Swansea City v Sheffield United: Paul Heckingbottom goes all Jose Mourinho after Reda Khadra's late strike

Paul Heckingbottom gave it the full Jurgen Klopp following Sheffield United’s last road trip, pumping his fists and whipping the away fans into a frenzy after watching the Championship leaders beat Hull.
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After this smash and grab raid at Swansea City - substitute Reda Khadra scoring the only goal of the contest with a matter of seconds remaining - he came over all Jose Mourinho; doing windmills down the touchline before returning to the technical area and suffocating his assistant Stuart McCall with a mighty big bear hug.

Although it is still far too early in the season to predict how the race for promotion will unfold, United demonstrated one of the most important qualities required to reach the Premier League during a sometimes torrid night in south Wales. That, after watching Russell Martin’s men impress, is perseverance.

Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom celebrates with goalscorer Reda Khadra after the Sky Bet Championship match at the Swansea.com Stadium, Swansea: David Davies/PA Wire.Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom celebrates with goalscorer Reda Khadra after the Sky Bet Championship match at the Swansea.com Stadium, Swansea: David Davies/PA Wire.
Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom celebrates with goalscorer Reda Khadra after the Sky Bet Championship match at the Swansea.com Stadium, Swansea: David Davies/PA Wire.
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“You’ve got to enjoy those moments,” Heckingbottom said. “Because they don’t always go for you.”

While Heckingbottom had regathered his composure by the time he faced the media afterwards, Martin was seething. Insistent that Rhian Brewster had fouled Kyle Naughton before providing the assist for Khadra - “There was nothing in it, but I’d have complained if I was them,” Heckingbottom countered - Swansea also saw Joel Piroe’s profligacy cost them dear before Khadra scored for the first time since arriving on loan from Brighton and Hove Albion.

“He clipped Kyle’s heels,” Martin said. “I trust him implicitly.”

The biggest weakness in Swansea’s armoury is supposedly a desire to retain possession for retaining possession’s sake. But as Heckingbottom noted beforehand, the reality of life in a results based business is tempering Martin’s philosophical instincts.

Swansea City's Ryan Manning tackles Sheffield United's Sander Berge: David Davies/PA Wire.Swansea City's Ryan Manning tackles Sheffield United's Sander Berge: David Davies/PA Wire.
Swansea City's Ryan Manning tackles Sheffield United's Sander Berge: David Davies/PA Wire.
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Indeed, the former Milton Keynes Dons head coach saw his team’s first chance of note come from a Joe Allen corner. Then, after Ben Cabango had headed straight at Wes Foderingham, their second came via a piece of fractious play inside the penalty box. Heckingbottom, who spent the opening exchanges of the game chewing the fourth official’s ear about the opposition’s grappling at set-pieces, breathed a sigh of relief when Piroe failed to convert despite finding himself unmarked.

It would be a mistake to describe Martin as an arch-pragmatist. But Swansea, as United discovered before Khadra’s dramatic intervention, are certainly more direct than at any time since he took charge.

Now unbeaten in eight league outings and four points above second-placed Norwich, Heckingbottom’s squad is clearly robust. They needed to be again, as the hosts continued to cross at the earliest possible opportunity and test Foderingham’s handling.

United had started the contest strongly before losing momentum. Rhys Norrington-Davies forced Steven Benda to save after stopping to meet Sander Berge’s centre while Tommy Doyle, on loan from Manchester City, did the same with a low, angled drive.

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Swansea began the second period the same way they had spent much of the first; applying pressure, gradually cranking it up and then wasting their good work. Matty Sorinola was presented with a clear sight of Foderingham’s net after his colleagues switched play but got his feet into a terrible tangle and fired wide of the near post.

Piroe did the same after a ricochet off Anel Ahmedhodzic soon after.

But Khadra showed Swansea no mercy when, having seen Brewster latch onto a swift counter attack, he lashed home past Benda.

Swansea City: Benda, Manning, Fulton (Ntcham 63), Cabango, Allen, Grimes ©, Piroe, Wood, Naughton, Sorinola (Stevens 70), Cooper (Paterson 63). Not used: Fisher, Darling, Cundle, Oko-Flex.

Sheffield United: Foderingham, Baldock, Norrington-Davies, Basham, Egan ©, Ahmedhodzic, Norwood, Berge, Doyle (McAtee 74), Ndiaye (Khadra 81), McBurnie (Brewster 74). Not used: Amissah, Gordon, Brooks, Jebbison.

Referee: Darren Bond (Lancashire).

Attendance: 15,458.