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Paul Heckingbottom will not criticise Blades players after draw with Birmingham

Paul Heckingbottom took the positives out of the draw with Birmingham (PA)
Paul Heckingbottom took the positives out of the draw with Birmingham (PA)

Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom refused to criticise his players after their 1-1 draw with Birmingham but can understand why some will be disappointed with the result.

Oli McBurnie scored his fifth Sky Bet Championship goal of the season as his powerful volley from near the penalty spot fired the Blades ahead after 64 minutes at Bramall Lane.

However, Troy Deeney equalised six minutes later thanks to a lapse in concentration by the home side.

Heckingbottom said: “The players deserve praise because we’ve had only one training session.

“There was fatigue and a lack of preparation, but I thought that the players were fantastic and they took everything on board. We were confident with how the game would go.

“We know where we went wrong and the lads are upset but I cannot criticise them.

“When you’re on a 10-game unbeaten run you can’t ask for anymore. Evidence suggests that we have been performing well for about 10 months.

“It is a reflection of where we are that people are disappointed.

“If you’ve watched Birmingham this season you would know they are starting to look well organised. They have a great spirit now. They looked to hurt us.”

Heckingbottom said he was delighted with McBurnie after the forward continued his improved form.

“He is in fine form and when he is playing with confidence it is even better,” Heckingbottom added.

“Oli is different. He is where we want him, where he wants to be and where he needs to be.

“Everyone has said he took it with confidence and that it was a great finish.”

Birmingham manager John Eustace was very pleased with the result against the Championship leaders, who remain one point clear at the top, and his team’s performance.

He said: “I’m very proud. The group was excellent and we moved the ball around against a top team.

“To get a point with a performance like that is very pleasing.”

Deeney had a quiet first half but was pivotal in securing a point for Birmingham.

Tahith Chong beat his man and crossed the ball into the box where Deeney was afforded too much space and slotted the ball past goalkeeper Wes Foderingham to earn an impressive point and extend their unbeaten run to four matches.

Eustace said: “That’s the Deeney I played with at Watford. I’m so proud of him today because he has had chances in other games and not taken them.

“If we can keep him fit then he is exactly what we need.”