Sheffield United avoided tough “consequences” by finally ending their six-month winless run on a day “we had everything to lose”, manager Chris Wilder said.
Wilder’s team, bottom of the Premier League, ended a sequence of 21 matches without victory by beating League One side Bristol Rovers in the FA Cup third round.
Jayden Bogle’s second-half goal secured the win – Wilder’s 100th as United manager, and their first in any competition since they beat Chelsea 3-0 in the Premier League on 11 July.
“This was a big day for us – because of what’s happened, it’s been a tough week,” Wilder said.
“The consequences of not getting a result today would have really impacted on the group. The players have taken a lot.
“Everybody in the country would have sniffed this. Every expert, pundit and supporter wouldn’t have been surprised if we had been turned over today. But there was a good attitude.
“It was always going to be a tough cup tie, away from home and not being in form at all. It was against a team with nothing to lose and we had everything to lose today.”
Wilder’s side are still without a clean sheet in 22 games – their longest run without a shutout since 1998 – but his assertion that this game was “huge” rubbed off on his players as they started quickly.
United led when Lys Mousset leapt smartly to head against the bar before the ball went in off Rovers keeper Joe Day for an unfortunate own goal.
A towering Alfie Kilgour header drew League One Rovers level, but Wilder’s side were on top and had a second Mousset goal ruled out for a debatable foul by John Egan in the build-up.
The match was then decided by a flurry of three goals in four second-half minutes.
United substitute Oliver Burke ran clear and slotted in his first goal for the club on the hour to make it 2-1.
Max Ehmer quickly restored parity with an equaliser at the back post, but Bogle ended a slick move with a well-timed run into the area to notch his second goal in four matches and ease the pressure on Wilder and his team.
Rovers boss Paul Tisdale said his side “had a chance to win and didn’t take it” but United could have added more, with Burke firing against a post and the impressive Ben Osborn volleying into the side netting.
In all, Wilder’s side had 22 shots and while he later admitted the victory was far from “free-flowing”, his side have at least stopped the rot and secured a place in Monday’s fourth-round draw.
Sheffield United host Newcastle in the Premier League on Tuesday (18:00 GMT) and Bristol Rovers play AFC Wimbledon in the EFL Trophy on the same night (19:00).