Sheffield United interim manager Paul Heckingbottom believes his players answered a lot of questions about their attitude with Saturday night’s win against Brighton.
The Blades won only their fifth Premier League game of the season to ensure their opponents continue to sweat over their top-flight future.
United’s fate was sealed with defeat at Wolves a week ago but they responded with a 1-0 victory at Bramall Lane, courtesy of David McGoldrick’s first-half strike.
A first win as interim boss for Hecky. 👏 pic.twitter.com/XY2UTN6AOK— Sheffield United (@SheffieldUnited) April 24, 2021
It was Heckingbottom’s first points since stepping in to replace Chris Wilder last month, ending a run of five defeats in all competitions, and, after calling for an upturn in results in order to take some sort of momentum into next season, he was pleased with what he saw from his side.
“It’s been a tough time and a tough few months for everyone and the fact it (the win) has come after relegation has been confirmed answers a lot of questions that others have asked of us – like are we going to try to compete and play our part in the remainder of the season? That hurt us and is disrespectful to the players, so I am pleased with the willingness of the players to get three points,” said Heckingbottom.
“There’s no hiding away from the fact of how tough it has been for a long time and it has taken its toll on the players, the staff and the supporters.
Some brilliant stops from this man. 🧤 pic.twitter.com/Tpje6rh0QP— Sheffield United (@SheffieldUnited) April 24, 2021
“But now we know what is happening next season and the players showed the spirit and fight is still there. We have five more games left in this division and we are determined to enjoy every one of them.
“The players gave absolutely everything tonight and I am pleased they got their reward. I am pleased with every bit of the performance tonight, I thought we were excellent.
“If things are done right there is no reason why next season can’t be a successful one. Everyone is still proud to pull on a United shirt and give their all for the team.”
Brighton still have the luxury of a seven-point cushion and should be safe, but a daunting run-in which includes games against Leeds, Wolves, West Ham, Manchester City and Arsenal is enough to keep them looking over their shoulders for now.
Defeat at Bramall Lane extended the Seagulls’ run of games without a win against the sides below them in the table this season to eight – an anomaly accentuated by the fact Graham Potter’s team have taken points off of Liverpool, Tottenham, Everton and Chelsea.
“That shows you were are doing something right as we are getting points against the top teams,” said Potter. “It also shows how competitive the league is.
“We have the potential to do better, but we haven’t. The reality is we need to do better against the teams around us.
“When it’s not your day in this league, you can lose, and we are not that good that we can’t play well and still get points.
“It’s a disappointing evening for us, naturally. The performance was not as good as it can be, and not as good as it has been.
“It was a poor goal to concede and that makes it difficult, then there was not enough quality in the final third – although I think we did deserve a goal overall.
“It’s something we need to improve, as you need to score goals to win games obviously. It’s two defeats in the last six (games) and the other was by a single goal against Manchester United, with this coming on the back of draws against Everton and Chelsea.”