FA Cup 3rd Round
Team: McCarthy, Onuoha, Caulker (Isla), Ferdinand, Traore, Fer, Henry (Vargas), Mutch, Phillips, Austin, Hoilett (Zamora)
Subs Not Used: Murphy, Furlong (D), Hill, Grego-Cox
Attendance: 12,972 (including 2,735 away fans)
With Lou Reed on your side, there is always the chance of a ‘Perfect Day’, but even Nigel Clough cannot have imagined such a convincing victory for his League One side as they defeated Premier League opponents for the fifth time in 12 months.
Sheffield United did not just beat Queen’s Park Rangers, they humiliated Harry Redknapp’s team on their own turf, making a mockery of the 34 places that separate the sides in football’s pyramid.
Such is the magic of the FA Cup that the Blades always looked sharper, brighter and more likely to win than their supposed superiors. From the moment top scorer Marc McNulty put United ahead in the 36th minute, there looked to be only one winner, given the respective records of the two sides.
Although Clough’s men have gone six games without victory in League One, they clearly love cup competitions, having reached the FA Cup semi-final last season and the same stage of the League Cup this term.
Tottenham Hotspur will be fancied as favourites for the two-legged tie at the end of the month, but United will approach the game with no fear, as they did here.
This was no smash-and-grab raid, nor was it a fluke. Clough’s men are cup experts, having lost only twice in 19 cup games since he took over at the South Yorkshire club, and this was their 12th win in their past 16 FA Cup games.
QPR, by contrast, have a poor record in the competition, with only two victories in the West London club’s past 23 FA Cup ties, so it was perhaps no great shock that this result was not entirely unexpected.
Redknapp summed it up perfectly: “I’m very disappointed, but you have to give them (United) credit – they are a bright team that obviously raise their game in the cup,” the QPR manager said.
“They were bright, better than us today and thoroughly deserved their win. We looked lethargic and sluggish after four games in ten days and the last goal summed us up – it was horrendous defending.”
That goal, in the fourth minute of stoppage time, was icing on the cake for United. Jamal Campbell-Ryce, who had been a thorn in QPR’s side all afternoon, looked like he was in the playground as he twisted, turned and teased the home defence before shooting home for his second goal of the game, to the delight of United’s raucous supporters.
They had been making more noise than their hosts from the early stages of the tie, with Campbell-Ryce tormenting Armand Traore on the wing and McNulty looking lively in attack. The Scottish striker, signed for a song from Livingston in the summer, scored the winning goal against Southampton last month and opened the scoring here.
Steven Caulker went foraging upfield for QPR, but when he and Leroy Fer lost the ball, Louis Reed started a counter-attack. The teenage midfielder ran half the length of the pitch before playing the ball to his right where McNulty kept his nerve to shoot home off the body of goalkeeper Alex McCarthy.
The former Reading keeper, playing in place of Robert Green, was at fault as Campbell-Ryce increased United’s lead four minutes after half-time. Reed was the provider again, swinging in a corner from the right that the keeper failed to take, and as the ball bounced off Jordon Mutch, Campbell-Ryce was on hand to stab it over the line from close range.
Redknapp had introduced Bobby Zamora at half-time and the former Fulham striker missed QPR’s best chance, heading wide of the far post from an unmarked position in the centre of the penalty area.
Mark Howard had a handful of long shots to keep out, but the United goalkeeper was otherwise rarely tested as QPR went down without much of a fight.
The home side were booed off by their own supporters at half-time and at the final whistle, while United’s noisy band of fans had another great cup win to celebrate.
Gerry Cox – The Telegraph (extract)
A decent crowd, which included a large Sheffield United contingent, but the R’s faithful witnessed yet another cup humiliation! Earlier in the season I had written after witnessing our League Cup defeat at Burton Albion, how predicable that was!
Harry Redknapp told talkSPORT: “That’s four games in a short space of time for Charlie Austin, that’s a lot of games for him. He’s probably never played that amount of games before. He had to play because the simple facts are I’ve only got two strikers at the club, him and Bobby Zamora. You can’t keep going with two strikers.”
Really? I would have accepted Charlie Austin being rested for this match and would have loved to have seen Reece Grego-Cox coming on, perhaps playing upfront alongside Bobby Zamora or even Eduardo Vargas, but it seems to be yet another token gesture to just sit one of our young players on the bench.