Tuesday, 18 February 2014

If Porter Scores We're On The Pitch

Sheffield United 3
Nottingham Forest 1
Bramall Lane
Attendance 25,118

If anyone needed proof that the magic of the FA Cup is still alive all they had to do was look at this game. Over twenty five thousand fans packed into Bramall Lane to witness a game surrounded in sub-plots unfold into a yet another dramatic finale. Before the game like many I believed the run was over and Forest would do what neither Villa or Fulham could and knock us out of the competition, they looked strong, composed and were in the middle of a phenomenal unbeaten run. over five thousand confident Forest supporters made their way to The Steel City hoping to witness their team book a place in the quarter finals. But The Cup has an uncanny way of showing that anyone can beat any one over ninety minutes.

United made one change from the weekends winning team, club captain Michael Doyle returning to replace McGinn. Now unless McGinn had a genuine fitness doubt if I were this young man I would not be pleased. With Doyle doing nothing to warrant an immediate return and McGinn being part of a winning side, McGinn has shown enough in my view to have comfortably beaten Doyle onto the team sheet. Collins was having a blinder as captain and leading the team well, it also made him step up his own game in recent weeks, Doyle walking back into the side, wearing the armband was the wrong decision, not only in my eyes but an opinion shared by most Blades, and despite the result today Doyle aside from a few mistakes was the invisible man. Nottingham Forest fielded a strong team, one that included the three ex United players mentioned in a previous post, stocky frontman Darius Henderson, the versatile utility player Greg Halford and of course play maker and talisman Andy Reid. A show of respect was observed in unison as silence fell on Bramall Lane for one minute in honor of Sir Tom Finney, one of the games true legends, but as soon as the referees whistle sounded a deafening roar followed as over twenty thousand Blades bellowed out Annies Song, an impressive and intimidating sight for the away fans and players.

The opening quarter of the game was tense as no side looked to really take the game and make it their own, both teams wanted to get forward but then looked almost anxious when getting to the final third. Majewski managed to get into a decent position for the visitors but Conor Coady was able to make a vital block to ensure The Forest break away was not fruitful. Forest had a weak appeal for a penalty turned down, Reids high ball met the head of Henderson who played it into the path of Cox, Harry Maguire remained strong not letting the Forest striker get in on goal, Cox then fell to the floor appealing for a penalty claiming to have been pushed, but the referee waved play on.  Brayford did test the opponents defense but hit his shot weakly for de Vries to collect without really being troubled. The Blades looked more likely to score through the efforts of Jose Baxter, his first a long range effort that failed to reach his high standards. The second came as he stole possession from Andy Reid who lay on the floor appealing for the foul, non given and Baxter was away, with two defenders tracking him and Scougall finding acres of space Baxter perhaps mad the wrong decision to try and get a shot away himself, this was confirmed when his tame effort rolled straight to de Vries, Scougall left annoyed not to receive the pass. Forest had a chance when ex Blade Greg Halford skillfully flicked the ball over Brayford before hitting a speculative half volley which veered high and wide. A strong spell of possession for Forest and some clever link up play found Andy Reid in space just wide of the box, his chipped cross to the front post found Patterson, he calmly nodded the ball over Howard to rustle into the Blades net, one nil to the favorites and a lot of hard work for the home side to do, the five thousand plus Forest fans now finally making a noise to celebrate their team taking the lead. The Blades tried hard to hit straight back, Murphy was brought down cynically but after playing a clever advantage the referee allowed play to continue resulting in Baxter sprinting towards the Forrest goal, this time he played the ball to
Scougall in space, but the young Scotts effort was saved well by the Forest keeper de Vries getting down low quickly to deny an equalizer. Like many on the kop we were frantically trying to get confirmation on the draw for the next round, searching smart phones, calling loved ones at home, and I imagine the following conversation was quite common around the ground. "we've got a home tie if we pull it back", "who against?" "hold on they are just drawing it now,,, WEDNESDAY OR CHARLTON!",,, "fu*k off don't be daft", "no I'm serious", probably like many it took second confirmation to finally believe the news, and once it had set in the crowd voulume went up several decibels, the chants of "WE HATE WEDNESDAY" echoed, almost as if the crowd were trying to indicate to the players what could possibly await them, spurring the boys on knowing we have to get back into this. As the second half drew to a close the Scottish connection of Flynn, Murphey and Scougall continued to try and run through the Forest defense but we just couldn't make it count in the final third.

As we found out after the game Cloughy and his staff reminded the players what was at stake, who we could potentially meet in the next round, what it means to the fans who are out in the stands backing the team through thick and thin, if this wasn't enough of an incentive to try and turn things around one would have to wonder what it would take. The Second half began and the never say die attitude of seasons long passed seemed to resurrect itself. Forest were put on the back foot and Murphy almost pulled United level but failed to make proper contact with Brayford's cross. Forest also showed their ambition, Howard had to make a fine save and push the ball wide after Patterson unleashed a hard curling shot from distance. Howard was called on again shortly after, saving a hard blast at goal from
close range denying Cox that looked destined to double the lead. As United pushed forward with a sense of urgency Brayford hit a poor low cross into the box, but de Vries who should have taken the ball comfortably spilled it, Conor Coady was there to pounce and after rounding the keeper and preventing a challenge he calmly poked it home from point blank range, the ground erupted into scenes of hysteria, Coady who celebrates every goal like it is a world cup winner ran straight to the front of the kop to enjoy the noise from thousands of happy blades, and at the back of the kop it felt every bit as good as the last minute winner against Fulham.

Forest were not going to lay down and die however and pressed forward to try and regain their lead, a free kick from Andy Reid met the head of Halford, but his looping header landed on the roof of the net rather than in the back of it. Reid also hit an effort wide as frustration set in. Scougall almost put in Flynn to grab a late lead, but his effort was saved. Clough made a change in the final seven minutes, Baxter who had put in a
very hard shift was replaced by Chris Porter as the Blades showed their intent to push on. Drama has its way of showing up in fixtures between these two clubs, and this game was to be no exception, Murphy beat his man on the wing before attempting tp play the ball back into the box, but Halford who had slid to make the block struck the ball with his hand, it seemed an eternity before we got the decision, but rightfully Michael Oliver pointed to the spot, and in the last minute of the game up stepped Chris Porter. Porter has taken his fair share of criticism this season, and will continue to do so as in my view and many he is not a first choice striker, but you can take nothing away from him on this day, all of the pressure on his shoulders, but he calmly stepped up and put his confident penalty into the back of the net sending de Vries the wrong way, pandemonium and noise ensued, emotions
ran high as a small contingency of Blades ran onto the pitch to celebrate with Porter. Just to put the game to bed Murphy did brilliantly again getting past his marker, his cross nutmegged de Vries and found Porter, the poacher knocking the ball home another eruption and the game was won. And as the final whistle sounded celebrations fell into full swing, and Annies Song was again blasted out, we had upset the odds yet again, and set up what could be a very famous quarter final.

-Jonathan Gascoigne
Please also see the attached video
a brief glimpse into what it was like at the back of the kop

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