SEVEN talking points from Sheffield United's 2-1 victory over Shrewsbury Town at Bramall Lane
Sheffield United are in the automatic promotion places in League One after they beat Shrewsbury 2-1 at Bramall Lane this afternoon.
But what were the main talking points from the game, which saw Shrewsbury end with nine-men? Here, Danny Hall offers seven.
A red, or not a red? Two dismissals; one appeared clear cut, the other a little more straightforward. Jim O'Brien received his marching orders early on after fouling Dan Lafferty in the box. Assuming the subsequent dismissal was for the challenge, rather than any reaction from O'Brien, then it's a controversial one.
A rule change this season means that any defender denying a goalscoring opportunity, but making a genuine challenge for the ball, should only be booked, rather than sent off. [The goalscoring opportunity rule is ridiculous anyway in my view, as I've said countless times before, but that's for another day]. O'Brien mistimed his tackle but went for the ball and, save for any reaction which may have cost him, Darren Deadman may have got that one slightly wrong.
Did it matter? Essentially, yeah. The early red killed the game, really, as Shrews were already a goal down by that time and no-one gave them much hope of coming back into it. Billy Sharp gave them a glimmer of hope by missing the resultant penalty, but he continued his remarkable scoring record [that's seven in five games for the skipper now] with a calm finish early on from a stunning John Fleck pass.
And the second one? Less doubt here. Abu Ogogo's challenge on Paul Coutts left him with blood down his shin and Chris Wilder said he was lucky to have walked off the pitch. The reaction for a challenge like that often tells you a lot, and our view from the Press box was that the tackle was late - with initial echoes of Chris Basham's red card at Scunthorpe. The referee that day? Deadman. At least you can't fault his consistency.
How are the injured players? Difficult to tell at this early stage. Mark Duffy went off with what ended up being revealed as a tight calf, while Freeman took a whack in the back, in Wilder's words. Coutts came off at half-time with his leg in a less than pleasant state, and it'll be interesting to see if any of the three make the squad for Tuesday night's clash at home to Bury. With the way United play, all three are crucial components and their small squad is already stretched a little.
But are the replacements there? No doubt. Assuming all three miss out on Tuesday, Wilder can take some small comfort from the quality of the replacements he can play instead. Jack O'Connell, who came on at half-time for Coutts, can return to centre-half comfortably, with Basham reverting to midfield. Stefan Scougall came on for Duffy and scored again.
The only headache would be at right-back - United have Reece Brown and maybe Ben Whiteman who can play there, but are either suited to a marauding wing-back style of play? If Freeman is out for a while, could it see a recall for John Brayford? Unlikely, I know, but stranger things have happened in football!
There's a danger United could become victims of their own success here. They will lose, between now and the end of the season, and it's important to try and retain a bit of perspective. Yes, they were poor at times here and as the unbeaten run goes on, each game becomes more and more important. But the fans at times this season have dragged United along when they've flagged, and there was a lot of frustration on the terraces this afternoon. That's understandable, after six seasons exiled in this league, but could counter-productively undermine their attempts to get out of it.
End of the day; two goals, three points. Job done. That's 13 unbeaten in the league for Wilder's side now, and a lot of their upcoming games are at Bramall Lane - a place few teams will visit with any real confidence of getting a result. Brick by brick, Wilder is assembling a talented squad which remains hungry for success, and it's a recipe that could deliver promotion to Bramall Lane - at last - come May.