2013/14: Budweiser FA Cup Fourth Round – Sheffield United v Fulham

(Sunday 26 January – 09:00)

My second FA Cup outing of this season. The first was back in September for the First Qualifying Round game that saw Frickley Athletic beat Sheffield FC 4-1. There’s a Sheffield connection as later today it’s the Fourth Round tie at Bramall Lane as Sheffield United host Fulham.

With Fulham struggling in the league this season and United already having already beaten one Premier League team (Aston Villa in the last round), I’m not exactly full of confidence ahead of the fixture.

History holds no comfort in relation to the gane today, as Fulham have never beaten The Blades in the FA Cup. The two teams have been drawn against each other on four occasions. Molineux was the venue, way back in 1936 for the first clash of the sides in a Semi-Final game that United edged 2-1 with goals from Donald Bird and Jack Pickering.

It was another thirty years before they met again, this time at the Third Round stage at Bramall Lane, where United emerged winners 3-1 with two goals from Alan Birchenall and one from Alan Woodward. In the following season, the clubs were drawn together again; this time in the Fourth Round, with the tie at Craven Cottage. Fulham though couldn’t make home advantage count and the game ended 1-1. In the replay, The Blades cruised through 3-1.

The last encounter was back in 1986, in a Third Round fixture in which a brace from Colin Morris saw Sheffield United progress 2-0.

So time to make the journey to South Yorkshire…Come on You Whites! Although they are likely to be wearing blue and orange today!

(Sunday 26 January – 22:00)

Quite a strange feeling after this game.

A day of mixed emotions.

Great fun to be amongst the Fulham faithful and the self-deprecation that has come to pass this season; emanating from the current relegation battle.

Disappointment, in that ultimately a Premier League team (albeit one that contained eleven changes from the last outing), couldn’t beat a relegation threatened League One side.

Relief that a replay had been gained, but with no confidence that the job will be completed at Craven Cottage.

The Sheffield area suffered an early morning deluge that meant there was a pitch inspection an hour before kick-off. The decision to play was the right one and although the rain continued through the first-half, the tie was never in danger of being abandoned. Incredibly later during the game the rain stopped and blue sky was briefly seen above Bramall Lane.

SUFCCupOf the game itself – Fulham made a positive start, despite the numerous changes, as they had plenty of possession, but failed to create a real chance. They were also forced into an early change when Riise went off injured after just ten minutes. The Blades though were not overawed and went ahead on thirty one minutes. Harry Maguire was allowed too much space by the Fulham midfield and defence as he broke from the back and his cross was deftly finished by Chris Porter.

Fulham responded though as Hugo Rodallega broke into the box and appeared to be clipped by United keeper Long. However, referee Andre Mariner waived away the appeal and The Blades went into the break 1-0 up.

The second-half saw Fulham again continue with their passing game, but it lacked any decisive edge. With the Fulham fans getting frustrated at the lack of clear cut chances the turning-point of the game occurred on fifty two minutes, when Blades’ skipper Doyle was sent off for kicking out at Chris David in an off-the-ball incident.

However, despite being down to ten-men United could have gone further ahead had David Stockdale not saved Ryan Flynn’s cross-shot. As with Fulham in the first-half, The Blades had a good penalty shout turned down, when Flynn looked to have been fouled by Hughes. Even watching from the other end of the ground, it seemed to be a poor decision by the referee.

Having survived that scare, Fulham brought on Darren Bent and Adel Taarabt as they looked for an equaliser. The Blades were now defending deeper and deeper and on seventy five minutes Fulham got their goal, as a good strike from Rodallega arrowed into the net from the edge of the box.

Both sets of fans sensed that Fulham were now looking for the winner and chances did come their way in the final fifteen minutes. An unmarked Senderos headed against the bar, which he was unable to convert from the rebound. Substitute Darren Bent was then guilty of an atrocious miss from barely a yard. Fulham’s last real chance came courtesy of a curling effort from Taarabt, but in truth that would have been cruel on the home side, who deserved a draw.

Invariably both managers will talk about how neither wanted a replay, but whoever goes through will have a Fifth Round home tie to look forward to and enjoy the respite from the battle to avoid relegation.

After watching the game today, I don’t have a great deal of confidence that Fulham will be able to avoid the drop. I accept that this wasn’t our strongest team, but the squad as a whole doesn’t give the impression that they are a unit which has the quality, grit or determination to battle their way out of trouble.

Perhaps there is a fleet of new signings before the transfer deadline closes to spark a change in our fortunes on the horizon.

In reality, I’m as unconvinced of that as the team were over ninety minutes today.

It’s going to be a long and difficult few months ahead.

FBR Copyright 20214 All rights reserved.

Posted January 30, 2014 by Editor in category "Football Features

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