‘By far the worst performance’ - Paul Heckingbottom’s honest opinion of the Blades’ win over Bristol City

‘I think it’s a reflection of the league’

Paul Heckingbottom admitted that Sheffield United’s performance in their 1-0 victory over Bristol City on Tuesday was one of their worst this season.

The Blades took all three points back to South Yorkshire thanks to Iliman Ndiaye’s header early in the second half, following an error from Zak Vyner. Although, on review, the goal shouldn’t have stood as Billy Sharp was interfering with play in an offside position.

Oliver Norwood was fortunate not to be dismissed for a dangerous challenge on Joe Williams with 10 minutes to play, while a poor tackle from George Tanner saw him sent off in the closing stages and capped off a frustrating night for the Robins.

Coming into the match, the visitors had won just once in their last seven EFL Championship fixtures. Their win in midweek, though, means back-to-back victories and keeps them in the top three, just three points off league leaders Burnley.

Speaking to Sky Sports after the match on his side’s patchy form and his view on the match, Heckingbottom said: “I think it’s a reflection of the league, we’ve been calm and probably controlled about how we’ve reflected on those games. You want to win, it’s all about the results, but that’s by far the worst performance in the last eight games and we’ve come away with three points at a tough place.

“It shows how mad the Championship is, how mad football is sometimes. But also, the flipside of it, what it takes to win games because the experience we showed out there and the mentality to defend our box was first class.”

City largely dominated proceedings and struck the woodwork twice on the night, the home side also registered four times as many shots as Heckingbottom’s side and went close through both Antoine Semenyo and Alex Scott.

The manager empathized with Nigel Pearson: “I know how Nigel’s going to be feeling. In probably four of the last six games that we didn’t win, they’ll probably look like that, where Nigel will feel like his team’s dominated and come away with nothing.”

The Blades struggled to get a foothold in the match early on and couldn’t sustain any meaningful possession or attacks. Consequently, Heckingbottom made a change after 34 minutes; Reda Khadra off for James McAtee.

However, the 45-year-old was keen to defend Khadra, and said that the striker's early exit wasn’t due to his performance level: “I got the team wrong to start with. Reda had to come off after 30 minutes, it could’ve been one of any of them so it’s not a reflection of Khadra at all, we just needed to change the shape.”

Heckingbottom’s side will host the Clarets on Saturday, while the Robins face a trip to Michael Carrick’s Middlesborough.