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Fulham 0-1 Sheff Utd FAC 4th Rnd Rply 1314 Daily Mail

last updated Wednesday 05th February 2014, 9:22 AM
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Matt Barlow at Daily Mail

Fulham (0) 0 Sheff Utd (0) 0 ~ AET 0-1

Rene Meulensteen is under increasing pressure after only two months as Fulham manager after his team were dumped out of the FA Cup by a last-minute winner from Sheffield United substitute Shaun Miller.

Meulensteen called for a fine FA Cup performance to ease the mood of negativity at Craven Cottage, but his players failed to respond and fans reacted angrily, as they were beaten in extra time by their League One visitors.

Miller appeared unmarked in the goalmouth to score in the 119th and Fulham's miserable season went from bad to worse.

'It was bad as the weather,' said Meulensteen. 'You can see the team lacks confidence. Not enough cutting edge, not enough quality. Then you see trends in the game I don't want to see. That's what's happening.

'We know the game plan Sheffield United would come with, getting men behind the ball. It was up to us to break them down and in the end we were not good enough.'

Even before this FA Cup demise, Meulensteen feared for his job. Form has not improved in 15 games since Jol was sacked and the Londoners have sunk to the bottom of the Barclays Premier League.

The Dutchman is concerned that the Fulham board have already lost faith in his ability to avert relegation and the presence of technical director Alan Curbishley means a potential successor is already in place at the club.

Curbishley is not trying to oust Meulensteen but is understood to be prepared to step into the managerial role if required having rescued West Ham from relegation with seven wins from the last nine games in 2007.

This one could fall into his lap if Meulensteen cannot inspire a sudden improvement, in an echo of Jol's sacking.

A crowd of little more than 10,000 were at Craven Cottage on Tuesday night and only the large contingent from South Yorkshire went home happy.

A tube strike played its part but those who came to support the home team made no effort to stifle their frustration.

The team was booed off at half-time and the decision to replace Hugo Rodallega after less than hour was greeted with sarcastic cheers. In the ITV studio, Roy Keane was in agreement, branding Fulham "a shambles".

Rodallega took it badly. Shocked by the reaction, the Colombian sank into a seat in the dug-out with his head down. Bryan Ruiz, who received a similar hostile reaction from supporters earlier in the season was sent on loan to PSV Eindhoven in January.

Meulensteen's assistant Ray Wilkins was the target for much of the abuse from the stands. Some shouted "Wilkins Out" as he walked across the pitch after half-time and he turned to offer a defiant wave.

Also watching through the wind and rain was £12million signing striker Kostas Mitroglou, ineligible to make his debut because he was signed after the original tie. Maybe he is checking the small print.

Dimitar Berbatov, meanwhile, is probably relaxing in Monte Carlo and congratulating himself on his January escape from this mess; a team bereft of confidence and awash with uncertainty and basic errors.

Most worrying of all may be the absence of fight shown for much of the game. Sheffield United were spirited if limited opposition but almost went ahead in the opening minutes when Jamie Murphy went close from the edge of the penalty box.

Fulham offered little until Meulensteen made his double-change on the hour, after which they produced a quicker tempo without eve extending United goalkeeper Mark Howard.

Always, on the break Clough's team were dangerous. John Brayford made several threatening raids forward from right-back. Brayford forced a splendid save from David Stockdale in extra-time before Pajtim Kasami fired two shots narrowly wide from distance.

Penalties loomed by the time Brayford made another excellent charge forward in the final seconds of extra-time. The full-back won a corner and when he came into the goalmouth it was won by centre-half Harry Maguire.

Maguire headed the ball down towards Miller who had to squat low to connect with the ball but glanced his header into the net from only a few feet.

It sends Sheffield United into the last 16, against the winners of tonight's replay between Preston and Nottingham Forest. It sends Fulham deeper into crisis, and to Manchester United.

The first half was a turgid affair in which few chances were created, with the main talking point referee Neil Swarbrick's decision not to send off Bob Harris despite a late tackle on Josh Passley shortly after being booked for a foul on the same player.

Harris, whose loan move from Blackpool was made permanent on transfer deadline day, was back at the heart of things when play resumed for the second half, curling a free-kick wide before hitting a powerful effort at David Stockdale.

The natives were getting restless as Fulham's disjointed performance continued, rounding on Hugo Rodallega when the ineffective striker was taken off with 30 minutes remaining.

The Colombian looked distraught and sat with his head in his hands on the Fulham bench after being taken off, with Brede Hangeland blocking a fierce Stefan Scougall effort as matters on the pitch continued.

Howard had to react quickly to push away a deflected Duff cross as Fulham pushed for a winner, before Muamer Tankovic showed good feet to wriggle free and strike wide.

Stockdale flapped at a John Brayford cross and Pajtim Kasami sent an impressive effort just over as play swung from end-to-end, while substitute Jose Baxter was proving a nuisance for the Fulham backline.

Dempsey saw an acrobatic effort blocked and penalty appeals waved away as the Whites continued to press, although they were unable to prevent the match going to extra time.

Unsurprisingly that too did little to warm the spirits of the 10,139 fans on a wet and windy night at Craven Cottage.

The first period involved much of the same aimless to-ing and fro-ing, aside from a moment of class from Brayford.

Collecting the ball just inside the Fulham half, the on-loan Cardiff man burst forward at speed, cut in-between two men and forced Stockdale into a fine save low to his right.

Kasami twice came close in the second half of extra time, fizzing just wide before testing Howard, and, just as it looked like penalties, United grabbed victory.

Baxter sent in a corner from the right, which was headed back across home by Maguire and glanced home by substitute Miller, on in the 97th minute for the injured Scougall, in the last minute of extra time.

Fulham: Stockdale 6, Passley 5, Hangeland 6, Burn 6, Amorebieta 5, Kasami 5, Parker 6 (Sidwell 69, 6), Tankovic 6, Kacaniklic 5 (Duff 59, 6), Dempsey 5, Rodallega 5 (Dejagah 60, 6).
Subs Not Used: Stekelenburg, Karagounis, David, Christensen.

Booked: Amorebieta, Sidwell.

Sheff Utd: Howard 6, Brayford 6, Maguire 7, Collins 7, Harris 7 (Hill 91), Flynn 7, McGinn 6, Scougall 6 (Miller 97), Coady 6, Murphy 7, Porter 6 (Baxter 75, 6).
Subs Not Used: Long, Kennedy, De Girolamo, Dimaio.

Booked: Harris, Miller.

Goals: Miller 120.

Att: 10,139

Ref: Neil Swarbrick (Lancashire).

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