Crawley 0-2 Blades - match report
League One's number one at Christmas is Sheffield United after a double from Tony McMahon helped the Blades to the division's summit.
The right-back netted two 30-yard free-kicks to ensure United triumphed in a first ever encounter with Crawley Town.
Despite difficult conditions, due to excessive rain, the Blades defended solidly and were full value for maximum points going into successive home games.
McDonald and Kitson both started for the Blades as boss Wilson made two changes. Williams dropped to the bench, whilst there was no place for Porter. For Crawley, McFadzean, brother of United substitute Callum, missed out but former Blades Clarke and Davis were on the bench.
Flynn, it was quickly evident, was back on the wing allowing McDonald to take up his regular position in the centre of the midfield but all the players spent time attempting to come to terms with the wet and soggy conditions.
Adams curled wide for the home side, after being allowed to run, but the first serious chance came from the Blades on 12 minutes. McDonald broke from midfield and good movement in front of him saw Flynn lay off to Kitson, whose shot was deflected over by Walsh.
Hill was the first booked, the referee possibly not taking the conditions into account when considering the foul on Hunt, whilst another move involving McDonald and Kitson presented another opportunity but Flynn's low cross was cut out.
Long was sharply off his line to snuff out Sadler, who had got past Blackman and Maguire, before the first effort on target brought the game's first goal. Walsh was penalised for a foul on Miller and from the resulting free-kick McMAHON curled around the wall, into the bottom corner, from fully 30 yards.
Crawley attempted to hit back with Adams heading wide and Connolly's long-ranger flying over the crossbar but the Blades weathered the storm and took a narrow advantage into the break.
Early in the second period the Crawley faithful were appealing for a penalty when Adams kicked the ball against Collins but referee Ward said no and then a shot from Jones was not far wide on 51 minutes. Similarly, at the other end, United's calls for a penalty when Flynn's cross hit Connolly were waved away and then a Blackman shot, with his unfavoured right-foot, was parried out by goalkeeper Jones.
Around the hour mark, Akpan's effort from distance was well held by Long and Miller was United's second booking after a clash with Connolly. Ex Blades loanee was the first replacement, with a quarter of the game to go, and he was quickly followed by Ironside taking the place of the tiring Kitson.
Ironside was quickly involved, tempting a foul out of Walsh, which set up another 30 yard free-kick - McMAHON this time beat goalkeeper Jones by curling into the top corner before heading off to celebrate in front of a glut of Santas in the Blades end.
Wilson threw on fresh legs in Cofie for Miller and the chances continued, McDonald's low shot was saved by Jones and McMahon's attempt to claim a hat-trick was ruined when he fired over a free-kick from the edge of the box.
United successfully managed to keep the home side quiet in the closing minutes - plus five more added by the officials - to ensure the travelling fans, all 1,261 one of them, went home with an early Christmas present.
Blades: Long, Maguire, Hill, Flynn, Doyle, Blackman (Williams 90), McDonald, Miller (Cofie 81), Kitson (Ironside 70), Collins, McMahon.
Unused: Westlake, McAllister, McFadzean, Coyne.
Crawley: P. Jones, Hunt, Sadler, Connolly, Walsh, Bulman (Clarke 67), Simpson, Akpan, M. Jones, Adams, Alexander (Akinde 75).
Unused: Torres, Clifford, Ajose, Davis, Kuipers.