Kevin Gage's Blades Column: Results over two rivals have proven Sheffield United are the best team in League One by some distance
So after another magnificent Saturday at The Lane, let there be no more arguments about this team's credentials for promotion.
We’ve have now proven beyond any doubt whatsoever that we’re the best team in this league, and from the evidence of the last two matches against our two nearest rivals, we’re the best by some distance too.
The outstanding performance against Scunthorpe last week was always going to be difficult to emulate, especially in the howling wind and driving rain that greeted us all on Saturday, and Bolton actually presented us with a new set of potential problems to cope with. I’d seen first-hand during the FA Cup tie in December how physically strong they were and the danger they posed from set-pieces.
In truth our under-strength side that day struggled to cope and despite looking the better footballing side, they still beat us. Fast forward three months though and on Saturday Bolton found themselves in wet and windy Sheffield and up against a different proposition entirely. They were greeted by a full strength, fully committed, and a full-of-confidence team, playing in front of another full house at Bramall Lane. As such, and on day when it really mattered at the top of League One, there was only ever going to be one winner.
The conditions should actually have more suited Bolton, and the first half was a combative scrappy affair, littered with fouls and misplaced passes as both teams came to terms with each other and the weather. Bolton tried to negate the effectiveness of our midfield trio of Coutts, Fleck and Duffy by going man-for-man in midfield against them. In fact the guy playing against Fleck just followed him around irrespective of where the ball went!
However in that individual battle and when it really mattered, once again there was only going to be one winner, and Fleck even ended up as Man of the Match in most people’s eyes! After only twelve minutes, a flurry of quick passes, a driving run from Fleck followed by an inch perfect ball into Sharp’s path and Billy was through on goal with only the keeper to beat. Guess what? There was only going to be one winner! One nil.
The roar as that first goal flew in was something to behold. Wherever Gary Madine actually was at that precise moment (answers on a postcard please) he might well have even heard it! With all the social media nonsense that had preceded the game, it just had to be our talisman Billy who drew a line under the whole sorry story. Of course he went on to underline it too with his emphatic penalty later on. Job done Billy, and he proved that actions really do speak louder than words.
Bolton had done their homework and concluded that a big, physical presence and opportunities from set-pieces were the best way to stop this Sheffield United side. To be fair, in the first half they had their moments with a few wide free-kicks and a couple of crosses, but we looked comfortable and more than able to deal with whatever they threw at us…. You want to play a big lanky strong centre forward and try to overpower us? No problem. Have you met Jack O’Connell? He’s a colossus.
In the centre let me also introduce you to Jake Wright. You won’t even notice him, because he just gets the job done quietly and efficiently. By the way, he’s never lost any of his 20 games in a Blades shirt, nor a tackle come to think of it! Next to him is an all-action, athletic, die-for-the-cause defender. His nickname is Bash... enough said.
We’ve also just signed a 6ft 4in centre-forward who wins most of his headers, runs himself into the ground and is a proper old-fashioned English target man. He’s what’s known as a ‘handful’. Oh, and for good measure we’ve also got a ‘Tank’ on the bench... a big one! Basically, in a physical battle, yep, you’ve guessed it... there’s only going to be one winner!
To give an idea of the absolute domination we enjoyed in the second half could best be summed up by the sound of 25,000 Blades fans shouting “Ole” as we kept possession, passed the ball around a now bewildered and beleaguered Bolton, and cut them open at will. In truth it should have been four of five nil as we besieged their goal. We were even treated to a quite superb 25 minutes from sub Samir Carruthers who looked sheer class, and if he scored after his 60 yard mazy run where he beat at least five Bolton players, then the Blades ‘Goal of the Season’ competition would be already over!
So there we have it. A complete, comprehensive demolition of another top team in League One. Not by a huge goal margin, but certainly by the Blades dominance and confirmed by nearly everyone who witnessed it. Lots of Bolton fans left before the end, and by then their players knew their challenge was over. One of them even left over an hour before kick-off I’m told! (answers on another postcard please!).
Circumstances surrounding our fixtures now mean we have seven away games left and only five at home, and the next three games are away too. No bother at all. Quite frankly, they could be all away for me as it wouldn’t matter one jot. This team will get the job done, and in some style as well. It’s a joy to watch and be a part of at the moment, so let’s make sure that Bramall Lane is full for all the remaining home fixtures because when it’s loud and proud it’s a very special place. This is also a very special team.
And in what could turn out to be a very special season, they deserve nothing less. UTB
Follow him on Twitter: @gageykev