LEEDS UNITED striker Patrick Bamford believes that the promotion pressure is now firmly on the shoulders of Sheffield United following their weekend Championship victory at Elland Road.
A 71st-minute strike from Chris Basham saw the Blades leapfrog their Yorkshire rivals into second spot with eight matches remaining as a compelling race for promotion took another twist.
Chris Wilder’s side are a point ahead of third-placed Leeds heading into the international break and four points behind leaders Norwich City, who won 2-1 at Rotherham United on Saturday.
The Blades’ win, their sixth in their past seven games, extended their unbeaten run to ten games, while Leeds’s sequence of three successive wins ended abruptly as the visitors emulated the feat of Norwich in securing a key promotion win in West Yorkshire.
But despite the blow Bamford insists that plenty of twists and turns are to come and says that witnessing the scenes of celebration among Blades players and their ecstatic supporters at the final whistle will serve as a motivational tool.
Bamford said: “Hearing them (Blades supporters) and hearing the Sheffield boys, it was as if they already think they are up.
“There are eight games to go, there are still a lot of points to play for. Nothing is written in stone yet.
“Before the game everyone was building it up as a big game; second versus third with the cameras here. Everyone focused on it as if it was the decider.
“If we had have won we would still have had to win the rest of our games, so for us it does not really change anything.
“The gap is not massive. It is tight and having been up there all season we have dealt with the pressure pretty well. Now the pressure, I think, will turn on Norwich and Sheffield.
Norwich have been handling it, but for Sheffield, it is the first time they have been in this position. It will be interesting to see how they cope with itPatrick Bamford
“Norwich have been handling it, but for Sheffield it is the first time they have been in this position. It will be interesting to see how they cope with it, no longer being the underdogs and being in that pole position.”
Stressing the psychological importance of his side moving above Leeds into second spot, Blades manager Chris Wilder also praised his side’s resolve on an afternoon when they secured their seventh successive clean sheet.
The Blades have not conceded a goal in ten-and-a-half hours since three late concessions in the 3-3 draw at Aston Villa on February 8 and have lost just once in the league since mid-December.
Wilder said: “Going second is a big boost. It shows that we are in the fight. Now we have to kick on, lift our standards a bit more and play better and we have big challenges ahead of us and big hurdles. The boys keep surprising us in terms of what they have got and what they are trying to achieve.
“We have not had a lot to shout about over quite a big period. No one can look at our fans and begrudge them a chance to sing about the team. They were amazing in a very lively, frantic, enthusiastic and hostile place. You have to man up on and off the pitch and my boys did that.”
On his side’s exemplary recent defensive statistics, he added: “They have a desire to keep the ball out of the net. I am not going to be embarrassed about coming here and winning 1-0, with our backs against the wall. It was not undeserved, but purists may say Leeds were the better side.
“It has happened to us so much, when we have pummelled sides and had a beer after and thought, ‘how have we not got a result?’ Maybe we are more resolute than last year.”
Leeds are assessing the fitness of defender Pontus Jansson and weighing up a possible appeal against Kiko Casilla’s late dismissal in Saturday’s game.
Casilla was sent off for a professional foul on Billy Sharp in stoppage time, which incurs a one-match ban that would see the goalkeeper sit out the home game with Millwall on March 30.
Jansson, who ended the game in goal with Leeds having used all three substitutes, suffered a knee injury earlier in the game although the club are hopeful that it is not a serious problem.
Sheffield Wednesday boosted their play-off hopes with a 4-2 home victory over Blackburn Rovers as Steve Bruce’s unbeaten run as Owls manager continued.
Tenth-placed Wednesday, who have not been beaten in 11 Championship matches, are two points behind sixth-placed Aston Villa and three adrift of Middlesbrough, who are fifth. Boro’s worrying sequence of form continued in a 3-0 loss at Villa, their third successive league reverse.
Reports: Pages 3 & 4