in the match, but Adkins was diplomatic in response to questioning.
“The referee has made the decisions,” he said. “I haven’t seen replays of the sending off decision. The referee has deemed it a red card.
“Che Adams is through on goal, the referee is a lot closer, has made a decision on that and we have to abide by that.”
Alcock was forced off at half-time, following Mackenzie’s challenge, with a hip injury and will be assessed before tomorrow’s trip to Burton Albion.
“Alcock couldn’t move at half-time, I would have liked to have kept him on,” said Adkins.
“He’s battered and bruised from the challenge. He did really well in that first half - him and Cotts did well down the right side - and we scored two goals from crosses. It’s disappointing for him.”
Sammon had one of his best games in a Blades shirt, bouncing back after being dropped the previous week against Bradford City.
He could have had a hat-trick, hitting the post and having a header cleared off the line, to add to his first-half goal.
“Conor could have scored two or three goals,” admitted Adkins.
“It’s interesting, we didn’t start him last week, so you are looking for competition for places.
“You want energy, vigour and verve, from everybody.
“He could have come away with the hat-trick ball today.”