Sheffield United have set the bar for challenges ahead '“ Chris Wilder

AT its throbbing best, Bramall Lane is an unforgiving citadel which has few peers when it comes to matchday atmospheres in the second tier.

On target: Blades captain Billy Sharp celebrates his goal against Derby.
On target: Blades captain Billy Sharp celebrates his goal against Derby.

Perhaps just the likes of Elland Road, Villa Park and The Den can rival Sheffield United’s home at its raucous best and that was showcased in stirring fashion during a win and occasion of substance on Boxing Day.

Blades goalkeeper Dean Henderson and manager Chris Wilder certainly thought so and were effusive in their praise of not only the hosts’ barnstorming second-half performance in a memorable 3-1 victory over visiting Derby County – but also the contribution of those in the stands.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

It was a rewind to those defiant and glorious days at this level under Dave Bassett and Neil Warnock and also, sporadically, during the current reign of Blades chief Wilder at an intimidating arena that can challenge visiting sides in every facet – from their footballing ability to their collective mentality.

Incredulous at the non-award of a penalty early in the second period and the subsequent sight of Derby going up the other end of the pitch to score an admittedly magnificent equaliser, Unitedites roared defiance with a special atmosphere playing its part in an outstanding home riposte.

For Henderson, harnessing that fan power with the footballing acumen that has periodically made Championship rivals sit up and take notice over the past 18 months would make for a perfect cocktail – should it be replicated on a regular basis.

That is now the trick for the Blades after coming together as one in pulsating fashion, on and off the pitch, against Derby.

Henderson said: “We need to make this place as hard to come to as we can because when it is like that, it is unplayable.

“It was fantastic and I thought that the support was great throughout. The atmosphere in the first half got us going, but it is down to us to get ourselves going. But it just helps along the way.

“Three points from Boxing Day more than makes it all worthwhile when we are coming into training on Christmas Day when you could be with your families having a good time at home.

“So we are delighted. The boys really turned up, but I thought that, most importantly, the fans were right behind us which shaped that environment where it is all go and everyone is together and we are sticking together.”

Having set the standards with such an assertive performance against Derby, it would be reprehensible and downright careless if the Blades surrendered the initiative in forthcoming tests against Blackburn Rovers and Wigan Athletic.

Maintaining that intensity and consistency very much represents the challenge over the coming games, according to Henderson.

Although a little bit of luck helps along the way.

The Cumbrian custodian added: “We played out of our skins. From what we have played so far this season, I think we are one of the best teams in the league.

“But we have just got to be a bit more consistent. It is not so much the consistency, however, because even when we have been playing well, little bits of luck have not gone for us. Bash (Chris Basham) headed it past his own post against Derby, though, and, hopefully, that can signal a turning point to get some luck in the coming games.

“We have Blackburn coming up now and it is a tough game which is not going to be easy. They will want to bounce back as they lost to Leeds. We have got to be at it and, if we are, we should get the job done.”

After witnessing his team’s relentless side in the second period against Derby, who were pinned in their own half for the vast majority of a one-sided half, Wilder believes that his Blades players have set the bar for the forthcoming challenges ahead – starting at home to Blackburn this weekend.

Knowing his players as he does, he retains confidence that will transpire given the self-policing nature of a group who push each other and drive their own standards internally – with a few words of cajolement when needed from himself along the way. Wilder, whose side swapped places with Derby and moved up into fourth position on Tuesday, observed: “I do not think we are a team who will take the next opponents lightly. We need to build and move on.

“We have got two big games coming up before the FA Cup game and it is full tilt. But, hopefully, we will gain an enormous amount of credit from that (Boxing Day).

“I thought we went for the jugular and did not let them get their head up to breathe and allow good players to play.

“We do not want it to be an easy place to come and win a game of football and I thought that showed.”