Sheffield United manager Danny Wilson admitted his side struggled to find their best form in a 1-0 win over resilient Walsall, who played for most of the game with 10 men.
Walsall had Dean Holden sent-off for fouling Blades striker Dave Kitson in the area and the resulting 14th-minute penalty was tucked away by Nick Blackman. The visitors refused to capitulate however, with United goalkeeper George Long forced to block Will Grigg's effort before denying the striker again towards the end of the half with a fine save to keep out his close-range effort.
Wilson said: "It's a great three points - end of story. We didn't reach the heights that we know we can reach, but that's how it goes sometimes. You can't always play fantastic football.
"What disappointed me - if anything did - was the tempo that was lacking when they went down to 10 men. We seemed to come off the pace of the game for some reason and we got a little bit sloppy with the passing. We got caught in possession too many times.
"Let's give great credit to them because they played some great stuff. After going down to 10 men so early in the game, they really stuck at their jobs and they can take a great deal of pride from their performance.
"The expectation level here is so high and people think we're going to wipe the floor with teams, but it doesn't work that way. We certainly respect the opposition."
Walsall boss Dean Smith had no complaints with Holden's dismissal and praised his players for the way they reacted after being reduced to 10 men.
He said: "I thought we deserved to get something out of the game, but it wasn't to be. We showed a lot of resolve after going down to 10 men and in spells played some really good football. We were also very organised and protected Karl Darlow really well.
"We played for 76 minutes with 10 men and I can't really remember Karl Darlow having much to do, apart from one save at the end when (Shaun) Miller went through. Their goalkeeper made a good save from Will in the first-half and another one in the second-half which we didn't get a corner from. Flo (Florent Cuvelier) had a really good chance as well.
"It would have been nice to see 11 v 11. The referee got that one right, but I felt it should have been 10 v 10 because their goalkeeper went through Will Grigg and it looked a red card to me, but I don't really expect it here."