Manager Danny Wilson has told how self belief could prove to be Sheffield United’s biggest weapon in the race for automatic promotion this season.
United moved to within a point of leaders AFC Bournemouth after three wins in a week against Shrewsbury, Bury and Colchester.
And Wilson’s men could really cement their promotion credentials with victory this weekend at Bournemouth’s Fitness First Stadium.
“The lads have been told to believe in themselves,” Wilson, speaking after last weekend’s 3-0 home rout of Colchester, said.
“We have retained that self belief when things were going against us and we always knew our luck would change.
“It wasn’t as though there was a great deal wrong, it was a case of fine tuning and that is what we have done.”
United last occupied top spot in League One around Christmas, before a run of five games without a win.
Following last season’s Play-Off final heartbreak, the weight of expectation around Bramall Lane feels heavier than ever - but Wilson believes the experience of last season’s disappointment could ultimately prove the difference.
“We have know for a while that we need to go the distance,” the former Northern Ireland international said.
“I just feel some of our rivals are struggling to handle the pressure - while we’ve had it to contend with since the day I arrived at this club.
“We handle and embrace the expectation level and we are seeing the results going our way at present.”
Wilson could be handed a further boost ahead of Saturday’s clash with Eddie Howe’s men after defender Matt Hill made his comeback in United’s U21 defeat to Leeds United at Thorp Arch.
Hill, who broke his jaw at the beginning of January, played 90 minutes as United lost 3-1, and has declared himself available for selection on Saturday.
“I will just train hard and make sure I am ready when called upon by the Gaffer,” Hill, an unused substitute in United’s last three league games, said.
“It certainly helped getting a game under my belt for the U21s. I am delighted to see the lads winning and getting right back into contention, but it is always nicer when you are involved.
“The lads in possession of the shirt know they must perform to keep their position in the team.
“We have players on the bench, and even those not in the matchday squad, who are itching to feature and contribute to all the success of the team.”
Young goalkeeper George Willis, meanwhile, has been shortlisted for the Football League’s ‘Apprentice of the Year’ award for League One.
“We are delighted,” United’s Academy Manager Nick Cox said.
n Follow Danny on Twitter: @dannyhall04