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

last updated Monday 27th January 2014, 12:23 PM
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Ian Ladyman at Daily Mail

Sheff Utd (1) 1 Fulham (0) 1

At last, some warming words for those who worry about the future of the FA Cup.

Asked if he was concerned about the impact of a replay on his team's efforts near the foot of League One, Sheffield United manager Nigel Clough was adamant.

'No, it's brilliant that we are still in the hat,' said Clough.

'More than 16,000 supporters have gone home delighted and thinking about who we may draw in the next round if we get through. We are looking forward to the replay. We went to Villa Park and got a result in the last round. Maybe we can do it again.'

Clough's late father, Brian, never won the FA Cup during his glorious years at Nottingham Forest. He tried his best, though.

Yesterday on a quagmire of a pitch in rainy Sheffield, Clough Jnr's team did likewise and came within one penalty decision of beating another Barclays Premier League team.

Leading by a first-half goal from Chris Porter, United were down to 10 men after Michael Doyle's silly sending-off but perhaps should have been given a spot kick after the impressive Ryan Flynn fell under a challenge from Fulham captain Aaron Hughes.

Referee Andre Marriner waved away the appeals, though, and moments later Hugo Rodallega drove in the equaliser for Fulham from the edge of the area.

'Andre Marriner is one of the nicest guys you'll meet,' said Clough, 'but he made some poor decisions. Had we scored a second then I think we would have won.'

Fulham manager Rene Meulen-steen, whose team are locked in a fight for Premier League survival, was also candid about that moment. 'I have seen it again and it could have been given,' he said.

Having made 11 changes from his team's most recent league game against Arsenal, Meulensteen ended up getting the one result he didn't need. However, with an important league game at Swansea tomorrow, it is hard to blame him.

Instead, we should question the wisdom of scheduling the fourth round so close to a bunch of midweek league fixtures.

'This replay now makes it like the Christmas period for us,' he said.

'I haven't taken my tree down yet! We could do without it but we must look at the positives. We're still in it. The replay is the Tuesday before the Southampton game, so there won't be much change to this team.

'Every man with commonsense can see why we picked this team. Nobody respects the cup more than me and I'd like to stay in it but we have to minimise the risk to our season.'

It is easy to see the Fulham manager's point. What his team selection did do, though, was offer United an opportunity to progress and for a long period it looked as though they may be up to it.

Clough said he was disappointed with his team's first-half display and Fulham did, indeed, have the better chances. Chris David and Rodallega missed early opportunities and the impressive Pajtim Kasami was proving consistently dangerous.

In the end, though, it was the home team who struck the first, important blow, Harry Maguire galloping down the right to cross low for Porter to score at the near post.

That was how it stood at half-time but United's chances of seeing the game through took a turn for the worse early in the second period when captain Doyle was dismissed for an off-the-ball kick at Muamer Tankovic.

Doyle later told his manager he thought the decision harsh but did admit making contact. The fact he left the field without complaint perhaps told its own story.

Not surprisingly, the territory belonged largely to Fulham from that point on.

United were dangerous on the break - as the Flynn penalty incident showed - but it was the Premier League team who knocked loudest on the door once Rodallega had equalised with his right foot.

Certainly they should have taken late chances. Philippe Senderos struck the bar with a header and swung wildly at the rebound, a Damien Duff shot was deflected into the side netting and Darren Bent managed to volley wide from just a yard.

'He is disappointed,' said Meulensteen, with understatement. 'He lives his life for those chances.'

Harry Redknapp - who once suggested his wife could have scored a chance Bent missed for Tottenham - may beg to differ.

Sheffield United: (4-4-2 ) Long 6; Brayford 6, Maguire 6 (Harris, 49mins, 6), Collins 7, Hill 6; Flynn 8, Doyle 7, Coady 6, Murphy 6; Porter 6, Baxter 6 (McGinn, 85mins, 6)
Substitutes not used: Howard, Miller, Kennedy, De Girolamo

Scorers: Porter 30

Sent Off: Doyle

Fulham: (4-1-4-1 ) Stockdale 6; Passley 6, Senderos 6, Hughes 6, Riise 5 (Plumain, 10mins, 6 (Taarabt, 67mins, 6)); Karagounis 7; Kasami 7, David 6 (Bent, 57mins, 6), Tankovic 7, Duff 6; Rodallega 7
Substitutes not used: Stekelenburg, Kacaniklic, Christensen, Pritchard

Scorers: Rodallega 70 (With a fine strike into the bottom corner from the edge of the area)

Booked: Passley(76,f), Kasami 80,f)

Referee: Andre Marriner 5

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