Nigel Clough, the Sheffield United manager, has challenged his team to prove their recent upturn in form is no fluke by recording a third straight win at Bramall Lane when Crewe Alexandra visit South Yorkshire tomorrow.
The Championship hopefuls enter the game unbeaten in four games after dispatching Scunthorpe in emphatic fashion on Tuesday evening.
Although Clough described the victory, which moved United six points clear of seventh-placed Barnsley, as an “important” moment in the battle for play-off qualification, he told The Star the manner in which it was achieved could exert huge influence over the rest of the season.
“Confidence was probably the biggest thing which came out of that,” Clough told The Star. “It was nice for the lads to be able to enjoy it and to see them enjoying it too.
“Results are always nice at this stage but it’s nice if you can combine them with a performance as well.”
“We’ve always maintained that form is temporary but, if you keep doing the right things then the class will hopefully come out in the end,” Clough added. “That’s what we’ve been preaching to the lads.
“So it was good to see that and be able to show what we’re working towards and how we want to play.”
Jason Holt and Jamie Murphy were both on target in midweek while Jose Baxter scored his fourth goal in three outings after converting twice from the penalty spot against the visitors from Glanford Park. Ryan Flynn also impressed.
Revealing United had contemplated “changing the taker” in an attempt to confuse the opposition, Clough insisted the former Everton midfielder’s refusal to abdicate his responsibility illustrated his renewed self-belief.
“I take my hat off to Jose because what he did, taking two penalties and scoring them both in the same game, is much harder than it looks,” Clough said. “Sometimes, when you get a second, it might be a good idea to change because the ‘keeper might have picked-up little pointers from the first but Jose felt confident and wanted to do it.
“That was a good sign for us and also from him.”
“It was also nice to get across that 60 point mark,” Clough added. “We’d spent too long in the 50’s and too long in the 30’s before that.
“It’s a good marker and now we want to kick-on because, if we don’t then the gap can soon get clawed back. It’s vital everybody realises that.”