All Square In The Steel City!
Sun. 3rd Jan '10 @ 3.00pm
Rangers live to fight in the Cup for another day! After taking the lead against Sheffield United this afternoon at Bramall Lane, we had to endure an equaliser in injury time at half-time followed by a 2nd half which saw the Blades hit the crossbar and, overall, boss the game.
In an uninspiring contest, undertaken in freezing conditions, neither team really did enough to win the game at the first time of asking; and there will now be a replay at Loftus Road on Tuesday 12th January (7.45 pm kick-off).
Paul Hart made three changes to the team which lost to Ipswich in Ranger`s last outing - two of which were enforced as loanees Ben Watson and Tommy Williams had returned to their parent clubs last week. In came Gary Borrowdale at left back and Alejandro Faurlin in midfield. Spurs loanee, Adel Taarabt, was injured so he was replaced in a traditional 4-4-2 by Patrick Agyemang.
The defence therefore had Cerny in goal with Borrowdale and Ramage at full back and Kaspars Gorkss partnering Damion Stewart in central defence. Faurlin took his place in a four-man midfield including Akos Buzsaky, Wayne Routledge and skipper Mikele Leigertwood; and Agyemang partnered Arsenal loanee Jay Simpson up front.
United`s manager, Kevin Blackwell, had to make only one change from the team which beat Preston, 1-0, in the league. Andy Taylor came in to defence for the injured Jordan Stewart. James Harper returned to the bench after injury and was joined by United`s newest recruit, Marcel Seip.
Kick off: Sheffield United v Queens Park Rangers
It was Sheffield United who dominated the opening exchanges, with Derek Geary sending a cross in straight from the kick-off, giving Cerny an early touch of the ball. Cerny had to be alert a couple of minutes later as Henri Camara took a shot, from outside the area after it rebounded to him; but his shot was off-target and flew past the left-hand post.
On 6 minutes, Faurlin conceded a free-kick against Geary in a dangerous position. Jamie Ward stepped up and sent an inch-perfect cross into the area. Chris Morgan headed the ball wide of the left-hand upright from close range - to Rangers` relief.
Before 10 minutes were on the clock, the Blades thought they had taken the lead after excellent work from Camara down the left. He cut the ball back to Stephen Quinn, who was only 12 yards out, but he somehow contrived to hit the ball against the crossbar when it was easier to score. Rangers` beleaguered defence scrambled the ball away to safety.
Shortly after this, on about 17 minutes, Andy Taylor sent a cross into the area which beat Gorkss and fell invitingly at the feet of Henri Camara. He sent a right-footed shot wide of the right-hand post from close range, thanks to a very well timed, superb tackle by newly-restored left-back Gary Borrowdale.
Despite all this pressure from United, however, Rangers were riding their luck and started to make a few inroads into the Blades` half themselves. On 23 minutes, Akos Buzsaky had a chance on goal from a free-kick, following a foul on Patrick Agyemang by Matthew Kilgallon. Unfortunately for the Rs, and the Magical Magyar his shot flew wide of United`s right-hand post.
A couple of minutes or so later, Faurlin won the ball in midfield and expertly released Jay Simpson who let fly from 20 yards out. Mark Bunn, in the United goal, saved comfortably. Rangers kept on the pressure and on 30 minutes Routledge and Agyemang combined on the right-hand side to find Mikele Leigertwood, but he couldn`t find his scoring touch, firing over instead from 20 yards.
Faurlin brought a fine save out of Bunn after Wayne Routledge`s shot was parried into his path on the edge of the penalty area a minute later. And then Rangers did take the lead!
Andy Taylor brought Routledge down unfairly, earning a yellow card for his troubles, and Damion Stewart took the resulting free-kick. Routledge pulled the ball back from the touchline to Jay Simpson who sent an unstoppable low drive into the middle of Bunn`s goal from deep within the penalty area.
Goal: Sheffield United 0 - 1 Queens Park Rangers
Sheffield United immediately went in search of an equaliser. Following an unfair tackle on Stephen Quinn by Alejandro Faurlin, the Blades had an early chance. Quinn himself stepped up to take the free-kick from the left wing but Cerny was equal to it and made an easy save.
But Rangers` were under mounting pressure and early on in injury time Stewart conceded yet another free-kick for a foul on Ched Evans. Jamie Ward crossed the ball from the left wing into the box but Stewart made amends and cleared the ball to safety.
Following a couple of Blades` corners, however, Rangers` luck ran out. Quinn crossed from the right and Richard Creswell was on hand, as he had been a couple of weeks ago at Loftus Road, this time to head the ball into the back of Cerny`s goal from close range and bring the Blades back onto level terms.
Goal: Sheffield United 1 - 1 Queens Park Rangers
Merely seconds later the referee blew for half-time.
Half time: Sheffield United 1 - 1 Queens Park Rangers
Sheffield United made a half-time substitution, bringing Marcel Siep on for Matthew Kilgallon. And it was the Blades who got off to the better start in the second half. Camara took advantage of a slip by the usually steady Kaspars Gorkss, in the first minute of the half, to have a shot at goal. Cerny saved well, turning the ball away for a corner. He was called into action merely seconds later as he plucked the ball out of the air following a cross by Jamie Ward.
Jamie Ward was trying very hard to get his name on the score-sheet. He had a shot on goal from a free-kick, following a foul on him by Gary Borrowdale, and he followed this a few minutes later with an effort from just inside the box, following a Richard Creswell centre, but that flew to the right of our goal. Not long after that, Ward got a very good cross in but Gorkss was equal to it and the danger was averted.
Rangers tried to counter-attack and Faurlin had a go himself, from 20 yards out, only to see his effort blocked for a corner. Faurlin took the corner himself to Routledge. Routledge`s centre found Damion Stewart who deftly volleyed the ball from deep within the penalty area - wide of the Blades` left-hand post!
United were unruffled and continued to press. There were a great number of crosses into our area, but with no real substance to them, the Rs` were holding firm. With about 20 minutes to go, Hart made the first of his changes, trying to liven up the Rs` attack and, hopefully, take some pressure off our beleaguered defence. Hogan Ephraim, back from his stay in Leeds, came on for Buzsaky.
Blackwell made a change himself, taking off Stephen Quinn and replacing him with Lee Williamson. These changes did nothing to materially change the direction of the game, with neither side taking a grip.
Shots were peppering the Rangers` goal, but they were flying high and wide until, with about 10 minutes left on the clock, Gorkss gave away a free-kick against Ched Evans, and the wily striker sent his shot thundering against the underside of Cerny`s crossbar from 35-yards out. Thankfully the ball rebounded out and, as it hit the ground, the referee blew for an offside against a United player, allowing Rangers to clear the danger once and for all.
Heidar Helguson took his place on the field of play, with about 5 minutes remaining, in place of the hard-working Patrick Agyemang, but Helguson could not make a difference to Rangers; and when Ward (a striker) was substituted by Glen Little (a midfielder), you sensed a replay was on the cards.
However, in stoppage time, both sides had chances to win the match. Seip conceded a free-kick against Helguson and, from the resulting free-kick swung in by Wayne Routledge, Richard Creswell had to be on hand to make a timely clearance. Rangers won a corner which Routledge sent into the area and Kaspars Gorkss had a header from close range but he missed to the right of the Blades` goal.
Henri Camara then had an opportunity himself to win the tie for United, but his shot was easily gathered by Radek Cerny in the Rangers` goal and, seconds later, the referee blew his final whistle, meaning a replay and another chance for Sean Bean, the Sharpe actor, to visit Loftus Road!!
Final whistle: Sheffield United 1 - 1 Queens Park Rangers
Sheffield United: Mark Bunn, Nick Montgomery, Chris Morgan, Matthew Kilgallon (Marcel Seip 46), Ched Evans, Andy Taylor, Richard Cresswell, Jamie Ward (Glen Little 87), Derek Geary, Stephen Quinn (Lee Williamson 78), Henri Camara
Queens Park Rangers: Radek Cerny, Peter Ramage, Damion Stewart, Mikele Leigertwood, Wayne Routledge, Akos Buszaky (Hogan Ephraim), Patrick Agyemang (Heidar Helguson 85), Kaspar Gorkss, Matthew Connolly, Alejandro Faurlin, Jay Simpson, Gary Borrowdale