Chris Wilder, the Sheffield United manager, insisted his team’s performance against Brentford confirms their status as genuine play-off contenders despite admitting some profligate finishing had cost them dear at Griffin Park.
Wilder, whose side are one point behind sixth-placed Middlesbrough with seven matches remaining, created numerous opportunities towards the end of an absorbing match in West London which saw both teams reduced to 10 men when Jamal Blackman and Ryan Woods were sent-off following a second-half skirmish.
Although he expressed frustration at United’s failure to exploit those chances, particularly during a frantic finale, Wilder said: “That, for me, was one of the best performances I’ve seen the lads produce since I’ve been here.
“I’ve told them in the dressing room that, if they keep on producing that, then we are going to be there or there abouts at the end.
“Yes, of course we’re frustrated not to have won the game. I think any neutral in the ground would have come away wondering how we aren’t going back home around the M25 and up the M1 with the three points.
“But that, for me, goes to show just how far we have come. We’ve played like that against Brentford who, while they might not be the biggest club in the division, are one of the most dangerous and who are capable of blowing away teams by three, four and five here.”
Blackman and Woods received their marching orders after striking one another when the Brentford midfielder attempted to retrieve the ball following Chris Mepham’s equaliser. Chris Basham had earlier broken the deadlock with only his second goal of the campaign.
Wilder, who later revealed a groin injury had forced Mark Duffy to miss the visit to London, said: “It’s a shame that two very good players are now going to miss three games. There were two committed sides, both giving their all for their respective clubs, out there.”
“It’s still all to play for,” he added. “We’ve got some brilliant games coming up and, although I can level a few minor criticisms, if we play like that for the remainder then I think we’ll be there in the mix.”