Paul Heckingbottom admits Sheffield United didn't create enough in defeat at Stoke City
The Blades boss has contended with numerous injury problems in the opening months of the campaign and said in the build-up to Saturday’s defeat that he had not been able to take a proper training sessions for seven weeks.
The visitors were without the likes of Anel Ahmedhodzic and Sander Berge in Stoke as the league leaders were missing a dozen senior players through injury.
Jagielka crossed for Ben Wilmot’s early opener and then scored his first goal since April 2019, either side of Rhian Brewster’s leveller for the Blades. It was the first time in the former England international’s career that he had recorded a goal and an assist in the same game.
And an impressive afternoon for the Potters was capped by Manchester City loanee Liam Delap’s first goal for the club.
“It’s not like I can argue with the result. The third goal was harsh on the lads in terms of how we battled, but we didn’t create enough,” said Heckingbottom.
“We knew we’d be more open and we’d have to accept we wouldn’t be as strong defensively with the personnel we put out there.
“It was a bit of a basketball game, end to end. We missed our big chance early on and they scored straight after.
“We gradually settled down into the game and got the goal, but the second goal was a shocking time to concede.
“They’re both set-plays, which is disappointing from our point of view.
"We got back into it and the second half we had a go and battled, but I didn’t feel there was a goal in us.
“We prepared for Stoke playing three in the back. We couldn’t set up defensively, so it was a case of seeing who was the best attacking team.”
Manchester loanee James McAtee was forced off with around 25 minutes to play but Heckingbottom played down more injury concerns, insisting the midfielder was suffering from cramp.
Jayden Bogle was absent from the squad as he continues his recovery from a lengthy knee injury.
Heckingbottom added: “Jayden, his knee has swelled up. We had it scanned and he’s fine. Whether or not he’s had a reaction, maybe to what’s in it, I don’t know.
"But everyone is delighted with how the operation went and how he is now. The medical team are fine with it.”
Such was the Blades’ flying start to the campaign, their run of one point from the last nine available has not dislodged them from the top of the Championship table.
Norwich City were beaten 3-2 at home to Preston North End to leave them second on goal difference while QPR – who beat Sheffield United at Bramall Lane in midweek – moved up to third with victory over Reading on Friday night.
All three sides have 24 points after 13 games each.
Stoke City: Bursik, Sterling (Clarke 82), Jagielka, Wilmot, Fox, Laurent, Smallbone (Clucas 83), Baker (Thompson 90), Campbell, Gayle (Delap), Fosu-Henry. Unused substitutes: Bonham, Flint, Wright-Phillips.
Sheffield United: Foderingham, Gordon (Sachdev 75), Basham, Egan, Norrington-Davies, McAtee (Arblaster 66), Norwood, Ndiaye, Doyle (Osborn 75), Khadra (Sharp 58), Brewster (Jebbison 75). Unused substitutes: Davies, Brooks.
Referee: P Bankes (Liverpool).