Sheffield United v Barnsley FC: Jack Robinson relishing new lease of life under Paul Heckingbottom

It seemed as if the world was against Jack Robinson and Sheffield United late on Wednesday night.

His manager Paul Heckingbottom could barely conceal his anger after two goals – legitimate ones in his eyes – were ruled out in the frustrating 0-0 draw at Blackpool.

His players were suitably aggrieved as well, certainly Robinson was.

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Those two points lost were the difference between the Blades being ensconced in the play-off positions ahead of today’s derby and being on the outside in ninth, where they now reside as they play catch-up once again.

Jack Robinson of Sheffield Utd celebrates scoring their third goal against Middlesbrough recently (Picture: Andrew Yates / Sportimage)

Heckingbottom surveyed the away dressing room after and one section resembled a kindergarten. It was testament to the number of senior absentees in his squad – comfortably into double figures – with few of those likely to return today.

For the time being, the Blades chief must make do and mend. Fortunately, there is hope on the horizon.

After today’s game, United have a two-week window and invaluable time to freshen up following an intense schedule of 12 games in 40 days and get some more leading players back on deck for the run home.

Whatever transpires today, the break is perfectly timed.

Jack Robinson of Sheffield Utd scoring their third goal against Boro (Picture: Andrew Yates / Sportimage)

The fact that, including today’s game, four of United’s next five appointments are at Bramall Lane could also be key amid a play-off joust where the margins are wafer-thin.

Under Heckingbottom’s watch, the Blades are unbeaten in eight matches, winning six and conceding just twice.

It holds some significance, most definitely.

The mission now for United is to bounce back into the top six in today’s early kick-off and say: ‘Over to you’ to their competitors at the business end of the table.

Sheffield United's Jack Robinson talks to the referee after the Sky Bet Championship match at Bloomfield Road (Picture: PA)

It is something they proved proficient at during the final third of that epic 2018-19 campaign.

Robinson said: “It is always easier at home in this league with the fans behind you. There’s less pressure and you have got them backing you for ninety minutes. The Championship is hard, it always has been away from home.

“If you look at any team, they can be top of the league like Fulham and then go and get beaten.

“It is such a tough league, but if we keep our home form as it has been, we have got more home games than away games and we can push on for the rest of the season.

“We will look to continue to play as we have done all season at home, which is front foot. It was tough coming to Blackpool and not getting three points but apart from the decisions, we should have got that.

“It’s onto Barnsley and we have got a little break and then hopefully a few players back.

“You can go into it a bit more relaxed then in getting that three points and seeing where we are then.”

There may have been agitation by the Fylde coast in midweek, but it also showed just how far United have travelled since Heckingbottom took over at the start of winter.

Then, United were as close to the relegation positions as they were to the play-offs. Enter Heckingbottom, who has lifted minds and spirits as well as results in his short but eventful time in charge thus far with United having gone ‘back to the future’ in playing the front-foot intense football which was their hallmark in their golden times under Chris Wilder.

Like Wilder, Heckingbottom’s straight-talking has gone down well in the dressing room, according to Robinson, who has re-established himself in the side under the ex-Leeds and Barnsley chief, who has put the club on the straight and narrow again.

Irrespective of what happens between now and the end of the season, Heckingbottom has given Unitedites their team back, at least.

The one-time Liverpool player added: “I feel like I have performed well over the past few months and Hecky has given me that confidence just to go out and play my own game and I think I have proved to him that I can solidify that position and hopefully make the team better and get us the points to be up there in the league.

“It is just confidence, isn’t it. The more games you play, the more confident you are going to get.

“It is hard when you are in and out the team to get that and Hecky has given me that chance and hopefully, I have repaid him back with some good performances.

“We get on really well. He is down to earth and straight to the truth, which is how I like it. It has been perfect.”

With his background as under-23s coach and his grounded personality, Heckingbottom is the perfect figure to look after and dish out advice to those young players who have been included in recent match-day squads.

One in Ky Gordon – impressive at Bloomfield Road – is making his mark in particular.

When Heckingbottom isn’t about, it is entrusted to the likes of Robinson to keep the young ones in line and rein them in if needs be when the exuberance of youth comes to the fore?

Robinson continued: “I suppose it is talking to them through the game. Ky did really well (at Blackpool) and is growing with confidence in every game, so it is just helping them as senior players as much as possible.

“For the whole time, it is just keeping them on their toes and keeping them ready if they need to perform.

“It is one of those where they need to be ready as at any point, they can come on. It is about keeping them on their toes, because one or two of them are a bit chirpy and they need bringing back down to earth a little bit!

“It is ok, but sometimes they need to get a bit further in their career before they are a bit chirpy. Some of them haven’t even played a game and they are giving you stuff and telling you what you want to do.

“But I am not going to throw anyone under the bus. They are alright, to be fair.”