Sheffield United: Manager makes a big claim about Norwich City

Sheffield United have been told they will win promotion from the Championship if they continue to better Norwich City’s performances between now and the end of the season, after Paul Heckingbottom described Dean Smith’s side as the team to beat in the division this term.
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Sheffield United: Five things we learnt against Norwich City

Relegated from the Premier League only five months ago, City surrendered a two goal advantage during Saturday’s draw at Bramall Lane after goals from Ben Osborn and substitute Oli McBurnie cancelled-out Teemu Pukki’s first-half brace.

Despite appearing to exchange words with Smith as the contest grew increasingly ill-tempered, something his counterpart confirmed following the final whistle, Heckingbottom preferred to lavish praise on the opposition rather than criticise their theatrics as United took charge of the game.

Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom: Lexy Ilsley / SportimageSheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom: Lexy Ilsley / Sportimage
Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom: Lexy Ilsley / Sportimage
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“Our job is to try and finish above Norwich,” maintained Heckingbottom, following a result which saw United finish the afternoon fourth in the Championship table. '' I said that to Dean. They’re good footballers, they’re a team who want the ball. They were in the Premier League last season.”

Referee Josh Smith and his officials made a number of perplexing calls towards the end of the contest, with Heckingbottom insisting they had made a mistake by awarding the late penalty saw Adam Davies deny the Finn a hat-trick. Although Smith endured an afternoon to forget, his job was made more difficult by both the opposition’s play acting and the United players who aggressively confronted him on numerous occasions as the atmosphere inside the stadium became increasingly fraught.

“It’s not a penalty,” Heckingbottom continued, having arrived at the post-match media conference nearly an hour after Smith had performed his own media duties. “He (Egan) has won the ball.”

Sheffield United drew 2-2 with Norwich City at Bramall Lane: Simon Bellis / SportimageSheffield United drew 2-2 with Norwich City at Bramall Lane: Simon Bellis / Sportimage
Sheffield United drew 2-2 with Norwich City at Bramall Lane: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

Smith argued City should have been awarded another spot-kick when Josh Sargent, who together with Pukki terrorised United before the break, tangled with George Baldock. The visitors ended the match in sixth, despite seeing Osborn and McBurnie pounce after the interval.

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“We expected nothing different,” said Heckingbottom. “I expected us to win the game. There wasn’t too much difference between the first and the second half. We attacked the same way afterwards, just with more aggression. We dealt with the long ball much better in the second half.”