'Not part of a trend': Sheffield United boss confronts accusation about his team

Despite suffering back to back defeats for only the third time since he took charge 15 months ago, Paul Heckingbottom has dismissed claims that Sheffield United are experiencing a startling downturn in form as well as results at a critical stage of the season.
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Second in the table and now four points ahead of Middlesbrough after losing to both Millwall and Michael Carrick’s side, United enter Saturday’s game against Watford hoping to avoid losing three straight games for the first time in nearly two years.

Although a combination of the high-stakes they are playing for and some thinly-veiled digs from members of Carrick’s squad have seen the debate around United’s recent results grow increasingly shrill, Heckingbottom disputes suggestions that last weekend’s set-back at The Den was part of an on-going trend.

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“Let’s look at the Middlesbrough game before that,” said Heckingbottom, who admitted he was “frustrated” with United’s display in the capital. “When we looked back at the statistics, they were right up there with or even beyond in some instances compared to some of our very best. So that doesn’t indicate there’s one (a decline) going on does it.

“What it does show is that results colour everything else that goes on. So there’s a lesson to be learned, even though I’m not always a massive fan of them (statistics) for us to learn right there.”

Heckingbottom highlighted United’s failure to translate an explosive start into a commanding lead as the biggest factor behind their failure to deal what would have been an almost fatal blow to Middlesbrough’s hopes of climbing into the runners-up berth behind leaders Barnsley. They also missed several chances during the meeting with Gary Rowett’s side; albeit only after overcoming a woeful start before seeing Tom Bradshaw’s hat-trick strike cancelling out efforts from Tommy Doyle and James McAtee.

Paul Heckingbottom is standing behind his Sheffield United squad: Simon Bellis / SportimagePaul Heckingbottom is standing behind his Sheffield United squad: Simon Bellis / Sportimage
Paul Heckingbottom is standing behind his Sheffield United squad: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

“We know what we have to do and we know that we can do it,” Heckingbottom said. “Because otherwise, if we couldn’t, then we wouldn’t be in this position in the first place. There’s always going to be set-backs and moments, for everyone who is involved in this (race). And I mean everyone too, because that’s the way this division is.”