Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Wet, Windy and Wonderful IT'S MILLER TIME

Fulham 0
Sheffield United 1

After Extra Time
Craven Cottage
Attendance 10,139
Away Blades 2,200 (estimate)

A very vocal and proud support of away Blades got a last gap reward in the capital as Sheffield United claimed another Premier League scalp for their collection, the final minute of extra time saw Shaun Miller pounce and secure our place in the fifth round.

The game itself had a few moments of interest and United were not scared to attack Fulham, but in truth it was not the best game of football in the world. But I like many Blades fans will not care, this welcome distraction from the league saw us come with a game plan, execute it, work hard and it payed off. There were four changes from the last fixture for The Blades, Howard replaced Long in goal and had a good game, his kicking is not quite up to par but he looked calm and up for the game, new boy Bob Harris took up the left back role ahead of Matt Hill and McGinn and Porter were recalled to the starting eleven. In the early going it was United who started the more positive having the first chance, Scougall won the ball from the much taller (and much better paid) Scott Parker before linking up with Flynn, the ball was given to Jamie Murphy who's effort went wide. Fulham had a few chances but they were limited mainly to long range efforts that never troubled Howard. United looked good from set pieces on the night and could have taken the lead after a good McGinn corner but Harry
Maguire couldn't get his header on target. Brayford and Murphy had further chances but could not convert them into goals. Dempsy fired shots in but also struggled to find the target. The first half was refreshing, we were not here to sit back, every time Fulham came at us we soaked up the pressure before releasing the ball forward to allow the front men opportunities to cause havoc. The home side won quite a few corners towards the end of the first half but Howard and the defense were never truly tested. As half time sounded the away support were the happier and rightly so, it had been a poor performance by Fulham, and whilst it wasn't the most entertaining game so far United had stuck to the task at hand and looked the more likely to be in front.

The second half saw much of the same United had the early chances with a Harris free kick, the new boy also had the second chance but saw his curling effort snapped up by Stockdale in the Fulham goal. harry Maguire and Brayford were rocks at the back and played out of their skins, the two men of the match in my opinion, they made it hard for Fulham to get chances away and the home sides frustration swelled and swelled throughout the game and they began throwing themselves to the floor, in my view it was this that cost them a penalty. If Kasami wasn't falling to the floor under every challenge the referee would maybe been more inclined to award a penalty when he was brought down in the box late on. Fulham had a spell of pressure but could not make anything of it. Scougall had his effort blocked by Hangeland as Fulham tried to keep United's counter attacks at bay. The rain began to fall from the London sky and the wind became more brutal, conditions that Fulham did not want. Baxter replaced Chris Porter late on as the forward (who had a quiet game) picked up a knock. Flynn fired over in the final ten minutes as Fulham tried to galvanize themselves, Sidwell and Dempsy both trying desperately to test Howard but neither succeeding. The second half ended and it was extra time and tired legs ahead for both sides. 

Extra time saw Matt Hill replace the booked Bob Harris, later Scougall had to go off due to severe cramp and was replaced by Shaun Miller. The first half of extra time got under way and chances were few and far between, United again were the team most up for this, but tired legs began to prevail and both teams were giving the ball away far to easily, it was this that lead to the best opportunity, John Brayford who had gotten forward exposed a hole in the Fulham defense skipping through, but his low hard effort was met with a fine save from Stockdale. Miller was booked for a challenge on Passley despite winning the ball and lowering his studs. The score remained  nil nil as the first half of extra time came to an end. The second half began and The Blades had an opportunity from a free kick but Baxter's woeful effort was high and off target. Fulham had their best chance for a winner go wide after Duff and Sidwell linked up well playing around The Blades back four before laying it to Kasami who hit a deadly shot that went just wide of the top corner. Fulham had two claims for a penalty turned down, as said previously the fans may feel aggrieved they were not given but if the Premier League players had not been so quick to throw themselves to floor previously they may have gotten the decisions. In the last minute of extra time as Penalties loomed Brayford did exceptionally well to win the ball and push forward, his cross was blocked and United won a corner, Brayford suffered cramp for his troubles but his hard work was about to pay off. In front of the away Blades
Baxter hit a corner into the box, Maguire rose high and his header drifted across the face of goal, an unmarked Shaun Miller pounced getting his head low and prodding the ball past Stockdale who watched helplessly as the back of the net bulged, The Blades fans behind the goal blew the roof off of Craven Cottage, Miller like the fans was in jubilation, the whole team joined him in celebrating right in front of the traveling faithful, a magic moment and one that shows that hard work and a strong resolve can and will pay off no matter how many places below your opponent you are. Fulham piled forward straight from kick off but after a scramble in the box United came away with the ball and the referee blew his whistle, United had dumped out another big boy showing no fear. The Players and staff were straight over the the amazing supporters to thank them for being magnificent and the fans applauded their heroes, no matter the result in the next round moments like this will live long in the memory of us all, and give us something we can be proud off. 

-Jonathan Gascoigne

Please find some more photos in the slideshow on the sidebar, for best results click view with cooliris

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