Sheffield United: The big advantage Blades take into their play-off semi-final first leg against Nottingham Forest

Paul Heckingbottom hopes the relationship between his Sheffield United team and the Bramall Lane crowd will prove crucial during its Championship play-off semi-final against Nottingham Forest.

Sunday, 8th May 2022, 10:30 am
Updated Monday, 9th May 2022, 7:55 am

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United face Steve Cooper’s side over two legs for the right to face either Huddersfield Town or Luton Town at Wembley later this month, with the first of those contests being staged in South Yorkshire on Saturday.

After completing their regular season schedule with a 4-0 victory over title-winners Fulham, Heckingbottom’s side will enter that match with the fifth best home record in the division and its highest average attendance.

Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

The threat

Acknowledging the threat Forest will pose after enjoying a dramatic upturn in fortune following Cooper’s appointment earlier this term, Heckingbottom said: “Time will tell how important the home form is. We have worked really hard on getting this place back to where it should be - getting that connection back with the fans and getting them to understand how important the role they have in what we are trying to achieve is.

“I think you saw that out there (against Fulham). You saw how powerful they can be and how they can get behind us.”

Sheffield United fans react after the the Sky Bet Championship match against Fulham at Bramall Lane: Darren Staples / Sportimage

Knowing three points would guarantee them a place in the end of term knockouts, United took an early lead over Fulham when Morgan Gibbs-White pounced before Iliman Ndiaye and Sander Berge quickly stretched their lead. Enda Stevens put the fixture beyond the Londoners’ reach during the second period.

The difference makers

United were 16th in the table when Heckingbottom took charge in November. Cooper, hired by Forest two months earlier, inherited a squad languishing at the bottom of the rankings, The finished the campaign fifth and fourth respectively.

Sheffield United fans wait for the players to arrive before for the Sky Bet Championship against Fulham at Bramall Lane: Darren Staples / Sportimage

With United set to travel to the City Ground three days after hosting Forest, Heckingbottom reminded: “It’s not all about Bramall Lane. It’s totally different in the play-offs. It’s just about getting through, whatever it takes.”

“We know them and they know us,” he added. “It’s going to be difficult, we understand that. Like I say, it’s all about just doing what you have to do now. These matches aren’t like the others, it’s a different tournament.”