Irrelevant dead rubbers? Nothing, Matt Hill claimed yesterday, could be further from the truth.
Last weekend’s defeat by Portsmouth might have wrecked Sheffield United’s hopes of automatic promotion.
But, speaking ahead of tonight’s fixture with Crewe Alexandra, Hill insisted the final two matches of the regular season could decide whether their play-off journey leads Chris Morgan’s side towards the Championship or back into League One instead.
“It’s important we finish in a positive manner,” he said. “Because wins breed confidence.
“We want the strikers scoring goals and putting the ball in the back of the net.
“We want the defence to be keeping it out and getting clean sheets.
“Those are good habits to be in and we want to enter the play-offs having established plenty of those.”
United, who complete their 2012/13 fixture programme when Preston North End visit South Yorkshire on Saturday, travel to Gresty Road sixth in the table after delivering the most disappointing display of Morgan’s embryonic reign at Fratton Park 72 hours ago.
The 35-year-old, who took charge on a caretaker basis earlier this month, has placed endeavour and attention to detail at the heart of his regime.
Unfortunately, some notable exceptions apart, too many of his squad failed to demonstrate the same qualities against opponents celebrating their emergence from administration and purchase by a supporters’ trust.
Speaking immediately after that game, Danny Higginbotham admitted United had been guilty of “letting Morgs down.”
Echoing his fellow defender’s sentiments, Hill said: “Chris has acquitted himself ever so well since coming in. He’s got the total respect of the lads.
“He’s a very emotional person and he wears his heart on his sleeve. There were a few choice words spoken during the match down there.
“I agree we let him down. We are all 100 per cent behind him and (assistant) David (Unsworth) too.”
“Hopefully that was a blip,” Hill added. “We’ve got to take it on the chin, learn and move on.”
Nevertheless, despite their desperately disappointing showing at Portsmouth, it must be remembered that United possess the qualities required to plot a course to Wembley and beyond.
Having marked Morgan’s appointment with a richly deserved victory over Swindon Town, they made the journey to Hampshire on the back of another combative performance against fellow contenders Brentford.
“We’ve shown what we are capable of in the past,” Hill continued. “And we can do it again.
“We want to go into the play-offs with momentum behind us so we’re going to Crewe prepared to give everything we’ve got.
“It would be nice, in the play-offs, if we could go away first and then play the second leg of the semi-final at the Lane.
“So that’s why it’s important to try and finish as high as possible and do as well as we can.”
Crewe are 14th after failing to win since their recent Johnstone’s Paint Trophy success over Southend but Hill added: “They’re a very good team. A good passing side.
“There’s probably a few of the lads there with their flip-flops on now but that means they can take the shackles off.
“They’ll want to put a bit of a show on and they can go for broke.
“But we want to put a bit of a show on too. It’s important we try and do well for a number of reasons.
“It’s important we respond in the right manner.”
Morgan used his media briefing to rubbish suggestions that United’s past record in play-off competition, which includes four final defeats, would cast a shadow over their latest attempt.
Hill agreed, saying: “I’m a positive person so, for me, when I hear people saying this club has never gone through via the play-offs, well, that’s an opportunity.
“It’s an opportunity for us to say ‘Let’s be the ones to actually do it. Let’s be the first and let’s be the heroes.’
“Our first aim was to the top two but, however you do it, it’s still an achievement.”