Sheffield United embracing promotion to Premier League as they finish home campaign in style against Preston North End
The Blades secured a return to the top flight in midweek with victory over West Brom but, much to Heckingbottom’s delight, they did not ease off and stormed to a 4-1 win over a Preston side who still harboured play-off hopes before the match.
Anel Ahmedhodzic’s opener was cancelled out by Liam Delap but a late onslaught with goals from John Fleck, Iliman Ndiaye and Oli McBurnie securing victory for the FA Cup semi-finalists whilst ending North End’s top-six chances.
Heckingbottom said: “I’m delighted with the performance. I think the promotion is finally starting to sink in now.
“After the semi-final at Wembley I saw a lot of fans and I said I just wanted everyone to enjoy themselves and the same went for today.
“The attitude and application has been top. The turnaround from Wednesday to Saturday is hard at the best of times but the professionalism between then and now has been brilliant.
“We didn’t take our chances at the start of the second half, then they equalised and for those 10 minutes I was fuming! We went on and got the victory we deserved in the end.
“I’ve said before this is not my team. The team belongs to the players and the club belongs to the fans and I don’t mind driving that home.
“Getting promotion has got to be everything you’re about. We’ve got players who’ve had a few promotions and the young lads will definitely have learnt from them.
“Before next season we could lose players who we’d never be able to afford a replacement for. We’ve got them in the building already and we’ll do everything we can to keep them.”
Preston manager Ryan Lowe said he is not sure of his future at the club after the defeat confirmed they would be playing Championship football next season.
“We’ve got to keep going at 1-1. There’s been very few teams that have ripped us open like that, even in the first half we played well but we started being sloppy.
“I’ll reflect and look back on the season. I don’t know whether it’s been a lack of character or quality. Maybe it’s the mentality; sometimes the players think it’s going to be easy.
“I don’t want us to be a mid-table team; I want to be a very good team who fights for a play-off place every year. I’ve come to this club to get promoted and I’m disappointed we couldn’t take it to the last game.
“We need to bring some players in. We need a goalscorer, young Tom (Cannon) has been fantastic, no one expected him to score eight goals in the Championship.
“I’m not thinking about next season yet, I need to sit down and think about what I want to do. I’ve been backed since I walked through the door and the effort has been brilliant.
“I’ve got a lot of ambition and drive and I want to take the fans on a journey so I’m gutted for all of them today.”
Sheffield United: Foderingham, Basham, Ahmedhodzic, Robinson (Egan 82), Bogle, McAtee (Fleck 69), Norwood, Doyle (Berge 61), Lowe, Sharp (Jebbison 61), Ndiaye (McBurnie 82). Unused substitutes: Davies,Baldock.
Preston North End: Woodman, Storey (Delap 46), Bauer, Hughes, Ledson (Woodburn 88), Potts, Onomah (McCann 69), Johnson, Fernandez, Parrott (Leigh 88), Cannon. Unused substitutes: Lindsay, Cornell, Slater.
Referee: Stephen Martin (Staffordshire).