Sheffield United kept the pressure on the Championship’s top two, Leeds United and Norwich City, with a hard-fought 2-0 win over Brentford at Bramall Lane on Tuesday.
Promotion to the Premier League this season is a very real possibility for the Blades, but it will likely go down to the wire. However, they kept themselves very much in the hunt with this vital win.
They had to dig deep to secure the three points after Gary Madine’s first half red card. Chris Wilder’s side produced an exceptionally solid defensive performance and proved impossible to break down, despite the fact they were a man short for most of the game.
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And Wilder deserves enormous credit for how he was able to organise his side and guide them to victory against a good team despite their numerical disadvantage.
The manager’s substitutions were both inspired and fearless, and they shaped the course of the game in the home side’s favour.
Wilder didn’t make the mistake of stocking his side with defenders and sitting deep. This would have just invited relentless waves of pressure, and the Blades would have eventually cracked. Instead, two of his three changes saw him bring strikers onto the pitch – goal-scorer David McGoldrick and veteran club captain Billy Sharp.
This provided United with mobility up front, so they always had an out-ball. What’s more, Sharp and McGoldrick are both powerful enough to hold up the ball and diligent enough to defend effectively from the front.
By occupying Brentford with these strikers, the Blades succeeded in blunting the visitors’ threat. Of course, their defenders still had to be at the top of their game, but they were given a big helping hand by their manager’s bold tactical decisions.