Sheffield United belief and connection intensifies as fans make promotion message clear at Blackpool

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All wins are equal, they say. Three points are three points.

But some games, some victories, sometimes just feel that little bit bigger, seem to mean that little more.

That could describe Sheffield United’s victory at Blackpool on Thursday evening, as United prospered 2-1 on the west coast to continue their march towards, they hope, the Premier League.

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It wasn’t just the way they took charge of the game early on, passing so fluently and looking a threat every time they went forward - particularly down the right.

It wasn’t only the two excellent goals they scored, Sander Berge finishing nicely after great tenacity and skill from Jayden Bogle and the usual vision and intelligence we have come to expect from Iliman Ndiaye, before James McAtee claimed his second in two games with a superb driving run and finish so, so casual.

It wasn’t just the wild celebrations either side of the press box from almost 3,500 supporters who had packed into Bloomfield Road in expectation of their side picking up their eighth win in nine games, nor Ollie Norwood’s guttural roar in celebration or Paul Heckingbottom’s now-customary ‘ole’ celebration further underlying the connection between players and fans.

And it wasn’t only the fact that United also had to show real character, spirit and old-fashioned guts to see out the victory after Blackpool, who impressed at Bramall Lane playing some good football, tore up that plan and instead hung the ball high in the chilly, swirling sky for former Blade Gary Madine to challenge.

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It was all those things and more that marked this out as a huge victory and as those thousands of Blades shuffled out into the Blackpool night - some heading back to South Yorkshire, others excitedly making plans to explore the best this town has to offer - that feeling hung in the air. An 11 point gap over third-placed Blackburn Rovers, 12 if the remarkable goal difference between the two sides is factored in, feels ominous, even allowing for this club’s remarkable habit of self-harm in the past.

George Baldock of Sheffield United enjoys the win at Blackpool: Darren Staples / SportimageGeorge Baldock of Sheffield United enjoys the win at Blackpool: Darren Staples / Sportimage
George Baldock of Sheffield United enjoys the win at Blackpool: Darren Staples / Sportimage

Natural pessimism is perhaps understandable. Think relegation at Chelsea after being miles clear of the drop zone at half time. Think seeing your play-off final opponents miss their first three penalties and still win the shootout. Think every other play-off final heartbreak, think Tevez; think every other time this club has seemed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

How decisive it could be that so many members of this squad have been here before. The Egans, the Baldocks, Norwood and Fleck, Basham and Sharp. Experienced heads surrounded with exciting youth, hungry and determined to enjoy another taste of the big time.

Not since that first season in the Premier League, before anyone heard of Coronavirus and the world went to pot, have United fans and players seemed so connected. It even seemed fitting that an old chant was heard for the first proper time this season, repurposed for the current man leading the Blades’ Premier League charge.

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“We’re on the march with Hecky’s army,” reverberated around the Bloomfield Road away end. “We’re not going to Wembley.”

Whisper it quietly but, as things stand, a day out in the capital will, thankfully, not be required.

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