Sheffield United receive important directive as they look to reignite promotion push

After conceding as many goals in their last two outings as they did in the previous eight, Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom is urging his players to rediscover the art of imposing their will upon opponents.
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Speaking ahead of what promises to be a pivotal weekend in the race for automatic promotion from the Championship, Heckingbottom has reminded his squad of the need to “force our way of doing things” on rival teams - starting with Saturday’s visitors Watford.

Reflecting upon United’s defeat to Millwall, which came only a month after they had beaten Gary Rowett’s men in an FA Cup tie at The Den, the 45-year-old said: “We’ve played them twice and that (the loss) was down to us. Because it didn’t happen the last time we came up against them did it? That was because we did more things right than wrong, which is the thing that is most frustrating.”

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“We didn’t win enough first or second balls to begin with,” Heckingbottom continued. “That’s what helped set the tone. We came back into it, after really improving. But we need to do that straight away, right from the start, as we usually do. Because that’s what enables you to go about things in the way you want to, rather than always trying to react.”

After also succumbing to Middlesbrough 72 hours before their trip to south London, second placed United have seen their lead over Michael Carrick’s men in third cut to four points although they possess a game in hand. Watford, who briefly climbed back into the play-off positions after beating West Bromwich Albion on Monday night, are also among the clubs hoping to secure Premier League status next term.

Having recorded 14 clean sheets at home since August, Heckingbottom is confident that being more assertive will enable United to recapture their best form.

Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom wants his players to become assertive once again: Andrew Yates / SportimageSheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom wants his players to become assertive once again: Andrew Yates / Sportimage
Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom wants his players to become assertive once again: Andrew Yates / Sportimage

“It’s down to us,” he said. “Everyone poses a challenge, a different challenge, but the way to overcome those is by working out how to face up to them without deviating from what you want to do yourselves. That’s the way you have to go about it and, more often than not, that’s what we’ve done.”