FIVE things learned from Sheffield United 3 Oldham 0
There was an air of positivity about Bramall Lane and that transferred onto the pitch as Sheffield United beat Oldham Athletic 3-0.
It's fair to say that results and performances haven't been what United fans expected this season but this display showed what the team are capable of as goals from John Brayford, Ryan Flynn and Billy Sharp did the damage on Oldham.
Here are five things we learned from the win...
THE KIDS ARE MORE THAN ALRIGHT
George Long, Ben Whiteman, Louis Reed, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Graham Kelly were all in the squad, all of them Academy graduates. Whiteman was excellent, completely unphased by making the step up, Long made a couple of good saves and Reed and Calvert-Lewin played their part when they came on. It's well-documented but this conveyor belt of talent at Shirecliffe is incredible and just keeps churning out immense talent. Nigel Adkins clearly believes in them and it's a faith they are repaying with confident, composed performances belying their years.
CHANGE IN SYSTEM FINALLY REAPING REWARDS
It's taken a little getting used to but this formation, using John Brayford and Matt Done as wing-backs, with three central defenders closing things up at the back, really clicked into place against Oldham. Both wide men were bursting forward at all opportunities and if the ball came back, Alex Baptiste, Jay McEveley and David Edgar were mopping up everything. Crosses were going into the box, there was a fluency in attack and it all made for an entertaining, easy-on-the-eye display. There'll be tougher challenges than Oldham, but this was a huge positive step forward.
MORE ON BLADES 3 OLDHAM 0
FANS PLAYED THEIR PART, TOO
While grumpiness around Bramall Lane has almost become a red and white stereotype, it has also always been said that if the fans see the team give their all and at least attempt to entertain, then they will get behind them. That was evident here, with supporters offering encouragement from the start and throughout. No moans or grumbles when the ball wasn't played forward quickly, but a patience that is now necessary at this stage of the campaign.
DEAN HAMMOND - SO IMPORTANT, SO UNDER-RATED
He's far from a fans' favourite - it's possible that supporters were expecting a different type of player when he joined - but Hammond's ability to break up play and provide a crisp, short pass is vital. Every team needs that type of player. The former Southampton man does the hard work which goes unseeen and allows the more creative members of the squad to do their thing. The fact that, as revealed by Nigel Adkins, Hammond was ill throughout the game only goes to show how impressive he was. United are much, much better with him than without.
A PLAY OFF PLACE IS DEFINITELY ACHIEVABLE
Six points is a fair amount to eat into, and there are five teams to leapfrog, but if United play as they did here, they will be in with a great chance of doing it. In fact, I would go as far as to say they will. There hasn't been a good run of form since December and John Brayford, in his post match talk with the press, hinted that there was almost an air of 'right, it's now or never lads' about the team this week. I firmly believe that a consistent run of good results is in this team. Six of their last ten games are against teams currently above them in the table. They've barely showed it, but United are more than capable of beating all of those teams. Momentum could just be building.