Sheff Utd 1 Fulham 1: Three talking points
Sheff Utd 1 Fulham 1: Three talking points as the Cottagers fail to beat 10-man Blades at Bramall Lane
Marriner passes up penalties
Referee Andre Marriner might want to watch his performance at Bramall Lane through his fingers. Whilst the experienced official did well to keep up with the end-to-end pace of the game on a difficult pitch, both Fulham and Sheffield United had vital penalty shouts turned down, and replays suggest they should have been given. Hugo Rodallega was unfortunate not to be awarded a spot-kick in the first half after some sloppy play from the United defence let him sprint into the box. The muddy conditions initially took the ball away from the Colombian, but a deft touch poked it past George Long and the goalkeeper clipped Rodallega as he went down. The referee was having none of it, and United fans would have reason to complain themselves in the second half. Ryan Flynn was marauding down the right hand side all afternoon, and after jinxing his way into the box on one occasion, was clearly impeded by Aaron Hughes. Once again, Marriner decided against pointing to the spot, despite the raucous appeals of Bramall Lane.
United deny circumstance to force replay
Nigel Clough will be bursting with pride after watching his Sheffield United side defy the odds and hold Premier League Fulham to a draw and force a replay at Craven Cottage. The match was in question just hours before kick-off as torrential rainfall meant the flooded pitch required a late inspection, but the officials decided to go ahead after a short conversation. The muddy conditions hardly helped proceedings though, as players slipped and slid and the ball got caught in the particularly bad areas around the goalmouth. While Fulham struggled to get to grips with the pitch, United took full home advantage and scored an excellent goal – two-time player of the year Harry Maguire striding forward and finding Chris Porter to poke home on the half hour mark. Things got progressively worse for United after that, as Porter was withdrawn at half-time and Maguire soon after him through injury. Captain Michael Doyle was then shown a red card for an incident off the ball, and suddenly it became a test of United’s resilience. By holding the Cottagers to a draw, United give themselves a great chance of facing a glamour tie in the fifth round, with Wigan’s victory at Crystal Palace the only notable upset against the bigger teams.
Stuttering Fulham need to improve quickly
Fulham look like a side out of sorts, and manager Rene Meulensteen will be decidedly disappointed at having to fit another match into their league-focused schedule. The Dutchman will have seen this weekend as an opportunity to give fringe players some much-needed gametime against a League One side, while keeping on track in the cup. What he was left with was something entirely different. Fulham stuttered and splurted in the first half, with Pajtim Kasami their most creative influence, but even he waned, misplacing passes and wasting good shooting opportunities as the clocked ticked. A better second half showing from the visitors earned an equaliser, but there can be no disputing who the greater team was. While credit must go to Sheffield United for their attacking midset, Fulham’s inability to overcome a side two divisions lower who – like Fulham – are looking to stave off relegation, doesn’t bode well for their own ambitions. Meulensteen has a lot of work to do.