Sheffield United: 'It's make or break time in the battle for promotion,' defender admits

Sheffield United’s season has reached its make-or-break moment, Enda Stevens admitted last night.

Saturday, 9th April 2022, 5:00 am

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With only six matches remaining, Paul Heckingbottom’s side enter today’s match against AFC Bournemouth ranked sixth in the table but only two points ahead of seventh-placed Middlesbrough who boast a game in hand.

Stevens, a member of the United squad which gained promotion to the Premier League under Heckingbottom’s predecessor Chris Wilder before being relegated last term, told The Star that experience should serve the 44-year-old’s team well as they attempt to qualify for the play-offs.

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“There’s so much up for grabs,” the Republic of Ireland defender said. “The games become more and more pressurised, that’s why there’s so many (surprising results) at this stage.

“You know what’s at stake. It feels different. It’s so competitive at the top end of the division, it seems as if everyone is fighting for something. But that’s what you want - success. And the closer it gets, the more it begins to affect everybody.”

United warmed-up for this afternoon’s contest by beating fellow top six hopefuls Queens Park Rangers in midweek, with Stevens completing his first game since December after recovering from a long-standing muscle problem.

After facing the second-placed visitors, United then host Reading on Good Friday before travelling to Bristol City three days later.

Enda Stevens with Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom: Andrew Yates / Sportimage

“Easter is always a big weekend,” Stevens continued. “That season when we went up last time, it only really felt real over Easter.

“The game against Ipswich, where we knew we’d effectively be up if we won, that was the most stressful I’ve ever been involved in."

Rangers finished the latest round of Championship fixtures in ninth, three points behind Middlesbrough who are now managed by Wilder, following their defeat at Bramall Lane.

“When I first came here, the club had been promoted (from League One),” Stevens said. “You always have confidence and belief but it happened quicker than I thought. It came to an end in a way we didn’t want it to happen. We have the experience to know what it takes to get out of this league.”

Oliver Norwood scored the only goal of the game against QPR in midweek: Andrew Yates / Sportimage

“Opportunities don’t come around often,” he added. “When they do, you have to take them.”