Sheffield United: This team has b***s! Chris Wilder hails spirit in Blades camp after bouncing back with victory over Middlesbrough
Chris Wilder, the Sheffield United manager, admitted his team's win over fellow promotion contenders Middlesbrough felt like a significant moment in the battle for Premier League football after they moved to within two points of second-placed Norwich City with 14 games remaining.
United entered the match under intense scrutiny following last week's draw at Aston Villa, which saw them surrender a three goal advantage during the closing stages.
With two key players unavailable for selection and a third hobbling-off midway through the match, substitute Richard Stearman's header saw United overcome the odds against opponents who were later reduced to 10 men when Daniel Ayala was sent-off.
"Pound for pound, that feels right up there," Wilder said. "Because of the circumstances and who we were up against.
"I told the lads in the huddle afterwards, they've proved they've got real b***s to come back because it's been a difficult few days with what happened there (Villa Park)."
Although Wilder insisted the result was "down to the whole group", goalkeeper Dean Henderson, whose mistakes contributed to United's disappointment in the Midlands, was among those to receive an honourable mention afterwards.
"The players got around Dean," Wilder said. "They protect him, he protects them. I've been a fan of this club for a long time and there's been plenty of teams that have let the supporters down but not this group, not this team."
With Chris Basham beginning a two match suspension and Jack O'Connell ruled-out with a hamstring injury, United's problems were further compounded when George Baldock was withdrawn after complaining of a tight calf. The wing-back and O'Connell are set to be assessed at the Steelphalt Academy later this morning before a decision is taken regarding their involvement against Reading this weekend.
"We'll see how they are," Wilder said. "I opened my mouth about us not getting injuries and then these come up so I'll keep it shut from now on. Jack hasn't missed one in God knows how long and he was desperate to be involved but we couldn't take the risk."