Sheffield United secured their seventh straight win in all competitions, with a 1-0 victory at MK Dons this afternoon.
Yes, victories over the likes of Shrewsbury Town, Bristol City, Gillingham and Colchester meant United travelled south placed a creditable 12th following a wretched start to the campaign.
But, as their manager acknowledged before boading the coach to Buckinghamshire, with only six points separating them from the relegation zone, survival could not be guaranteed.
Brayford demonstrated the poise and positional sense which have made him such a shrewd acquisition by blocking Powell’s route to goal as Dons applied some early pressure.
They continued to enjoy plenty of possession, sweeping the ball patiently across midfield in an attempt to tempt their opponents out of position, but United forced the afternoon’s first moment of controversy when, in the fifth minute, Murphy saw his appeals for a penalty waved away by the referee after tangling with Baldock.
Three minutes later, Flynn followed suit on the other side of the pitch but Lewington held his ground.
Baxter had a ninth-minute shot comfortably saved from 25 yards and United continued to test Dons’ resolve, with Murphy forcing a corner after drifting into a central position and unleashing a low shot.
United, under Clough’s orders, continued to express themselves, despite placing two solid banks of four behind the ball whenever Dons attacked.
But, having seen Lewington test Howard with a deft lob and Hill thwart McLeod with an excellent intervention, the visitors were forced to make a change when Brayford, clutching the back of his leg, succumbed to injury in the 17th minute.
Davies, the on loan defender’s replacement, slotted in at right back and immediately made his presence felt by stopping Powell. This was an intriguing contest with both teams enjoying good spells and then having to defend for equally short periods.
However, United were the first to make one such moment pay when SCOUGALL opened the scoring in the 23rd minute.
Seconds after prodding Flynn’s centre wide from close range, the Scotland under-21 international drove right through the middle of Dons’ rearguard from deep before sliding a clinical finish beyond Martin.
The action became increasingly fractious with a flurry of free-kicks slowing down the tempo.
What will have concerned Clough more, though, will have been the sight of Murphy also being forced off with injury six minutes before the interval. Porter entered the fray with Baxter now taking up a position on the flank.
Despite being forced to reorganise both in terms of team shape and personnel, only Spence’s goal-line clearance prevented United from doubling their lead two minutes after the re-start after Baxter, ghosting into the box from the flank, met Scougall’s cross.
Dons boss Robinson made a triple change, and Hall’s first contribution after coming on was to foul Baxter with Davies’ free-kick deflected behind for a corner which was eventually cleared after Flynn’s centre flashed tantalisingly across Martin’s box. Before that, however, Davies had flung himself bravely in front of Odelusi’s shot to prevent it from reaching Howard.
Dons presented more of a threat following their own reshuffle but Baxter should have scored after a delightful move involving Coady sent him clean through on goal, but Martin smothered the shot.
Porter tried to barge his way through but Spence stood firm while Dons, sensing the clock was against them, began appealing for penalities whenever United made a clearance.
Hill, who had impressed alongside Collins, was the subject of several despite clearing with both his chest and feet. Howard collected comfortably as Odelusi tried to meet a 78th minute cross before Baxter curled over at the other end from long range.
Scougall was replaced by. Kennedy, who came on the reinforce United’s back four. The home side threw everything at United, who were not to be denied their seventh straight win.