Sheffield United boss issues an important statement following defeat by Middlesbrough

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Sheffield United would always have jumped at the chance to be second in the Championship and seven points clear of third with 15 matches of their season remaining, manager Paul Heckingbottom insisted following last’s defeat to Middlesbrough.

Despite taking an early lead through Oli McBurnie, United slipped to their first defeat since the beginning of November when Chuba Akpom and Cameron Archer (2) saw the visitors, who are one place behind them in the table, secure the victory they required to keep the race for automatic promotion alive.

Dismissed during the closing stages after protesting about an incident during the build-up to the goal which saw Archer complete his brace, Heckingbottom cited the opportunities his side missed after making explosive start as a factor behind their downfall.

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But even though the result saw United spurn an opportunity to deal Middlesbrough’s hopes of securing a top two finish a near fatal blow, Heckingbottom told The Star it is important for his players and their supporters to remember the position they are in ahead of Saturday’s trip to Millwall.

Reminding that United have a game in hand over Michael Carrick’s men, he said: “Seven in front and a game in hand: If you’d have asked me at any point (of the season) would I have taken that then of course I’d have replied ‘yes’. I think anyone would.

“We weren’t going to go unbeaten until the end. Football just doesn’t work like that, especially in this division. But nothing changes in terms of what we want to do.”