Sheffield United failed to recreate their FA Cup heroics of a week ago, going down 2-1 at Notts County this afternoon.
Nigel Clough, the visitors’ manager, had warned his players not to expect a red carpet welcome following last weekend’s exploits in the FA Cup.
But that, in the shape of an unexpectedly early goal, is exactly what Shaun Derry’s side, also embroiled in a battle for survival towards the foot of the League One table, rolled out with less than 120 seconds on the clock.
COADY, the only change to the starting eleven which put Paul Lambert’s team to the sword seven days ago, drove forward from midfield to the edge of Bialkowski’s box and, having exchanged passes with Porter, drilled a low shot into the bottom corner of County’s net.
Campbell-Ryce responded with a curling effort which Long was able to watch sail over his crossbar but United should have doubled their lead four minutes later. Again it was Coady who found himself in space but, on this occasion, the on-loan midfielder dragged wide of the post from an acute angle.
Doyle’s next contribution was to prevent Boucaud from following suit as County searched for an equaliser.
United, though, displayed plenty of ambition themselves with Porter and McMahon both inches away from connecting with headers as Clough’s charges peppered Bialkowski’s areas with a succession of crosses.
Coady’s selection appeared to have taken County by surprise and, having found himself unmarked for the umpteenth time after drifting into an advanced position from deep, he nearly threaded a low pass through to Porter but Leacock prodded away to safety. County benefited from a huge slice of good fortune when SHOWUNMI levelled with 26 minutes gone.
Campbell-Ryce whipped a centre towards the near post and the striker, who seemed to be losing his balance, wrong footed Long by turning home via his body rather than head.
Referee Wright, having earlier allowed Doyle and Boucaud to escape with nothing more than a lecture after they had a clashed before a set-piece, again showed good common sense when Porter caught Campbell-Ryce with a heavy challenge immediately in front of the dug-outs.
Hill, much to Clough’s obvious disgust, did not escape without censure for a 36th minute foul and was duly cautioned although it was the reaction of County’s bench which seemed to force the official’s hand.
Six minutes before the interval, United were incensed again when Wright’s assistant failed to award them a penalty. Coady thundered a shot goalwards and Showunmi threw himself in the way. Whether the ball struck him on the chest or hand was unclear. Where it certainly did not hit County’s goalscorer, though, was on the forehead, which he theatrically rubbed as the appeals continued.
Both managers had plenty to dissect - good and bad - during the break, and the half began with Baxter testing Bialkowski with a curling, angled attempt.
The surface also continued to cause problems with several promising attacks breaking down when the instigator lost their footing.
Showunmi, again making his presence felt in attack, asked questions of Maguire and McMahon as he looked to barge his way through. Grealish opted to take a more subtle route towards goal in the 58th minute but was crowded-out on the edge of the box as County threatened to seize control.
Murray thrashed high and wide soon after, and Campbell-Ryce’s cross was cut-out by Long.
United were now chasing rather than controlling possession with Coady, who had spent the first-half charging forward, performing a shift on the edge of his own box.
Clough attempted to change the flow of the game by introducing Paynter just past the hour, with Flynn making way.
County wrestled the advantage in the 68th minute when Sheehan delivered a superb cross, which cut out a host of United defenders, towards the far post.
FOTHERINGHAM’s initial header was saved by Long but, when the rebound fell kindly, he made no mistake from point blank range.
Paynter looked set to enjoy his first opportunity in a United shirt moments later but, as he primed toi shoot, the ball became lodged in a combination of mud and tangled feet.
Then, in the first of five added minutes, Payner again fell victim to the surface when he beat his marker but saw the ball get stuck in the turf.