Chris Wilder, the Sheffield United manager, believes his team’s reaction to their result against Birmingham City proves they belong at the top end of the Championship.
United remained third in the table, three points behind second-placed Cardiff, after being held to a first draw since March despite dominating the majority of their meeting with Steve Cotterill’s side.
But Wilder, speaking after Leon Clarke’s 13th goal of the season cancelled-out Jeremie Boga’s long-range strike, said: “How far we’ve come, I don’t want it to stop and I don’t think the players want it to stop. If you walked into that dressing room, there’s a lot of really disappointed players in there.
“They can be disappointed a bit but nobody else can because of the way they’ve tried to drive it forward.
“I don’t think it will stop with the way they are playing. Consistently, they are producing some really good performances in a tough division. Results will follow if they keep the standards as high as they are.”
Clarke’s finish, his ninth in only four appearances, ensured United’s perseverance and attack-minded football did not go unrewarded against opponents who, despite languishing just above the relegation zone, spent around £20m during the close season improving their squad.
Wilder, who led the hosts to the League One title last term, added: “Whether it’s me not being able to manage at this level because I’ve not done it before, whether it’s the video analysis guy not being able to do his job properly because this is the Championship or the players not being able to score goals or keep clean sheets, these are all things to dispel. You do that by working hard.
“We’re actually not bothered about proving people wrong or anything like that. We just want to go about our business and be as successful as we can.
“I can think of a lot more places where we could have been at this time of year than at Bramall Lane, playing against Birmingham City in front of the television cameras and 27,000 supporters. There’s not a lot wrong at this football club.”
Cotterill, the Birmingham City manager, tweaked his tactics for the visit to South Yorkshire and Wilder, whose side returns to action at Millwall this weekend, insisted that demonstrates United’s credentials are now being taken seriously.
“I don’t think they’ve played three centre-halves all season,” he said. “But that’s not a criticism, you do what you have to do with the players you’ve got.
“I recognised this was going to be a tough game because of the players they have. There was a mutual respect between both clubs.”
“They will be disappointed not to have seen the game out and we’ll be disappointed we’ve only taken one (point). They’ve got good players who will get into a rhythm, especially when they get the confidence.”