Sheffield United: Former Liverpool star Rhian Brewster is handed a new challenge

Rhian Brewster is being challenged to use his goal against Stoke City as a springboard towards a permanent place in Sheffield United’s starting eleven.

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The centre-forward opened his account for the campaign during the game at the bet365 Stadium, as Paul Heckingbottom’s side remained on top of the Championship table despite suffering a 3-1 defeat.

Still United’s record transfer signing after completing a £23.5m move from Liverpool two years ago, Brewster, aged 22, was beginning a league match for only the fourth time since recovering from a hamstring operation midway through last term.

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Acknowledging the England under-21 international faces stiff competition, with a rejuvenated Oli McBurnie set to return from suspension when Blackpool visit Bramall Lane this weekend, Heckingbottom told The Star: “He’s had a bit of a run and we’ve also had other players. Oli Mac is scoring freely at the moment and Iliman (Ndiaye) is firing. But they’re not going to play every minute and, certainly up there, we feel as if we can make real, effective changes. We’ve got the firepower and the personnel to be able to do that.

“We’ve been really happy with Rhian. He’s been sharp in training and now he’s got his goal, hopefully he’ll be flying. It’s all about getting minutes on the pitch and, by scoring and doing all of the other things we know he can do, Rhian can force that.”

Rhian Brewster celebrates his first goal of the season for Sheffield United: Andrew Yates / Sportimage

Brewster had been in fine form before succumbing to injury in January, and recently admitted during an interview at United’s training complex that “When one goes in, I know lots more will follow.” Heckingbottom is also convinced the youngster will prove to be a major asset as his squad chases promotion. He demonstrated similar faith in McBurnie, who had failed to find the back of the net for nearly a year before scoring five times in his last seven outings.

“I want him (Brewster) getting chances,” Heckingbottom continued, “Not taking shots from outside of the box although he can do that - going back post, front post and right in the middle of the box, which is where he got this one from. That’s where we want him to be.

“Our job, my job, is to try and make sure the team wins. It’s not about individual players, it’s about helping us to get those wins."

Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom at Stoke City: Andrew Yates / Sportimage
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United have struggled to replicate the form they showed before last month’s break in the domestic fixture programme, drawing with Birmingham City and losing to Queens Park Rangers en route to Staffordshire.

Although Heckingbottom admitted to being “disappointed” with certain aspects of the display against Alex Neil’s men, he insisted the recent dip in results must be measured against the number of absentees among his squad. Around a dozen senior professionals missed the trip through injury, including Ciaran Clark, Jack Robinson, John Fleck, George Baldock, Sander Berge and Anel Ahmedhodzic.

“You are going to get stutters,” said Heckingbottom, who handed Sai Sachdev his professional debut during the closing stages. “But I’m not upset with performances. And we know why we got this result, because we didn’t take our chances and had to set up differently.

“No disrespect to the team, but I knew I had to manage myself because that wasn’t how I’d want the team to look usually.”

Sheffield United will look to bounce back against Blackpool this weekend: Andrew Yates / Sportimage