Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder believes attitude, not ability, is his team’s biggest weapon in the race for promotion from League One.
Two goals from captain Billy Sharp saw second-placed United move to within a point of leaders Scunthorpe following a hard-fought 2-0 victory over bottom club Oldham Athletic at Bramall Lane.
Despite acknowledging their performance lacked “a little bit of quality or tempo”, Wilder cited United’s “desire” on a match by match basis as the driving force behind their push for Championship football next term.
Using the difference between the visitors’ performance at Bramall Lane and the one they produced during their home defeat by Southend nine days earlier, he said: “That wasn’t the Oldham I saw last week when I went to watch them. I must have got the wrong fixture because that wasn’t the same team. I said to the players, ‘I compliment you so much because you turn up, week in, week out, and give it a go.’
“You have times when things aren’t flowing, as they weren’t for us out there, but you have to turn up all the time. My lads do and their desire, to raise the levels, was absolutely first class.”
Despite searching for their first win in the competition since October, Oldham kept United at bay until Sharp scored his 15th and 16th goals of the season and fourth in two games.
“It isn’t all about playing Sheffield United and Scunthorpe,” Wilder continued.
“It’s about week in and week out, like we did against Coventry City and against Oldham out there. Maybe that little bit of quality or tempo was missing but we upped the tempo and that’s what you have to do at times; dig deep.”
“If they (Oldham) play like that, they shouldn’t be in the position they are,” Wilder added.
“I don’t like to comment on the opposition too much but I went over there, got stuck on Glossop High Street for an hour and a half, to watch a game that was a waste of time to be fair. But hopefully, if they play like that, they’ll cause teams problems much higher up the league.”
United return to action against Wilder’s former club Northampton Town on New Year’s Eve when Oldham will face eighth-placed Fleetwood Town.
“Their manager (Stephen Robinson) and their assistant are bright people, good football people,” Wilder said.
“Sometimes, though, I just think players let you down because, if they’d played like that last week, they wouldn’t have got beaten.
“I know people come here and raise their games but there can’t be that kind of peak and trough. That was possibly our hardest game in a long while so credit to them for that.”