Sheffield United: Debutant Ismaila Coulibaly 'rewarded' during FA Cup win over Millwall

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Making his debut for Sheffield United towards the end of their FA Cup victory over Millwall was Ismaila Coulibaly’s reward for the determination he displayed as he battled back from injury, Paul Heckingbottom admitted.

After spending the first two seasons of his career on loan with sister club Beerschot, the Belgian arm of Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud’s United World organisation, the Malian midfielder came on during the closing stages of today’s third round tie at The Den.

Recalled from the Olympisch Stadion because of potential work permit complications following the Antwerp based club’s relegation from the Jupiler Pro League, Coulibaly’s attempt to make an early impression for United was dashed when he underwent knee surgery in August.

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Having confirmed his recovery before the trip to south London, Coulibaly was duly named on the bench before being introduced in added time.

“It was a little reward for how hard he’s been working,” said Heckingbottom. “We’ll see now how he reacts and how he reacts body-wise.”

Daniel Jebbison and Jayden Bogle were both on target during the first-half of a match United dominated for long periods, with Heckingbottom’s counterpart Gary Rowett later admitting Millwall gave themselves “a mountain to climb” against “very good” opponents. Second-placed United return to Championship action next weekend with a clash against Stoke City. Although Coulibaly is unlikely to feature then, as Heckingbottom and his coaching staff attempt to limit the demands being placed upon the 22-year-old, he will feature during an upcoming development fixture.

“Izzy, we’ve arranged for him to play in the reserves so we can get him some minutes.” explained Heckingbottom, whose employers paid an undisclosed sum to sign Coulibaly from Sarpsborg. “That’s going to be important for him now.

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“We got ourselves into a position, with the nine subs that we were allowed to name for games in this (the FA Cup) to get him involved, and also because of the position we got ourselves into during the match itself. It was good to see him get out there because he’s worked really hard to get back after what happened.”