Midfielder Lee Evans believes the character Sheffield United showed in hanging on to the three points against fellow-play-off chasers Middlesbrough on Tuesday night should not be under-estimated.
A priceless win that kept their top-six hopes alive was overshadowed by how nervy United became against the 10 men of Boro.
The Blades should have had the points in the bag by half-time on the back of two sumptuous strikes by Evans and the dismissal of Middlesbrough schemer Grant Leadbitter. But a shift in formation by Tony Pulis altered the complexion of the game and by full-time, United were relieved to hear the final whistle.
“As we’ve seen in recent weeks we’ve conceded a late goal so we knew we had to stand firm,” said January signing Evans. “It was the biggest game of our season so we knew we had to throw our bodies on the line, block shots.
“First half we played well, got our foot on the ball and got the two goals. We knew a Tony Pulis team would come at us and we wanted to stay strong.
“There’s a lot to improve on, particularly on the ball in those situations, but the character shone through. We knew we had to dig in and put everything on the line.”
The result saw United reduce the gap to the top six from four points to three with sixth-placed Millwall the visitors on Saturday.
“It was a must-win game because of the way we’ve played all season,” said Evans. “There may not be much expectation on us to make the play-offs but inside the group we think we should be trying our best to get in there.
“We’re realistic, we know we need to win basically every game to have a chance.”
With more strikes like the opening goal he scored after two minutes – a measured volley from 25 yards – they have every chance.
There’s a lot to improve on, particularly on the ball in those situations, but the character shone through.Lee Evans
“I ended up stretching for it and taking it on the sidefoot to try and control it,” he laughed. “I didn’t think it would end up going where it did, but if you don’t buy a ticket...”
Pulis left Bramall Lane taking the positives ahead of Boro’s own crunch home game with Bristol City on Saturday. “First half we never played with the tempo and the energy that you need to have,” he said. “The three subs came on, gave us loads of energy and I thought in the second half we were absolutely fantastic.”