Paul Heckingbottom says Sheffield United secured Championship play-off place their way - but there is still much more to do

Paul Heckingbottom says Sheffield United secured their place in the play-offs by being prepared to take risks against Fulham but the manager was in no mood to rest on his laurels after dragging the Blades from nowhere into the top six.

When Heckingbottom replaced the sacked Slavisa Jokanovic in November, he inherited a team 16th in the Championship after relegation from the previous season.

Read More
Sheffield United progress to the play-offs without panic as Fulham are swept asi...

Even finishing the season without the injured Billy Sharp, Oli McBurnie, David McGoldrick, Rhian Brewster, Jayden Bogle and Jack O'Connell, they were able to finish fifth, setting up a two-legged play-off semi-final against Nottingham Forest, another team who gave the rest a generous head-start this season.

DELIGHTED: But Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom knows the job is not done yetDELIGHTED: But Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom knows the job is not done yet
DELIGHTED: But Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom knows the job is not done yet
Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The Blades confirmed their place in the play-offs with a dominant display to beat champions Fulham 4-0, although it was impossible to argue with Marco Silva's assertion that the Cottagers had started the better.

"The main thing was getting there," said Heckingbottom. "We wanted to do it our way, I said all along we didn't want to be thinking about results elsewhere, and to do that you've got to focus on your performance and try and get things right.

"I think Fulham showed their quality in the first five, 10 minutes and any ideas anyone had that they weren't here to win were probably put to bed but I think a lot of it was our making, we weren't as aggressive as we wanted to be. We didn't take as many risks as we wanted to take and when we did, we became a real force and made it the game we wanted.

"We've extended the season which is great, what we all wanted - even bigger games, more at stake, perfect."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Morgan Gibbs-White, Iliman Ndiaye, Sander Berge and Enda Stevens scored the goals, the first three coming inside the first 15 minutes.

In particular the form of Gibbs-White and Ndiaye, more natural No 10s has made light of the injuries since circumstances forced to play together as centre-forwards.

"With the players we've got in the team because we've not got as many options from the bench, using the players we've got on the pitch and their strengths we have to be flexible, adapt within the game and make changes with the XI rather than from the bench as often," said Heckingbottom.

He was speaking hours before the club's end-of-season award and whilst Heckingbottom was keen for them to enjoy what they have achieved so far, he also stressed they cannot ease up now.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"If we don't go up, that's forgotten, isn't it?" he said. "Who's going to talk about us finishing fifth in a few years?

"We've got in the play-offs and we celebrate every win home or away because it's important to, they're tough to come by in this league.

"So we'll celebrate and we'll enjoy it. However we haven't achieved anything. We've got more to do."

Forest visit Bramall Lane on Friday evening, with the second leg at the City Ground on the Tuesday. The prize is a Wembley final against the winners of Huddersfield Town and Luton Town, who will be known by then.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"Two good games," said Heckingbottom. "We know each other well, we know their players well, they know us, so they're going to be good games, huge games.

"It's going to be a full house here and it'll be some atmosphere then roles reversed at the City Ground.

"I'm already thinking about it."

Silva felt his side slipped into sloppiness once Gibbs-White gave the Blades the lead.

"Until they scored the first goal we were the dominant team," argued the former Hull City manager. "We started to play around their box but the first time they got to our 18-yard box they punished us.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"We started the game well and beat their first pressure most of the time until then. After they punished us for the 1-0 they got the confidence and it was a big mistake by us for the second goal. We knew the quality they had in their attacking line.

"The second and the third reflected our performance after that - too sloppy. Without the ball we were not good enough, not aggressive enough. Most of the challenges they won."

Asked if he thought the fact his side's title was already secure had played a part, he replied: "This would be the easiest excuse. We have to analyse it and prepare ourselves well for next season."