Match report: PNE 1 Sheffield United 1

PNE v Sheffield United
PNE v Sheffield United
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Preston North End could not dethrone cup king Nigel Clough as Sheffield United fought back to draw 1-1 in the fourth round FA Cup clash at Deepdale.

North End hot-shot Paul Gallagher continued his love affair with the FA Cup as he opened the scoring in the 19th minute with an inch perfect free-kick.

The Blades fought back and ensured boss Nigel Clough’s impressive cup record continued as Diego De Girolamo’s deflected shot beat Thorsten Stuckmann in the 68th minute.

The fourth round replay clash will take place in the first week of February at Bramall Lane.

North End boss Simon Grayson made six changes to the side that drew 1-1 with Yeovil on Tuesday night.

Sylvan Ebanks-Blake was handed his first start for the club after coming off the bench and equalising against the Glovers.

First choice shot-stopper Sam Johnstone was cup tied and so Stuckmann reclaimed the gloves.

Jermaine Beckford missed out due to illness but Kevin Davies, Josh Brownhill, Scott Wiseman and Scott Laird all dropped to the bench.

Neil Kilkenny, Kyel Reid, David Buchanan and Calum Woods were all recalled to the starting XI.

With one eye on a coveted Wembley final Clough made eight changes to the side that lost 1-0 to Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur in the League Cup semi-final first-leg on Wednesday night.

Sheffield’s Preston born defender Harrison McGahey made a few early slip-ups in the box but the loose ball did not fall for PNE.

Woods tried his luck from distance in the 12th minute but his shot flew way over the bar.

Ebanks-Blake was fouled just outside the box and Gallagher stepped up to smash the subsequent set-piece into the net in the 19th minute.

PNE winger Kyel Reid fizzed the ball into the box but Neil Kilkenny’s back-post volley flew back across the goalmouth in the 41st minute.

At the start of the second half Reid pounced on a loose pass in the Sheffield half before storming towards goal and unleashing a fierce strike that stung Blades keeper Howard’s palms.

United nearly bagged an equaliser moments later but Woods was on hand to save the day. De Girolamo’s shot beat Stuckmann but the pacy right back managed to sprint back and clear the ball off the line.

Gallagher nearly doubled his tally with a slick chip from the left that just curled inches wide of Howard’s left hand post.

Up the other end Stuckmann came off his line and made a good save to deny Sheffield substitute Jamie Murphy in the 59th minute.

Tom Clarke latched on to another sublime Gallagher set-piece but the defender’s header dropped just wide of the back post.

And seconds later Sheffield equalised after out-foxing the PNE defence with a quickly taken free-kick. Murphy burst down the right flank fired the ball into the box and De Girolamo’s deflected strike flew into the back of the net.

Ebanks-Blake spun on the spot before unleashing a fierce strike that sailed over Howard’s bar in the 86th minute.

PNE: Stuckmann, Woods, Clarke, Huntington, Buchanan, Welsh (K Davies, 74), Kilkenny (King, 62), Gallagher, Reid (Browne, 85), Humphrey, Ebanks-Blake. Subs not used: Hudson, Laird, Wiseman, Brownhill.

Booked: Gallagher.

Sheffield United: Howard, Alcock, Basham, Baxter, Davies (Harris, 82), McGahey, Higdon, Reed, De Girolamo (McNulty 78), Kennedy, Dimaio (Murphy, 56). Subs not used: Long, Doyle, Campbell-Ryce.

Booked: Kennedy, Alcock.

Referee: Keith Stroud (Bournemouth)

Attendance : 10,770 (away 2819)