Paul Heckingbottom relieved after Sheffield United win with controversial goal

Paul Heckingbottom was relieved that Sheffield United’s winning goal at Sunderland stood up to keep his team ahead of the chasing group in the race for promotion to the Championship.

The Blades had fallen behind to Edouard Michut’s opener after half an hour when he drilled low inside the far corner with a fine finish.

But Sheffield United hit back through James McAtee when he curled up inside the far post late in the first half.

And just after the hour mark, Tommy Doyle’s free-kick seemed to bounce straight in from the left flank to give the visitors the lead.

Referee Matthew Donohue and his assistants allowed the goal to stand despite Sander Berge being in an offside position and attempting to go for the ball before it fell into the net.

The goal meant Sheffield United moved six points clear of third-place Middlesbrough ahead of Sunday’s FA Cup quarter-final with Blackburn.

Heckingbottom, whose team lost to Luton at the weekend, said: “If I’m Tony (Sunderland boss Mowbray), I’m affirming that. It’s hard on Tony, if I’m watching that, I’m throwing up. But he is not blocking the view of the guardian and there is no contact, I don’t know the law.

“We were really brilliant, brave and accurate on the ball. Conceding the way we did was a kick in the teeth. We showed a good mentality to come back, the energy and the courage that we wanted to show. I am satisfied with the answer.

“We got the goal we deserved in the first half. The message was the same at half time and I was pleased with the way we responded and played.

“I am proud of all the staff and players and how professional we have been. This week could be a great week in the career of the players and in the history of the club, that’s what we are playing for. We cannot be afraid, we are in a fantastic position in the league and in the quarter-finals of the cup”.

Sunderland manager Tony Mowbray was deeply frustrated by the result, knowing the defeat has left his team eight points out of the top six with nine games remaining.

He said: “We played against a good team, we found it difficult to match them in the first half. They showed their expertise and we knew they would.

“We scored a really good goal, the timing of his first goal was detrimental for us.

“It would be great if the referee or linesman could come here and say why they allowed the second goal to stand.

“A member of our coaching staff said that the ref apologized and said he was wrong, which doesn’t mean much to us. I don’t even think he’s in doubt, he’s interfering with the game. Between the two of them they have understood it very badly and in the end it has cost us.

“If people make a genuine effort to get the ball, he (Berge) misses it by millimeters, there’s even an argument that he grazed his knee and started in an offside position.

“I have been in football since I left school and offside is offside. In my mind it shouldn’t have happened. We have to suffer the consequences.”


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