SHEFFIELD UNITED manager Chris Wilder has praised the character of his Blades side after they held their nerve to secure a keynote victory at fellow promotion contenders West Bromwich.
Taking the field in the late Championship kick-off on Saturday after top-of-the-table rivals Leeds United and Norwich City posted victories against Bolton Wanderers and Bristol City, respectively, Wilder’s troops showed their mettle to beat a direct rival in a 1-0 triumph.
It followed on from United’s recent home success in another ‘six-pointer’ with Middlesbrough and draw at Norwich.
The Blades’ third successive win, thanks to Kieran Dowell’s maiden goal for the club, saw the Bramall Lane outfit move above Leeds on goal difference into second place, although they have played a game more.
The win served as a perfect boost ahead of the Blades’ Steel City derby at Sheffield Wednesday next Monday, with Wilder’s side also facing a key fixture at Leeds on March 16.
On the importance of Saturday evening’s victory, Wilder said: “One hundred per cent. We are committed to the people that put these times on and games but I think this is definitely the hardest one to deal with.
“Players are waiting all day for the game and knowing what results have come in. They all know; they do not live in a bunker. Everybody knows and knew it was important that we got a result.
“It would not have been the end of the world if we had lost or drawn. But we have got a big three points and beaten a team in and around us, which is always good for us.
“There is still a lot of football to be played, but it is a big result for us. You cannot get away from that. Everyone billed it as that and for us to win in their own backyard is great for everybody.”
Firmly casting aside notions of pressure, he added: “People keep talking about pressure, but I keep telling them all along that I worked for Halifax Town for six years. Stepping out and playing in front of full houses at the top end of the Championship on a Saturday afternoon is brilliant.
“The players are giving me and the club everything and you have got to enjoy it. I know there were some big screams and shouts out the back there and they really enjoyed it. We have got to.
“This club for a very, very long time has not had a lot to shout about. We have changed that, but we do not want to stand still.”
Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds registered back-to-back league wins for the first time in 2019 following a tense 2-1 success over lowly Bolton.
Goals from Patrick Bamford (penalty) and Gjanni Alioski helped the Whites prevail on an afternoon when Wanderers manager and former Bradford City and Hull City chief Phil Parkinson was sent to the stands after being sent off by referee Tony Harrington following a touchline melee in the second half.
Parkinson became involved in an angry confrontation with Pontus Jansson and continued arguing with the Leeds defender as he was led away down the tunnel.
Third-placed Leeds play their game in hand at QPR tomorrow and victory would see Bielsa’s side go top – ahead of Friday’s televised home match with the fourth-placed Baggies.
On Saturday’s victory, Bielsa said: “It was a very similar game to other games we have played so far. We had chances to score and we did not take them. We suffered on set-pieces.
“But there is a difference in the manner of how we played the last minutes of the game, compared to the other (last) game we played against Swansea. We showed a little bit more maturity.”
Fifth-placed Middlesbrough remain seven points behind the automatic promotion positions after a 2-0 home win over QPR, but Hull City’s outside hopes of gatecrashing the top six took a heavy blow following a 5-1 loss at Brentford.
Sheffield Wednesday moved level on points with the Tigers following a 3-1 victory over Swansea, while Rotherham United netted a late leveller courtesy of Semi Ajayi in a 1-1 draw at relegation rivals Reading.