Sheffield United: Statistics suggest home run should tip the promotion balance in The Blades' favour

With five of their remaining eight matches this season being staged at Bramall Lane, Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom believes it makes perfect sense for his team to “take risks” in its pursuit of play-off qualification.

Wednesday, 30th March 2022, 2:00 pm

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Unbeaten on home soil since the end of October and having won seven of their nine outings there under the 44-year-old’s command, coaching staff calculate that adopting an attacking approach makes perfect sense given that it not only appears to deliver results but also energises a partisan home crowd.

Although Heckingbottom admitted he “doesn’t know for certain” why United have been able to turn their home ground into a fortress - scoring 18 goals and conceding only two following his appointment four months ago - he told The Star that record should be a source of confidence for a squad which entered the international break fifth in the Championship table and eyeing an immediate return to the Premier League.

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Sheffield United have been very strong at Bramall Lane under Paul Heckingbottom: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

“If I knew the answer, if we knew the answer, then everyone would be doing it,” Heckingbottom admitted, when asked to explain the secret behind that success. “We’ve certainly tried to have a positive intent every time we’ve gone out onto the pitch. So maybe that’s it.

“We’ve tried to take risks. We’re a team that likes to do that and I believe is equipped to do that. So maybe that suits playing at home.

“Given how the fixtures have panned-out, the fact we’ve got so many here also means the fans are going to have a huge say in things. They are making it really difficult for whoever comes here because they’re giving oxygen to our lads and making the opposition feel under pressure.”

Although United resume their push for a top six finish with a visit to Stoke City this weekend, they then host AFC Bournemouth, Queens Park Rangers and Reading before travelling to Bristol City over the Easter period.

Paul Heckingbottom is preparing his Sheffield United team to face Stoke City: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Placed second, Bournemouth triumphed 3-0 over high-flying Huddersfield Town in their last away fixture. But sandwiched in between that victory and wins over Barnsley and Blackpool is a defeat at Preston North End.

QPR have lost four of their last five away trips. But they did beat this term’s surprise package Luton Town at Kenilworth Road recently.

Reading have won only one of their last 10 away games. However, they did draw at Bournemouth just over a fortnight ago.

Cardiff City, who must also make the journey to South Yorkshire, are the tenth best performing away team in the division so far this term while leaders Fulham, scheduled to visit Bramall Lane on the final day of the regular season, are top of that ranking - averaging more than two points per game away from Craven Cottage.

By the same measure, United are sixth - a place above QPR - while Bournemouth are second and Reading 20th.

“There’s a familiarity at home, a confidence,” said Heckingbottom, whose side have kept a clean sheet in half of their home matches this season. “To be honest, when I was a player, I liked the away games best. Don’t ask me why. But as a manager, it’s a bit different and I’m glad we’ve got more at our place.”