Sheffield United: 'That could be the pivotal moment of this play-off semi-final against Nottingham Forest'

Paul Heckingbottom, the Sheffield United manager, believes Sander Berge’s goal towards the end of Saturday’s meeting with Nottingham Forest could prove to be the pivotal moment of his team’s Championship play-off semi-final against Steve Cooper’s side.

Monday, 16th May 2022, 8:20 am

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Although United enter tomorrow night’s second leg at the City Ground trailing 2-1 on aggregate, Berge ensured the tie remained alive when he pounced in added time.

Despite conceding Forest are now favourites to meet either Huddersfield Town or Luton Town at Wembley, Heckingbottom told The Star the Norwegian’s effort had changed the narrative surrounding a match Cooper insisted the visitors could have won by more after Jack Colback and Brennan Johnson put them in the driving seat.

“You see the body language,” Heckingbottom said. “We’re coming off and we didn’t look as defeated and the lads are in the dressing room saying to each other ‘We’re still in this.’

“Their players are arguing about who let him (Berge) in to get it, and wondering how it happened.

Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom (left) encourages his players as Nottingham Forest manager Steve Cooper looks on: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.

“Look at how they celebrated their second goal, as if they thought they were through. It makes the first big incident at their place key now. The first goal is key. If we get it, then it totally changes the complexion of what is happening.”

After taking a first-half lead through Colback, Forest should have put the contest beyond United’s reach before Johnson took advantage of a defensive lapse during the closing stages. But Berge’s late effort handed Heckingbottom’s men a lifeline.

“It changes it,” said Heckingbottom, who has been promoted via the play-offs three times in his career. “In the three successful ones I’ve had, I’ve won the away leg every time so it can be done.

Sander Berge has given Sheffield United hope: Darren Staples / Sportimage

“We just have to be better out there. The slips can happen. We aren’t going to blame the defeat on two slips.”

“We have to do what we know we can do better,” Heckingbottom added. “We like to be the team on the front foot. Forest have got a lot of pace at the top end of the pitch so we have to be aware of our strengths more. We have to be better than them, that doesn’t change.”

Sander Berge scores Sheffield United's goal at the end of their first leg against Nottingham Forest: Simon Bellis / Sportimage