Sheffield United refute theory about their substitutions at Burnley, as promotion battle gets set to resume

Paul Heckingbottom has denied Sheffield United’s substitutions during their last Championship outing were designed to ensure his team is firing on all cylinders when Cardiff City visit Bramall Lane this weekend.
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Teenage centre-forward Will Osula and 37-year-old striker Billy Sharp were among those introduced towards the end of United’s 2-0 defeat at Burnley, following goalkeeper Wes Foderingham’s sending-off midway through the first-half.

Asked if the decision to withdraw leading scorers Oli McBurnie and Iliman Ndiaye was part of a plan to enable them to rest ahead of Saturday’s meeting with Sabri Lamouchi’s side, particularly given that Vincent Kompany’s men had just scored the second of their two goals, Heckingbottom told The Star: “We knew the forwards were going to be coming off, because we wanted to bring Will on because of his pace and energy, and Billy was going to be good for him out there. The subs were going to be coming on anyway. It was just to get that energy out there on the pitch.”

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Both McBurnie and Ndiaye, who later discovered he had been omitted from the English Football League play of the season shortlist, are expected to start the meeting with City as United look to take another step towards joining Vincent Kompany’s men in the top-flight next term. Second in the table and five points ahead of third placed Luton Town with six matches remaining, Heckingbottom had pledged to rotate his options before facing the runaway leaders in Lancashire.

“We knew what we wanted to do,” he said, confirming Foderingham’s dismissal had forced United’s coaching staff to revise their strategy at a crucial moment of the contest. “But when that happened, everything goes out of the window, doesn’t it? We knew people were going to be tiring and we knew Billy and Will were going to be coming on already. But at half-time, when we were down to 10, you have to think ‘how are we going to try and approach this now?’ We didn’t want to just try and hang on, because that’s not the mindset of the group. It’s not what has brought us this far.”