Sheffield United: ‘These supporters are the most powerful weapon in our promotion arsenal’
Chris Wilder has described the bond between Sheffield United's players and supporters as the most powerful weapon in his team's armoury after watching them climb back into an automatic promotion position with only six games of the Championship season remaining.
In front of around 6,000 travelling fans, David McGoldrick's first-half goal proved enough to claim a vital victory over Preston North End and, with Leeds losing to Birmingham City, second place in the table ahead of Wednesday's visit to St Andrews.
Reflecting on events at Deepdale, Wilder, a lifelong United follower himself, said: "It's priceless, that connection. They understand what the lads are putting in.
"They've had enough to put up with over the years and so they recognise when a group is giving absolutely everything, leaving it all out there on the pitch.
"They can see, when Bash (Chris Basham) is going on the overlap in the 88th minute or Enda (Stevens) is racing back to get a block in, what that takes. They know that's not comfort zone football. We don't play comfort zone football and we certainly won't allow it here."
McGoldrick's strike, his 13th since joining United last summer, moved Wilder's side a point above Leeds ahead of this week's meeting with Garry Monk's squad. The result represented the perfect response to their defeat by Bristol City seven days earlier. United's second highest crowd of the season had watched that fixture.
"They have to stick with us," Wilder continued. "I did expect 30,000 last week because I think it should be like that.
"I don't want to upset anybody but the progression the team has made in the past two-and-a-half years, I think it should be.
"The backing the gave us here was special and, for the lads deserved. The celebrations at the end weren't over the top. It was just the boys showing their appreciation."
Although United are once again in control of their own destiny, Wilder dismissed suggestions that beating Preston could be a pivotal moment in the race for the Premier League.
"It's just another week in football, that's all it is," he said. "We were playing an honest group of lads out there. They (Preston) are battling it out with thew big boys just as much as we've done it."
With Gary Madine available again following suspension and fellow centre-forward Scott Hogan appearing as a second-half substitute, Wilder has plenty of attacking options at his disposal for the trip to the Midlands.
Praising the contributions of McGoldrick and United captain Billy Sharp, the United manager added: "David's done alright hasn't he. The two boys at the top of the pitch have been great.
"Gary is back for Wednesday and Scott is wanting to get on the pitch. They, (McGoldrick and Sharp) know they have to play well because there's some good boys behind them."