It was, by Chris Wilder’s own admission, probably their worst performance for months.
But, by carving-out a win from Thursday’s chaotic visit to Coventry City, the Sheffield United manager believes his players proved a very important point.
Following a match which saw them take the lead and then relinquish it before scoring a last gasp winner after a group of home supporters invaded the pitch, Wilder acknowledged United had been far from their swashbuckling best.
Nevertheless, after climbing the second in the League One table ahead of the Christmas fixture period, he said: “Football isn’t always about the beautiful game. Sometimes you’ve got to force it, dig in and grind things out. We’ve had great plaudits for some of the stuff we’ve produced in recent months, for some of the football that we’ve played. But you need to be able to do the other side of the game as well. The not so glamorous stuff where you just have to stick together and keep going no matter what.”
Although they will enter their forthcoming games against Oldham Athletic and Northampton Town as strong favourites, United will need to show similar resolve against the visitors from Boundary Park and Sixfields. Billy Sharp, who scored both goals against Mark Venus’ side, conceded he was “blowing” towards the end of the trip to Warwickshire while several of Wilder’s counterparts across the division have admitted this is the time of year when fatigue can begin to set in.
“We’ve played all the top teams and we’ve got two massive home games coming up now,” he said. “We’ll get a great crowd for Boxing Day and hopefully a good one on New Year’s Eve too. The fans, I’m sure, will get right behind us and we want to try and make those games count. Try to get back to the standards of where we are.”
Both teams were ushered back to the dressing rooms when City fans, protesting against their club’s owners SISU, marched onto the playing surface forcing a six minute break.
Wilder, who questioned the wisdom of the decision to televise the match given recent events at the Ricoh Arena, said: “The game was disrupted but I think we’ve been outstanding in the way we went about things. It was the least impressive we’ve played for a long time technically but the heart and the desire, well, I take my hat off to them.”