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Heckingbottom on Sheffield United

21 April 2016

Barnsley Caretaker Head Coach Paul Heckingbottom believes the Reds are taking on Sheffield United this weekend at “their toughest moment".


Nigel Adkins’ Blades are unbeaten in their last four games, which has seen them move to within four points of the Reds and the play-off places.


Heckingbottom feels that United have saved their best form for now but stills added the Blades should have shown their current form throughout the rest of the season.


He said: “They’re chasing the play-offs and have nothing to lose so we have to approach this game in the same manner and try to get a result.


“We know what they’re about and that they want to play. We know their strengths and they have some really good strengths, including a big squad with lots of experience.


“I would have expected them to pose a bigger challenge and if you look at their form right now, it’s what they’d have expected throughout most of the season.


“They have players performing well and we know it’s going to be tough. They’re expecting to win just as we are. They may have underachieved for most of the season but at the moment they’re in good form.”


Heckingbottom is expecting a fiery atmosphere and hopes the fans will play on that to create the perfect environment for his players to thrive in.


He added that his players should harness the pressure on the fixture and use it to their advantage in order to get the three points.


He said: “We’re excited about it, the buzz is there and we can’t hide that, we’re all just excited for another big game.


“They probably have a bit less to lose compared to us but I’m expecting a real frantic, high-energy game where both sides are going for the win.


“It’ll be a real derby atmosphere from both sets of fans and hopefully that transfers itself onto pitch and we get a really good game.


“We know there is pressure but we’ve tried to embrace it rather than pretend it isn’t there. Every game over the last couple of months has been big for different reasons.


“We build them up as that because we were expecting to be here at the end of the season and the players are used to that now.


“We know we aren’t going to win them all but we want to be in the best mental frame of mind to cope with that and we can now because we’ve been practising.”


Marley Watkins, James Bree, Ryan Williams and George Smith will all miss this weekend’s game through injury but Heckingbottom is hopeful of Aidan White returning to action.


 “We’ll have a similar squad and players available this weekend,” he added. “Aidan White has had an injection in his abdominal muscles and isn’t training today.


“Hopefully in the next 48 hours we’ll see an improvement but he is the only one that could be back, apart from that it will be the same group.


“Both George Smith and James Bree are responding well, both have similar injuries and we have to be careful with both and if the season is extended with the play-offs, they’ll be involved.”


The Reds have managed to keep five clean sheets in their last seven League One matches and the Caretaker Head Coach put that down to his solid defensive partnership.


Alfie Mawson and Marc Roberts have been ever-presents in the side since the turn of the year, keeping fellow centre-back Lewin Nyatanga out of the side.


Since joining the club, Heckingbottom has been impressed with Roberts’ development and how he has continued to improve his all-round game.


He feels that Roberts, in his first season in the Football League, has established himself well and can go on to have a fantastic career.


“He’s done fantastic, as have both centre-backs, from a personal point of view they have been the best in the league and the pleasing thing is they’ve improved over the course of the season.


“Robbo’s come back in at the turn of the year and done fantastic and the amazing thing is he’s working on things we’re asking him to and it’s rewarding for us as coaching staff.


“Hopefully he’ll be the one who gets the rewards for his career,” he said.


The last time the two sides met, Conor Hourihane rescued a 1-1 draw but could not prevent the Reds slipping to the foot of the League One table.


Heckingbottom feels that game was one of the most important in Barnsley’s season and feels since then, the players have gone above and beyond all expectations.


“If you think back to that game, you sensed Conor’s goal was a big goal but we still went bottom but that was the turning point.


“There was more of a buzz around the place following that goal and from where we were to where we are, expectations have shot through the roof.


“They’ve got here with their dedication and hard work every time they’ve crossed the white line.”


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