Sheffield United: Fans are told to expect more of this as a pattern begins to emerge among opposition teams

Paul Heckingbottom has warned Sheffield United’s players and supporters to expect more tight first-halves of football between now and the end of the season, after detecting a trend in the way opponents approach games against his team.

Sunday, 23rd January 2022, 3:00 pm

Two quick-fire goals, in the 48th and 51st minutes, propelled Heckingbottom’s side to a deserved victory over Luton Town yesterday, with the visitors finishing the match with 10 men following Reece Burke’s dismissal.

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Deadlocked at the interval, the match was the 13th time this season that a fixture involving United has failed to produce a breakthrough in the opening 45 minutes.

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Although Heckingbottom later admitted his team had been too pedestrian during the opening exchanges, the 44-year-old insisted there were mitigating circumstances, saying: “Everyone who watches us is going to have to get used to that, that kind of first half. Because of how teams set up against us and also how teams like Luton, really organised and clever, make you pay if you switch off.”

Speaking before the contest, Heckingbottom conceded United had to treat their rivals with “respect” despite revealing he has told them that producing “aggressive” and “front foot” performances represents their best hope of qualifying for the play-offs. United finished the meeting with Luton 11th in the table, ahead of Saturday’s trip to Peterborough.

“That was a good win against a good side,” Heckingbottom added. “They are organised and they are dangerous. They cause teams a lot of problems and they can stop teams. I didn’t think they caused us too many problems to begin with, but they certainly stopped us.”

Paul Heckingbottom says Sheffield United will have to tread carefully as teams look to stifle them: Andrew Yates / Sportimage
Jack Robinson scored Sheffield United's second and decisive goal against Luton Town: Andrew Yates / Sportimage