Sheffield United 1 Peterborough 0
SHEFFIELD UNITED will have viewed this match as a routine challenge at the start of the season.
Circumstances, not least a winless run stretching back to September, combined to ensure they approached Peterborough's visit with more trepidation than would have seemed possible when the Championship's fixture schedule was initially announced.
But while progress often proved difficult against opponents whose performance suggested new boss Mark Cooper is right to claim that their battle for survival is far from lost United delivered the desired result.
Manager Kevin Blackwell's clenched-fist salute on the final whistle served to remind, in times of trouble, the outcome is more important than aesthetics.
Having spent much of the campaign watching a horrendous injury crisis wrecking both United's league position and confidence, Blackwell will hope Saturday's match marks the end of arguably the most frustrating period of his coaching career.
With key names such as Lee Williamson, Matthew Kilgallon and Andrew Davies all declared fit enough to take part and a clutch of equally important players shortly expected to wave goodbye to the treatment room, he could enjoy the novelty of a selection headache en route to Bristol City this weekend.
Certainly, as Blackwell acknowledged afterwards, it should infuse his charges with some much-needed belief as they approach the crucial Christmas period.
Henri Camara threatens to exert a great influence over United's fortunes.
The Senegalese's display, particularly during the early skirmishes, only served to deepen the mystery surrounding his struggle to find employment after departing Wigan.
The first-half finish which put Peterborough to the sword will leave clubs throughout the division questioning the wisdom of their decision not to contest his signature.
Camara's English might be broken but he is fluent in the language of goals.
"I thought Henri looked Premiership quality out there," Blackwell said after later watching Peterborough's George Boyd spurn the opportunity to equalise from the penalty spot.
"There were times when they just couldn't handle him, especially early on.
"He gives us something that we haven't got.
"What he did was the mark of a real predator and that's something I think we've been missing for a long while.
"That was his first proper outing in an age and so it wasn't a surprise to see him tire.
"But I never had any doubts about his ability. It's been obvious from the first day he came here in training and hopefully he's going to have a big part to play.
"What we did have to do is make sure he was fit and ready because we don't want to lose anybody else.
"I'm not sure why he was a free agent because he's a really talented lad.
"But sometimes people's agents can price them out of a move."
Blackwell also found negotiating with Camara's representatives a tortuous process and launched a furious broadside in their direction after initially pulling out of the deal.
But United's perseverance was rewarded when the 32-year-old, starting for the first time in 10 months, celebrated his full debut by converting on the rebound after Joe Lewis had saved Ched Evans' shot.
Evans, who led the line well in the absence of the suspended Darius Henderson, combined with the lively Jamie Ward to present Camara with his opening having earlier struck the woodwork.
Andrew Davies headed Chris Morgan's cross over the bar when the two centre-halves, who also looked solid, made inroads up field moments before the break.
Cooper, aware that points not plaudits are what Peterborough require to claw themselves out of the relegation zone, was delighted with his side's response.
A week after replacing Darren Ferguson in the London Road hot-seat, his first taste of life on a Football League touchline was a fulfilling if ultimately frustrating experience.
Craig Mackail-Smith, whose running stretched United throughout the second half, went close after pouncing upon Aaron McLean's pass before tempting Davies into the challenge which saw referee Grant Hegley award a penalty.
Mark Bunn, deputising for the injured Ian Bennett, duly saved Boyd's spot-kick.
"I changed my mind and I shouldn't have done," the Peterborough forward admitted - and United, who remain 14th, duly held on.
"We weathered the storm and came back at them well," Cooper, previously of Kettering, said.
"I thought we were terrific and were much, much better after half-time.
"I was confident about staying up after seeing the boys in training and I'm even more certain we can do it now.
"To be honest, I really enjoyed myself out there.
"It's no different to what I'm used to - except, of course, that the stadiums and the players are much better."
We kept a clean sheet and that was pleasing. We always knew people would tire for us out there because a lot of them haven't played much football of late. So we had to be careful. Henri came off because his hamstring felt a bit tight. which isn't surprising.
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