FIVE things we learned from Sheffield United 1 Port Vale 0
It wasn't a particularly memorable success, but it was a win nonetheless and one that was desperately needed given the events of the past few days.
Here are five things we learned...
Fans loyalty can never be in question
Given that the team had just come off the back of a shockingly poor defeat to Bury on Tuesday - a side that had conceded nine goals in their previous two games - and then came the news that Jose Baxter had been suspended again after failing a drugs test, fans would almost be forgiven for deciding that a trip to Ikea would be a better way to spend their Saturday, and their cash. However, close to 18,000 Blades fans still turned out for the visit of Port Vale; yes, a little down, showing that some had voted with their feet, but not a great many. And those at Bramall Lane really got a behind a team who, if we're being frank, had done little of late to warrant such a show of support. United fans often appear to be the glass-half-empty type, but that was far from evident on Saturday. Their continued backing will be crucial between now and the end of the season if the team are to make the play offs.
Blades still look a little nervy
The reason the fans will be so important is that the players still have a nervousness about them. The weight of expectation is suppressing and that's showing on the pitch. Port Vale never really looked like scoring for much of Saturday's game but with 15 or so minutes remaining, United began to retreat, inviting pressure. That comes from a little lack in confidence due to the inconsistency of results and that will only disappear once they get a run of wins under their belts again.
You can always rely on Billy
Supporters groups could probably get the engravers on the phone now to start etching Billy Sharp's name into the various Player of the Year trophies. The Blades striker has been nothing short of brilliant for the majority of this campaign and is now talismanic for United. Sharp's workrate is phenomenal and no matter what the collective performance of the team is like, he can be relied upon to dig them out. His goal on Saturday was excellent, to go along with the 14 others he's scored this season, and so long as he continues to find the net, then United's chances of ending the season on a high will remain.
Florent Cuvelier's a welcome addition
The Belgian youngster's appearance on the team sheet was something of a surprise to some, but a welcome one. Cuvelier's United career has been hampered by injury but Nigel Adkins had enough confidence in the player's ability to give him a run out and the 23 year old impressed, adding a different dimension to United's play. For someone who hasn't played a lot of 'competitive' football, Cuvelier looked sharp and more than ready. It's a fresh option for Adkins and a very good one to have.
Let's see a few more wins now
United's form in the last six games reads DDLWLW. That's not the form needed to win promotion. Only one spell this season - in December - have they had a winning run and that's what they really have to achieve again. It may not have been pretty on Saturday but a few more of those wouldn't do any harm, starting away to Rochdale next week.