Sheffield United boss Paul Heckingbottom frustrated despite positives from Bristol City stalemate

Paul Heckingbottom was both pleased and frustrated after seeing Morgan Gibbs-White keep Sheffield United’s Championship play-off hopes on track with a precious equaliser in Easter Monday’s 1-1 draw at Bristol City.

The hosts took a 49th-minute lead when Antoine Semenyo broke down the left onto a long clearance from goalkeeper Dan Bentley and crossed the ball low for Chris Martin to fire home.

But United levelled on the hour when Bentley saved a low shot from Enda Stevens, only for Gibbs-White to acrobatically volley in the rebound from eight yards.

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“I’m pleased with the performance and the mentality the lads showed after falling behind to a team who are excellent on the counter-attack – but I am frustrated too,” said Heckingbottom.

Sheffield United's Morgan Gibbs-White (second left) celebrates scoring the Blades' equaliser against Bristol City at Ashton Gate Picture: David Davies/PA

“Only time will tell whether it’s a good point towards our target. I see it as two lost because we missed good chances when on top.

“We were in control in the first half, but their goal totally changed the dynamic of the game.

“From then on we had to take more chances and leave ourselves more open to being hit on the break.

“Even so, we are in the play-off zone with three games left and there was a time when we would have bitten anyone’s hand off for that position.

Sheffield United's George Baldock (centre) lifts the ball over the on-rushing Bristol City goalkeeper Daniel Bentley at Ashton Gate. Picture: David Davies/PA

“We now need to enjoy the situation we have created. Other results will have a say, but we need to focus fully on our own performances.”

As Heckingbottom suggested, it was indeed the visitors who created all the clear first-half chances.

Oliver Norwood was first to threaten with a seventh-minute shot from distance that went wide.

Bentley kept his side on level terms, spreading himself to save brilliantly after 10 minutes after a John Fleck pass had put Gibbs-White in on goal.

Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom shows his frustration on the touchline at Ashton Gate Picture: David Davies/PA

Martin headed over from a Matty James corner midway through the first half, but it was all City had to show for some promising counter-attacks, too often marred by a poor final ball.

United should have gone in front after 43 minutes when a Stevens pass into the box set up a clear chance for Iliman Ndiaye.

The striker had only Bentley to beat, but went for power from 12 yards and lashed his shot over the crossbar.

It had been an interesting half for Bentley, who had left his goal exposed three times through rash dashes from his line, only to be rescued by the defenders in front of him.

Stevens fired wide from an angle in United’s final attack of a half in which – cheered on by a large travelling contingent of fans – they had threatened to take control without coming up with a finish.

City were forced into a change after 48 minutes when wing-back Jay Dasilva, scorer of their winning goal in the previous game at Stoke, limped off to be replaced by Ayman Benarous.

Seconds later they were ahead, Bentley making a routine save before finding Semenyo, who powered forward to present Martin with an unmissable chance.

It should have been 2-0 after 56 minutes, Andreas Weimann’s pass teeing up Semenyo, who blasted the ball over. Then Martin burst clear only to see his low shot saved by Wes Foderingham.

The misses proved expensive as Gibbs-White put United on level terms.

City then lost Semenyo to injury after 70 minutes and he was replaced by Nahki Wells.

United also made changes as a high-tempo game took its toll on both sides in the closing stages. Martin shot wide and Rob Atkinson fired over the bar as City continued to counter-attack with menace, but a draw was a fair outcome.

While frustrated at only taking a point from the encounter, City boss Nigel Pearson was overall pleased with the effort from the home side.

“It was a fully-committed performance of the sort we need to produce on a more consistent basis,” he said. “We gave the ball away too cheaply in the first half, but you have to give Sheffield United some credit for that.

“After the break we were better in our choice of pass and created some very good chances.

“Both sides went all out to win the game and that made it interesting throughout. I was delighted with the application of my players.

“Chris Martin’s goal took his tally to 10 for the season and he deserves more for his contribution to the team.

“With Andreas Weimann on 19 goals, it has not been a bad season for our strikers. But there are positive signs. I didn’t want us to stumble over the line by losing our final games and I’m pleased to say that is not happening.”

Bristol City: Bentley, Cundy, Klose, Atkinson, Scott, James, Weimann, Massengo, Dasilva (Benarous 48), Martin, Semenyo (Wells 70). Unused substitutes: King, O’Leary, Idehen, Bell, Conway.

Sheffield United: Foderingham, Basham, Egan, Robinson, Baldock (Osborn 81), Berge, Norwood, Fleck (Hourihane 90), Stevens, Gibbs-White, Ndiaye (Osula 77). Unused substitutes: A Davies, B Davies, Uremovic, Norrington-Davies.

Referee: Keith Stroud (Hampshire).