Chris Wilder praised his “special” Sheffield United side after they regained second place in the Championship with a 1-0 win at Preston.
David McGoldrick’s 13th league goal of season helped the Blades bounce back from their home defeat to Bristol City, moving them ahead of Leeds, although still seven points adrift of leaders Norwich.
Six games remain for United and Wilder has urged his side not to take their foot off the gas.
“This is a special group of players,” said Wilder. “I have always said that and you can see from the performance today just how much we wanted that result.
“There is still a long way to go in this season, and there will be a few more twists and turns, but we just having to keep going. It has been a very long week at the club, but that is football.
“The players have kept their focus and performed today, backed up by an excellent away support, who pushed them right from kick-off.
“Norwich have been brilliant since the turn of the year, they have just steamed ahead of the rest of us and I would be very surprised if they do not win the division from the position they are in.
“We are desperate to hold on to them in the next few games and try and hold on in the automatic promotion place.”
McGoldrick tapped home after Preston goalkeeper Declan Rudd tipped John Egan’s header on to the crossbar after 33 minutes for the game’s only goal.
Preston had dominated early on, Callum Robinson forcing a fine save from Dean Henderson before United, who have not lost back-to-back games since August, switched to a counter-attacking style.
North End could have levelled after the break, Sean Maguire skewing a header wide from substitute Louis Moult’s driven cross.
“Our main problem was that we just did not take our chances when they came along. Sheffield United did and that’s how they have won the game,” said boss Alex Neil.
“Their goal came from our mistake, we gave the ball away in midfield and conceded a corner. From there, we did not pick up their players making runs at the back post and they score.
“It is disappointing to concede from a situation that you have prepared for, as their set pieces were something that we had looked at.
“When you are playing against a side towards the top end of the table, vying for promotion, those little differences are everything.
“We are not going to feel sorry for ourselves, we know that if we do not take our chances in games like this then we are going to get punished.”