Paul Heckingbottom tells Sheffield United to look for the ball, but not excuses

Sheffield United lost two defenders with what looked like concussion in their 2-1 Premier League defeat at Leeds United, but interim manager Paul Heckingbottom was not hiding from the fact his relegation-bound were not good enough.

Heckingbottom told them not to moan about their luck, but also not to shy away from trying to make things happen on the ball.

Leeds's victory was far more comfortable than the scoreline suggested, Ben Osborn scoring from the Blades' only shot on target. That cancelled out Jack Harrison's opener and the game was ultimately decided by a Phil Jagielka own goal early in the second half.

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The Blades used a concussion substitute when George Baldock came off after Tyler Roberts' knee caught him in the face after a tackle which could even have seen the defender sent off. Ezgjan Alioski caught Jayden Bogle with his forearm in the second half and although again he looked groggy, and this season's trial Premier League rules allow for two concussion replacements, the change was an orthodox one.

NO EXCUSES: Sheffield United interim manager Paul Heckingbottom

It adds to the long list of injured defenders for Sheffield United who were at least able to bring John Egan back from the bench.

“It's been a tough year for everyone but we can either sit back and moan about that or start looking forward,” said Heckingbottom. “We want to start pushing and preparing for next year, whatever that brings. That is the focus.

“We can sit here and moan and say (injuries are) what cost us but it isn't. It is another problem for us but it will be another opportunity for someone else.

“I'd love to have every player fully fit and training. We can chop and change and keep people fresh and hungry have more competition for places. We'll get that as players come back.

“We had to reshuffle the pack twice because the two players were in a similar position, but that happens. We have to get on with it.

“We could sit here and talk about excuses but we're not going to do that. It's all about looking at the next game, Arsenal, and the bigger picture stuff to try to build the mentality which the players understand. They know what they're capable of and what brought them that success.”

Heckingbottom was critical of his team in possession at times, but does not want them to shrink from wanting the ball.

“There were moments today that were very good but we didn't capitalise on enough opportunities,” he commented. “When we did lose the ball and where we lost the ball was frustrating for us because it meant we missed opportunities or couldn't build the pressure but it also gave Leeds their best opportunities, which were on the counter.

“Those little moments where we were cheap in possession were the difference today.

“That was frustrating, of course it was, but you're not going to shy away from taking the ball and you're not going to get better in possession by shying away from that.

“Some bits were good in possession, some bits we were sloppy in key areas.

“A couple of key things were sloppy, turnovers in the second half in particular when we won the ball back in our defensive third, we gave the first couple of passes away too cheaply and that allowed Leeds to get momentum. Another frustrating one was at set plays, we didn't have the quality from the delivery, which meant when we didn't miss the first man the clearance set up a lot of counters for Leeds.

“Those were two areas in particular where we could have, should have, been better but there were also good moments of quality.

“When I felt we were getting on top in the second half and Leeds were making substitutions to try and live with us, we were are own worst enemy in not being able to build that pressure and momentum and get our foot on the throat of Leeds and score through pressure and momentum. We tended to let that momentum go with a cheap give-away or a poor delivery at a set play and we had to start again.”

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