Sheffield United: Changing times - Why Ben Osborn missed the win over Wigan Athletic
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Osborn was a notable admission from the squad which travelled to the DW Stadium on Monday night, where goals from John Egan and Billy Sharp saw second-placed United move five points clear of third in the Championship table.
Explaining the 28-year-old had been reporting discomfort in a leg ahead of kick-off, Heckingbottom took the decision to rest him after it was confirmed fellow midfielders Sander Berge and Tommy Doyle were both available for selection.
“Ben is feeling his hamstring a bit,” the United manager said. “He’s gone through a massive workload lately, including in our game with Huddersfield (Town) when we came back.
“Before the break, with hardly any bodies available, we could have taken a gamble on playing him but we don’t need to do that now. We don’t need to take that risk.”
Berge, who came on as a substitute when United beat Town nine days earlier, made his first start since October in Greater Manchester while Doyle, on loan from Manchester City, stepped off the bench after Nathan Broadhead dragged Wigan back into the contest. The England under-21 international had previously spent nearly two months on the treatment table.
United were without a dozen senior players when they faced Cardiff City in their final outing before the domestic fixture schedule was paused for the tournament in Qatar. But with the likes of Jayden Bogle, Max Lowe and Daniel Jebbison also recovering from fitness issues, Heckingbottom said: “We’ve got choices now. We’ve got choices to make and that’s a good thing. It gives us the flexibility to be able to change things, and change them in a different way to before.”
“There’s no need to take those risks now,” Heckingbottom added. “We can protect people more.”