Sheffield United continued their promotion push with a 1-0 win at West Bromwich Albion.
It was the Blades’ third successive victory in the Championship and stretches their unbeaten run to six matches.
They also moved three points further ahead of fourth-placed West Brom and kept up the pace with leaders Norwich City.
A 14th minute goal from Kieran Dowell was enough to secure all three points at the Hawthorns. Yet United had to defend for large sections of the game and battle over the line.
In fact Chris Wilder’s men achieved something that no other side in the league has managed this season – they kept a clean sheet at the Baggies.
Others have won there – Bolton Wanderers, Derby County and Middlesbrough – but on those occasions West Brom have always scored.
The only other team to achieve the feat is Crystal Palace, who won 3-0 in the West Midlands in the Carabao Cup.
United’s impressive defence
Only two teams in England’s second tier have conceded fewer than the Blades’ 34 league goals this term. Bristol City have let in 33 while Boro are streaks ahead with 24.
Wilder and his staff have clearly worked hard to achieve this. In 2017/18 when United finished 10th, all of the sides above them conceded fewer goals.
This attention to the back line was demonstrated when a club record £4.1m (Yorkshire Post) was paid to Brentford for centre-back John Egan.
Egan has missed just one league fixture since, helping United to 12 clean sheets in the process.
Jack O’Connell has also been outstanding, while Chris Basham appears to complete Wilder’s preferred central defence. Yet others have had to be relied upon, with Martin Cranie, Richard Stearman and even Enda Stevens stepping up in the role at various times.
If the Blades are to be promoted to the Premier League then an improved defence will be a key reason.