Sheffield United appear to be in a three horse race for promotion to the Premier League.

The Blades are currently in third and one place and two points outside the automatic promotion slots. Leeds United are two points ahead in second, while leaders Norwich City have four more points.

With only 11 Championship matches left to play United have opened up a five point gap between themselves and fourth-placed West Bromwich Albion and 11 from Derby County in seventh.

Only the aforementioned Norwich and West Brom, as well as Aston Villa, have scored more than the Blades’ 59 league goals this season.

Captain Billy Sharp has netted 22 of them, placing him second on the top scorer list behind Teemu Pukki. David McGoldrick has a further 11, while manager Chris Wilder concentrated on boosting his attack during the January transfer window with the loan signings of Gary Madine and Scott Hogan.

Yet that isn’t the stat that could be key to United getting to the Premier League.

Strong at the back

(photo by Nathan Munkley/Action Plus via Getty Images)

While three teams in England’s second tier have scored more than Wilder’s men, only one has conceded fewer – Middlesbrough.

The Blades have only let in 34 goals this term. They have kept clean sheets in nine of their last 11 Championship outings and in their last four successive fixtures.

Fellow promotion hopefuls Leeds and Norwich cannot match this. While the latter have scored 71 times, giving them the best goal difference in the division, the Whites have an inferior goal difference to United because of the goals they’ve conceded. With things as tight as they are at the top of the table, that could effectively count as an extra point.

Even injuries and suspensions haven’t halted the Blades’ progress in defence. They have kept clean sheets at some point in 2018/19 with a combination of either John Egan, Jack O’Connell, Chris Basham, Richard Stearman, Martin Cranie or even Enda Stevens at the back.