Sheffield United gave their promotion hopes a huge boost by winning at West Bromwich Albion.
A 14th minute header from Kieran Dowell was enough to secure a 1-0 victory at the Hawthorns.
Manager Chris Wilder is rightfully receiving plenty of plaudits for his tactics. The goal also highlighted how Wilder’s style is completely unique in the Championship.
The winner against West Brom came when wing-back Kieron Freeman played in centre-back Martin Cranie down the wing. Cranie’s cross from the touchline was then headed in by Dowell.
At the moment the ball went into the back of the net, Cranie was the Blade furthest forward. He was playing on the right side of a three-man central defence.
That assist was the 14th time this season a United defender has set up a goal. Enda Stevens has six assists, Freeman has four, while Chris Basham, John Egan, Jack O’Connell and now Cranie all have one apiece.
It is the last four, who are all centre-backs, which most greatly emphasise Wilder’s brilliance.
The ‘unorthodox’ style
After the win over the Baggies, Marvin Johnson spoke about his boss’ tactics, giving an insight into playing under Wilder.
“Being unorthodox helps,” Johnson told the Sheffield Star. “Teams probably play against the same formations a lot, especially in this division.
“We’re a bit more mixed up, even though everybody has seen us in action, we’re hard to pick up when we do it right.
“When we’re on form, it works really well for us.”
The “unorthodox” nature that Johnson is referring to is likely to be that, like with Cranie on Saturday, the overlapping centre half is often the furthest forward in attack.
This is a tactic that regularly takes teams by surprise and means the Blades can swarm numbers into their opponent’s half when on the offensive.
It also takes great understanding and consistent training and is therefore a true testament to Wilder and his vision.