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

last updated Wednesday 05th February 2014, 9:33 AM
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Ben Rumsby at Daily Telegraph

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

Sheffield United's status as this season's FA Cup giant-killers is secure. Rene Meulensteelen's as Fulham manager is not.

Aston Villa's third-round con­querors added another scalp last night in the most dramatic fashion imaginable as substitute Shaun Miller scored in the last minute of extra-time at Craven Cottage to send them through to the fifth round.

The game was meant to provide some respite for Meulensteen, a chance to relieve the pressure after they crashed to the foot of the Premier League ahead of a truly ter­rifying run of fixtures.

Instead, it was another morale-shattering outing for players and fans alike and a new low in the Dutchman's two-month reign that is bound to increase speculation that Alan Curbishley, the technical director, is being lined up to replace him.

Nigel Clough, the United manager, was left celebrating his greatest night since taking charge of a side who have sunk to 23rd in League One just six years after locking horns with Fulham in the Premier League.

How much the sparse 10,139 crowd last night was down to a Tube strike scheduled to begin the moment the match ended and how much was down to Fulham's wretched recent run was a matter of opinion.

Those who did attend would have been relieved that football managers do not take industrial action every time one of their own loses a job following the announcement before kick-off that Michael Laudrup had been sacked by Swansea City. It can only be imagined what the unions which called the 48-hour walkout on the Underground would make of the kind of job security that has left Meulensteen sweating over his own future so soon after his appointment.

Adam Lallana, Ricky Lambert and Jay Rodriguez ran riot in Southampton's win at Craven Cottage on Saturday and United took less than two minutes to prove that it did not take a trio of England forwards to waltz through the home defence.

Fortunately, Jamie Murphy failed to connect cleanly with his 20-yard shot, which screwed narrowly wide. The let-off did not exactly stir Fulham into action as they tried in vain to prove the 1-1 draw between the sides at Bramall Lane was a blip.

It took more than 20 minutes for them to test United goalkeeper Mark Howard through Scott Parker's harmless potshot but Clint Dempsey did show glimpses of Premier League quality, a lovely one-two with Hugo Rodallega wasted thanks to a heavy touch by the Colombian.

However, United were far too comfortable for a side languishing second-bottom of League One although they could count themselves fortunate to end the first half with 11 men after referee Neil Swarbrick refused to show Bob Harris a second yellow card for raking Josh Passley seconds after booking him for going through the back of the same player.

Fulham emerged from half-time with more urgency but their lack of penetration forced Meulensteen to act before the hour, hauling off Rodallega and Alexander Kacaniklic for Ashkan Dejagah and Damien Duff.

The changes prompted the biggest cheer of the night from a disgruntled home crowd, something that Rodallega appeared to take personally as he slumped, head down, onto the bench. Parker soon followed for Steve Sidwell as driving rain further cancelled out whatever advantage a Premier League side should have had.

Fulham were left relying on the generosity of Swarbrick when Dempsey went down in the box in the final minute of normal time after being held by Harry Maguire but the referee was in no mood to end their torment.

United might have snatched it earlier in extra-time when John Brayford's brilliant jinking run and shot was tipped round the post by David Stockdale. Pajtim Kasami went closest for Fulham when his rising drive shaved the post but just as penalties beckoned, Harry Maguire headed substitute Jose Baxter's corner across goal and Miller stooped to nod home in front of United's jubilant fans.

Fulham (4-4-1-1): Stockdale; Passley, Hangeland, Burn, Amorebieta; Kasami, Tankovic , Parker (Sidwell 69), Kacaniklic (Duff 59); Dempsey; Rodallega (Dejagah 59).
Subs: Stekelenburg (g), Karagounis, David, Christensen.

Booked: Amorebieta, Sidwell.

Sheffield United (4-4-2): Howard, Brayford, Maguire, Collins, Harris (Hill 90); Flynn, Coad, McGinn, Scougall (Miller 97); Murphy, Porter (Baxter, 75).
Subs: Long (g), Kennedy, De Girolamo, Dimaio.

Booked: Harris, Miller.

Referee: N Swarbrick (Lancashire).

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