Sheffield United late show ends Wrexham’s FA Cup fairytale
Sheffield United denied Hollywood-owned Wrexham a blockbuster FA Cup clash with Tottenham as they won their fourth-round replay 3-1 with two goals deep into added time.
The National League side’s journey under A-list actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney has caught the imagination of the country and most neutrals would have been wanting them to set up a glamour showdown with Antonio Conte, Harry Kane and the like.
And for large parts of the night that looked like it was in the script when Paul Mullin’s controversial penalty had cancelled out Anel Ahmedhodzic’s opener.
Mullin has been the leading man for the Dragons over the last two seasons, but fluffed his lines when he missed a second penalty shortly after.
And that allowed the Blades to play the role of villains as injury-time goals from Billy Sharp and Sander Berge meant it is they who play Spurs next month.
Given the first match at the Racecourse Ground was a thriller, ending 3-3, it was always going to be difficult for the sequel to live up to the original, but it certainly had drama.
The odds were firmly in the hosts’ favour this time around given their home advantage and they dominated from the off, causing some early problems from set-pieces.
Wrexham did well to hold them at arm’s length, but were almost masters of their own downfall just before the half-hour.
Following a corner of their own, Sam Dalby’s pass back to Jacob Mendy was short, allowing Iliman Ndiaye to nip in and send James McAtee clear on goal.
However, with time and space – and Ndiaye begging for a square ball – the Manchester City loanee got it wrong and put his shot wide of the post.
The pressure was building and the Blades forged another great chance several minutes later as Ndiaye danced into the box and squared for Ahmedhodzic, whose shot was straight at Wrexham goalkeeper Rob Lainton.
Lainton, who did well to stay big, also saved from Sharp and John Egan headed a corner over as the hosts pushed for the opener.
Wrexham enjoyed their best spell of the match early in the second half, bombarding United’s box with long throws and corners, but they fell behind with the home side’s first attack.
Chris Basham retrieved Sharp’s cross and fed Ben Osborn, whose clever little pass played in Ahmedhodzic and the Bosnian emphatically fired home in the 50th minute.
The visitors were fortunate to be only one goal down soon after as a fluid move saw Sander Berge play in McAtee, who this time did square it to Sharp, but the striker’s shot was saved by Lainton.
That proved vital as more fortune was on their side two minutes later as they were awarded a penalty after a marginal call by referee Leigh Doughty.
Mullin was pulled back Ahmedhodzic, with contact starting a good two yards outside the box but continuing to the 18-yard line and Mullin’s theatrical fall forwards possibly sealing the decision.
There was little doubt about the outcome as Mullin slammed his spot-kick high into the roof of the net to send the 5,000 travelling fans wild.
There was even less doubt about the second penalty that Doughty awarded in the 71st minute as Mullin was chopped down by Oliver Norwood.
However, the 28-year-old was unable to repeat the trick and saw his penalty saved by home goalkeeper Adam Davies, who palmed away another fierce effort.
The Championship outfit were able to regain the upper hand but must have feared the worst when Sharp converted from close range but was offside, while they were also denied a clear penalty of their own when Oliver Norwood’s shot hit Elliot Lee’s hand.
But they got the happy ending they were after as Sharp rolled home after being played in by McAtee and then Berge killed the tie off with a cool finish.
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