Match report: Sheffield United 1 PNE 0

Shot-shy Preston North End paid the penalty as they exited the FA Cup at the hands of Sheffield United.

Saturday, 27th January 2018, 3:59 pm
Updated Saturday, 27th January 2018, 5:05 pm
Louis Moult in action for PNE against Sheffield United

Billy Sharp's 80th minute penalty settled the fourth-round tie at Bramall Lane, the Blades skipper having been brought down by his PNE counterpart Tom Clarke.

It was a poor contest in general with little in the way of clear-cut chances.

In fact it took until stoppage-time for North End to register a shot on target, a volley from substitute Jordan Hugill after good work from Louis Moult saved by United goalkeeper Moore.

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Alan Browne slides in for a challenge on John Fleck

That aside the visitors struggled to find their rhythm going forward, while the home side were not exactly fluid in attack either.

Alex Neil had made eight changes to the North End side, the three to stay in from last week's 1-1 draw with Birmingham being Clarke, Paul Huntington and Daniel Johnson.

Darnell Fisher returned after five weeks out with a hip injury, with Tommy Spurr and Calum Woods back on the bench.

Moult made his full Preston debut while there was a start for fellow January buy Billy Bodin.

Alex Neil on the touchline at Bramall Lane

The first half was something of a non-event in terms of clear sights of goal - there was no lack of endeavour but the quality wasn't of the highest order as the two Championship sides sized one another up.

John Welsh went into the referee's notebook with just three minutes played, the midfielder shown yellow for a rash challenge on Mark Duffy.

Alan Browne drilled an early shot from the edge of the box wide, Fisher then well off target with a speculative effort from further out.

United's Clayton Donaldson flicked a shot wide of the near post after meeting a low cross from George Baldock but generally North End dealt well with the threat of the Blades in the first half.

Alan Browne slides in for a challenge on John Fleck

As half time approached, a shot from Duffy hit Huntington as he slid across to block, the ball looping behind for a corner despite the best efforts of Rudd to keep it in play.

Less than a minute into the second half, Donaldson met a Duffy cross from the right-wing and shot wide of Rudd's near post.

It needed a superb save from Rudd in the 52nd minute to keep the scoreline blank, the keeper tipping Daniel Lafferty's shot from 10 yards over the bar after Lafferty had met a Duffy centre.

Fisher got down the right hand side of the box and after being forced to check on to his left foot, put over a cross which Moult headed well wide after getting his angles wrong.

Alex Neil on the touchline at Bramall Lane

Tom Barkhuizen replaced Horgan in the 59th minute, it being a like-for-like change with the substitute playing down the left-wing.

A double substitution then saw Hugill and Woods replace Welsh and Fisher.

North End's best chance of the contest so far came in the 78th minute, Johnson sending a 20-yard shot curling inches wide of the far post.

But soon after that they fell behind, Sharp getting the wrong side of Clarke in the box and the Preston skipper's challenge on him saw referee Graham Scott point to the spot.

Sharp took the penalty himself, powering it right-footed past Rudd.

Browne's shot from 25 yards in the 88th minute was pushed behind by Moore, although it was probably going a touch wide before the keeper's intervention.

North End came close to an equaliser a minute into stoppage-time, it being their best chance of the afternoon.

Woods' cross from the right dropped beyond the far post where Moult kept it alive and sent an overhead back into the middle.

It was met on the volley by Hugill who saw his effort saved by the diving Moore.

United: Moore, Wright, Stearman, Heneghan (Basham 59), Baldock, Duffy, Lundstram, Fleck, Lafferty, Sharp (Stevens 90), Donaldson (Evans 59). Subs (not used): O'Connell, Wilson, Carruthers, Eastwood.

PNE: Rudd, Fisher (Woods 68), Clarke, Huntington, Earl, Johnson, Welsh (Hugill 68), Bodin, Browne, Horgan (Barkhuizen 59), Moult. Subs (not used): Gallagher, Spurr, Robinson, Maxwell.

Referee: Graham Scott (Oxfordshire)

Attendance: 15,680 (2,659 PNE)