Danny Wilson believes Sheffield United now have a “great weapon” which can help keep the Blades on top of League One.
United leapfrogged leaders Tranmere Rovers at the weekend with their impressive 2-0 win at Crawley Town. taking advantage of the heavy rains which washed away several fixtures in the league.
Rovers had been thrashed 5-0 by Swindon Town 24 hours earlier, so the Blades headed into their trip to Sussex knowing victory would see them reach No 1 for Christmas Day.
On a rain-sodden pitch, the Blades triumphed thanks to two stunning 30-yard free-kicks from right-back Tony McMahon and Wilson believes their set-piece skills can help keep them on top heading into 2013.
McMahon netted several free-kicks in his Middlesbrough days –including one against today’s Boxing Day opponents Scunthorpe United – and Wilson was full of praise for the 26-year-old.
“Tony has been doing free-kicks all season,” he said. “He hasn’t really executed them like he did against Crawley but he believed he could do that, he has done in the past. He’s got a track record of doing it.
“We have three or four lads who are capable but it’s great when it hits the back of the net like it did. Two wonderful executions.
“The first one was low, I think it wrong-footed the goalkeeper, who wasn’t expecting it.
“And the second one, I don’t think three goalkeepers would have saved that one. It was right on a postage stamp in the top corner, and with pace as well.
“You see at the top level, teams are really worried about giving free-kicks away around the box, because they know the opposition have three or four players who can hurt them.
“They don’t want to give free-kicks away in dangerous positions, when they see what one or two of our lads are capable of.
“It’s a great weapon when games are tight, to be able to deliver something like that is a great bonus.”
McMahon also performed well in his defensive duties, helping the Blades keep a clean sheet on a difficult playing surface.
The former Premier League defender – who previously had a loan spell at Sheffield Wednesday – was picked up by Wilson in the summer on a free transfer.
“I think you saw in his game overall on Saturday, he defended really well.” said Wilson.
“That’s arguably the strongest back four we could put out defensively, which was terrific and they did their job at Crawley.
“The conditions as well, it only takes one mistake and it can be costly.”
Wilson accepts now they are league leaders, they will become the team to beat but believes it can only boost the confidence inside the Blades squad.
Yet he has warned his side not to underestimate today’s visitors Scunthorpe – which sees the return to Sheffield of former Wednesday manager Brian Laws – after they had a blank weekend due to the weather.
“Being top means a great deal to us, of course it does,” said the Blades manager.
“Psychologically, being top of the tree going into a home game and having lots of teams looking at us is a good thing. People will have expected us to struggle at Crawley, particularly because of the conditions as it is a big leveller.
“The average supporter will probably look at Scunthorpe at home as a ‘gimme’. We never do that, we know what will be in front of us.
“Scunthorpe will come to us and they will think that extra couple of days break will do them a favour.
“This is a big game for us coming up now. Should we get three points it will be a terrific return going into the Hartlepool game.”
Striker Chris Porter missed out against Crawley with a hip problem, but Wilson is hoping he will be fit to return to the squad today.
Dave Kitson partnered Shaun Miller up front, with Nick Blackman employed wide, and Wilson said the former Reading striker’s experience was vital at Crawley.
“Chris has a little bit of a problem with his hip, nothing too bad. But I was going to bring Dave Kitson back anyway.
“He was the right man for that particular game. But we need everybody fit and available to us. Chris missed out at Crawley and it could be someone else next time. We have to make sure the team, and the performance, comes first.”
Laws has led the Iron to victory on three occasions since his return to the club at the end of October.
All their successes have come away from home for Laws and No 2 Russ Wilcox, and they will be severely tested this week as they later face Tranmere after today’s test at Bramall Lane.
Last time: Sheffield United 2 Scunthorpe United 1, February 29 2012, League One.
Last six games: Sheffield United LWDWDW Scunthorpe United WDLLLW.
Referee: G Sutton (Lincs).