Nigel Clough praised Sheffield United’s defensive solidity as his side recorded their eighth clean sheet of the season in their midweek triumph at Colchester United.
Striker Chris Porter came off the bench to slot in a late penalty at the Weston Homes Community Stadium as United secured a sixth successive win in all competitions.
It was the team’s third shut-out on the spin and the victory moved Clough’s men up to 12th in the League One standings.
United, who kept 21 clean sheets in the third-tier of English football last term, the highest in the division, have certainly tightened up under Clough. John Brayford and Bob Harris have added extra class in the full-back positions while Harry Maguire and Neill Collins are dovetailing effectively at the heart of their rearguard.
Clough, appointed United boss last October, said: “Clean sheets are the foundation everything is built upon. We look solid at the moment. Teams are having to work extremely hard to create chances against us.”
Following the dismal showing against Crewe Alexandra at the start of February, Clough decided to give Mark Howard an opportunity to impress in between the sticks. His faith in the experienced shot-stopper has been rewarded as United have conceded only once in their last six outings.
Clough said: “Only once in 24 games, at Crewe, have we been off it for the whole 90 minutes. There has been the odd spell or half but not like that.”
United have now won their last three fixtures on the road all by a one-goal margin.
“It is nice that we have got that belief now when we go home and away that we are more than capable of getting a win,” admitted Clough. “It would have been a traversty if we had not got the three points at Colchester.
“We thought we missed a bit of an opportunity in the first half because we dominated so much. We didn’t make the most of those situations but that will come with a bit more belief.
“I was very pleased with the way we played, although our finishing wasn’t great and it certainly would have been two points dropped if we hadn’t won the game late on.
“A 0-0 wouldn’t have been the end of the world, but a win is fantastic.”