Battling draw shows new spirit under Clough

Stefan Scougall
Stefan Scougall
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Imagine this scenario for Sheffield United fans heading to Bramall Lane last Sunday, hoping to topple another Premier League club in the FA Cup.

Someone points out that for the second half against Fulham, the Blades will play it without three key players, all comprising the spine of the team which started the match - no Harry Maguire, no Michael Doyle, no Chris Porter. Oh, and they’ll be playing with only 10 men as well for the last 40-odd minutes.

Asked for a prediction, what do you think those Blades fans would have come up with? Yes, you’d have been struggling to find much under a 3-0 defeat.

Therefore, whilst the win at Villa ranks as their result of the season, Sunday’s draw must push it very close indeed under all the circumstances.

OK, Fulham weren’t at full-strength but they still had internationals and Premier League players out there. And, yes, United were leading 1-0. But who would have expected them to survive, depleted as they were?

It made for a thrilling second half, an effort Blades fans must have been proud of and perhaps reflected the new spirit that seems to be flowing through the ranks as the Nigel Clough way makes an impact.

It meant an introduction to Stefan Scougall who happens to look the smallest player to pull on a United shirt for a long time, mainly on the basis that he does, as his manager’s throw away line suggested, “look about 6 stone”.

One Blade around here suggested he’s the smallest since a little midfield player of the 1960s, one Willie Carlin (who I recall seeing involved in the challenge in which Frank Lampard snr, ie Frank’s dad, suffered a broken leg at Bramall Lane playing for West Ham which prompted my girl friend of the time to say “Oh, did you hear something crack?”).

Scougall, at 5ft 7ins, is actually three inches taller than the miniature Carlin and also taller than Febian Brandy (who Blades fans will have noted got a hat-trick for Walsall last Saturday).

Scougall is certainly quicker than both and, although looking like a schoolboy scurrying around, he showed more than enough for me to suspect he might become quite popular with Blades followers.

The downside was Michael Doyle’s foolish sending-off and it was hard not to reckon he’d let the side down. Had he stayed on, they might even have won.