CHRIS WILDER has backed Sheffield United to continue defying the odds in the Championship promotion race despite suffering a setback against rivals Leeds United.
The Blades’ hopes of reaching the Premier League suffered a blow when Leeds became the first team to win at Bramall Lane since the opening day of the campaign.
Pablo Hernandez netted the only goal of a keenly-fought contest following a calamitous mistake by loanee goalkeeper Dean Henderson to leave Wilder in a frustrated mood at the final whistle.
“We should not be anywhere near,” said Wilder when asked about his side’s promotion prospects. “Seriously, we should not be anywhere near. We are getting the maximum amount from the players, the absolute maximum. And they are giving the maximum for this football club.
“But we should not be anywhere near and we should not have been anywhere near it last season (when United finished 10th), either.
“It so winds me up when people say we fell away after Christmas. We took it to the 45th game last season and we will try to take it further this time.
“We play in a way that suits us. I am not saying we have reinvented the wheel or anything like that. But we cause the opposition problems.
“I did not want Leeds to come here and do what they have done for the majority of the season, whereby they have been allowed to do whatever they want. We wanted to give Leeds problems to solve and if they solved them, fair enough.
“I do not think it was us on the back foot for the majority of the game. I do not think it was them on the back foot for the majority of the game. Just a well-contested game, which is what you want.
“There were contrasting shapes and they had a decent period midway through the second half but there were a lot of periods when we were really good. In the end, it was decided by an individual mistake.”
United slipped to sixth in the table courtesy of a first defeat to Leeds on home soil since 1992.
Wilder added: “I will back my team and we will give it a real good go. Sheffield United want to see their supporters walk in the front door and go out of the front door. I thought we did that against Leeds. We should not be anywhere near but we are.
“Why are we near? It is just simple things like running around, making tackles and winning headers. We are working hard and I think we have caused problems for a big side.”
Hernandez’s seventh goal of the season took Leeds back to the summit for a couple of hours before Norwich City reclaimed top spot by coming from behind to beat Rotherham United at Carrow Road.
It was a third consecutive victory for Marcelo Bielsa’s men, who lost captain Liam Cooper to a knee injury inside the opening quarter that will be assessed in the coming days.
Asked about returning to the top, albeit briefly, Leeds’s head coach said: “It is not convenient to make any comparisons with the other teams at this moment of the season because we are not sure the top-six now will be the same at the end of the season.
“We faced a serious opponent. It was hard for us to find a solution against Sheffield. They play through the number ‘16’ (Oliver Norwood). They have movement and the ‘17’ (David McGoldrick) dropped back, (while) the contribution of the ‘6’ (Chris Basham) created problems that took us time to solve. Not because we did not know these features of the team, but because our plans did not work regarding these three players.
“Having said that, I still think we had better possession than the opponent and more chances to score. But there are two actions in the game, the one before our goal and then when the opponent (Conor Washington) shot at the crossbar.
“If the opponent did not make a mistake for the goal and also scored that shot at the end against the bar, it would have been different. But it is always beautiful to win and I am always happy when I win.”
As for Wilder, he was left to rue several missed chances with Bailey Peacock-Farrell saving twice from McGoldrick. Washington also struck the bar late on, while Billy Sharp’s usual killer instinct against Leeds – the striker had netted six times in his previous four meetings with the Elland Road club before the weekend – was absent as he headed over just before the interval.
“We probably should have scored just before half-time but we did not,” said the Blades manager, whose side had last been beaten on home soil by Swansea City on the opening day. “And then a mistake costs us.
“No-one, though, connected with this football club can be disappointed with what the boys are doing.”
Match report: Page 3