Chris Wilder has paid tribute to Sheffield United duo Paul Coutts and Kieron Freeman after they forced their way back into his first-team plans.
The former Derby County pair played key roles in yesterday’s 2-1 success at Gillingham, with Freeman netting the equaliser before Billy Sharp’s winner from the penalty spot late on.
Coutts, meanwhile, continued his own renaissance with another assured performance in midfield and Wilder said: “I have the utmost respect for both players.
“Sometimes, a new manager comes into a club and has to do bits and pieces his way. It’s never anything personal, but Paul and Kieron were victims of that. They’ve worked really hard and Couttsy, in particular, has been outstanding for the last three or four games.
“At half-time against Gillingham, I told him not to slip back into being a passenger and letting the game pass him by, and he didn’t do that. He took it by the scruff of the neck and moved the ball well.
“Kieron can be delighted with his goal, too, and we have a good group. At the end, we celebrated as a group; that’s us. We win together, we lose together but we’ll enjoy this one, for sure.”
United had trailed in Kent thanks to Bradley Dack’s impressive free-kick, but Freeman and Sharp ensured back-to-back wins ahead of this weekend’s trip to AFC Wimbledon.
Wilder gave a full United debut to Burnley loanee Daniel Lafferty, and Ethan Ebanks-Landell - who joined United last week on a temporary basis from Wolves - enjoyed an impressive cameo after replacing James Wilson on the hour mark.
“Ethan showed what a good player he is,” Wilder added.
“We’re pleased with Danny’s debut, too, and overall everyone played well.
“They stepped up and do what I ask, which is for them to put in a shift everytime they pull on a shirt.
“No-one is ducking or shirking responsibility, and I think that’s a good sign for us going forward.”