Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder felt his side rediscovered their identity as they secured a first Premier League win of the season against Newcastle.
The Blades were a revelation on their return to the top flight during the last campaign, finishing ninth and mounting a serious challenge for European football, but they have struggled this time around.
Rooted to the bottom of the table after 15 defeats from 17 matches prior to Tuesday night, Wilder’s side have made the worst ever start to a Premier League season and the ignominy of getting fewer points that the 11 Derby managed in 2007-08 is a real possibility.
However, against a negative, unimaginative and uninspiring Newcastle team on the night, whose task was made even harder by Ryan Fraser’s red card on the stroke of half-time, the Blades looked like the team of last season.
Wilder’s men dominated throughout, with crisp passing and incisive, free-flowing football and they eventually got their reward when club captain Billy Sharp, on as a second-half substitute, scored the 73rd-minute winner as he made it 1-0 from the penalty spot.
“I thought we were in control and confident on the ball and pushed it and it was a deserved win. It looked like we got our identity back,” said Wilder.
“I thought the performance was really good. I know the sending-off will be talked about, making it easier for us, but I thought in the first half it was coming even before that.
“I felt we had an identity and it was us with the handbrake off, going for it and playing well in and out of possession.
“I’m delighted with the performance and it is a big result for the players and supporters obviously, given the length of time we haven’t had a win.
“The key now is to take it forward, we can’t waste it. We’ve got an incredible challenge ahead of us but if we can make it competitive”