Preston North End supporters have their say on defeat to Sheffield United in the FA Cup
Visits over the last 30 years to Bramall Lane have generally ended in disappointment for the travelling faithful and have been heavily punctuated by late goals and narrow defeats and Saturday was no exception as the Indian sign the Blades appear to have over us continued.
One Preston fan appeared to be so hypnotised by the proceedings on the pitch that he leapt over the advertising hoardings to encroach onto the playing area and make a one man protest before the deciding penalty was converted.
In general it was a dour tussle with both teams being evenely matched up and cancelling each other out.There was little to excite a large away following and we had to wait until midway through the second half to have any worthwhile attempt on goal.
Alex Neil did try to go for broke when he brought on Barkhuizen and Hugill to increase our attacking options but it only had a slight effect and although we could have got a draw we certainly did not do enough to win the game.
It was the second disappointing performance in a week and although most people would think that the league was more important,I personally was hoping that we could get through this round and be two games away from Wembley.
With a couple of our play- off rivals winning on Saturday, wins are needed as soon as possible if our season, which still offers hope, is not to peter out.
Not an FA Cup tie that will live long in the memory as Preston’s interest in the competition ended with a mediocre display in a mediocre game at Bramall Lane. S
hots on target were at a premium for a North End side showing eight changes from the team that started against Birmingham City last Saturday afternoon.
We had our share of the ball in an even first half but there was an inability to create goal scoring chances has cost us the game. The game hinged on a very soft penalty with just10 minutes to go and although North End had a good chance to force a replay in injury time few could deny the Blades their passage into the round five draw on Monday evening.
Before the game started I was expecting a minute’s applause for Jimmy Armfield but it was not forthcoming and so North End, in yellow and playing the usual 4-2-3-1, set off defending the goal where the 2,695 fans were assembled. To be honest the game ebbed and flowed in the early stages without very much happening but I thought North End were comfortable if not dominant in the opening 30 minutes of the first half.
Rudd didn’t looked troubled and Horgan, along with Bodin, were trying to force the isssue down the flanks. The home side had a few corners that North End dealt with in regulation fashion but Moore in the home team goal was having a quiet afternoon with not a great deal coming his way from the visiting strike force. Donaldson had one half chance just before the break but we went into half time fairly content with the way things had gone.
After the interval it was the home side who came out much the brighter and Donaldson had a chance barely two minutes in. Rudd then had to make a superb save from Lafferty to keep the scores level and it was obvious that the Blades had come out to try and win the tie.
Sheffield had plenty of the ball but once again we seemed to be dealing with what they threw at us without ever creating anything meaningful down at the other end. Alex Neil brought on Woods, Hugill and Barkhuizen and although Barkhuizen was doing good work down the left flank it was that final ball that was North End’s undoing. The deciding goal came when Tom Clarke was very unfortunate to concede a penalty with Sharp having got the wrong side of him and referee Scott looking like he couldn’t wait to give the spot kick.
Sharp tucked it away, tidily, past Rudd and although we had a chance in the dying seconds via Hugill we never really looked like we could bring them back to Deepdale for a replay. It is difficult to judge just what sort of display this was in terms of league status as there were so many changes and I am sure the game at the end of April will be a very different one to this cup game.
I thought Moult worked very hard up front on his own and the back four looked sound enough apart from giving the penalty away. We certainly missed the creativity of Paul Gallagher in the middle of the park and I think I am not alone in hoping that it will be Gallagher and Pearson in the North End engine room at the City Ground, Nottingham, when battle recommences on Tuesday evening.
That is a mediocre performance on the back of a poor one last week and the fans will be looking for a much better display in a few days’ time to consolidate our position in the table and not to let the season start slipping away.