Paul Heckingbottom insists Sheffield United are making good progress

Sheffield United v West Bromwich Albion – Sky Bet Championship – Bramall Lane
(Image credit: Mike Egerton)

Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom reasoned that a 2-0 win over fellow promotion hopefuls West Brom highlighted the progress his team has made since the start of the Championship season.

The Blades were thrashed 4-0 by the Baggies back in August, but Billy Sharp’s two goals, either side of a first-half Jake Livermore red card for the Midlanders, secured a fourth straight victory for the hosts.

It also represented a disappointing start for Steve Bruce in his first game in charge of the visitors, who Heckingbottom has no doubt will improve under the former Blades boss.

“They beat us down there and, if a team want to put the ball in your box, you can’t stop them, but tonight we won every first or second contact and all their efforts on goal came from outside the box, which was pleasing,” Heckingbottom said.

“Three points is everything and I’m pleased that we’ve got them against a top team with a good squad and a manager now who knows his way around this league better than anyone.

“It was a vital result for us because it’s moved us a point outside of the play-offs and it was three points taken from a team who will be up there and will only be moving upwards from now on.”

On Sharp’s match-winning contribution, which took his tally to four from the last three games, Heckingbottom added: “There’s no better man for chances to fall to and he’s back among the goals because of the energy we are playing with up there and the opportunities that’s creating.”

Bruce disagreed with referee Leigh Doughty’s decision to send off Livermore and suggested the club might appeal against the dismissal after arguing it changed the course of the contest.

“Up until the red card, even though we were a goal down, I thought we were the better side,” he claimed. “I also thought the red card was harsh.

“I felt it was a decent challenge and there was one close to me 15 minutes earlier that the referee did not even give a free-kick for, let alone a yellow card, so it’s about the consistency you’re always looking for.

“I don’t think Jake’s tackle was dangerous or reckless at all and he’s also got to bear in mind that, when you give a red card, it spoils the spectacle, because it was a good game up to then, but playing with 10 men gave us a lot to do.

“Having said that, we were still in it going into the last 10 minutes after our keeper made two excellent saves, but we huffed and puffed and couldn’t make the breakthrough before Billy Sharp scored an excellent second goal for them.

“We’ve now got to find that cutting edge because Granty (Karlan Grant) has got 10 goals but, apart from that, nobody has got many and that’s what we’ve got to work on and why I’m here.”

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