Bradford City’s Capital One Cup exploits have given this much-maligned competition a new lease of life
But revenge, not romance, was the only item on the agenda at Bramall Lane.
Twelve months after suffering an inglorious first round defeat at the hands of Burton Albion, Sheffield United found themselves presented with an opportunity to make amends for
that disappointing result.
It was one they failed to grasp when, having seen Michael Doyle cancel out Chris Hussey’s strike, the defender scored a second deep into added time after escaping his marker inside
the penalty box.
United, playing their second match under the tutelage of new manager David Weir, spent the vast majority of the evening firmly on the front foot.
The patient passing which, only four days earlier had put Notts County to the sword, was again in evidence.
But so was the lack of a cutting edge which could have made this tie a much more comfortable experience.
A tendancy to over-elaborate in and around the Albion box meant that the defensive lapse which allowed Hussey to score the first goal ultimately proved costly.
Chris Porter, preferred to Lyle Taylor in attack, should have drawn United level soon after the Albion defender pounced.
That honour eventually fell to Doyle whose thunderous effort left Jordan Pickford rooted to the spot.
But Taylor, a £250,000 purchase from Falkirk, presented an irresistible case for a more prominent role after stepping-off the bench with half-an-hour of the second-half remaining.
The single-mindedness which made him such a dangerous proposition north of the border was plain to see as he peppered Albion’s net with a series of shots before Hussey completed
Weir had laughed off suggestions that Wembley is a realistic target when the question was posed earlier this week.
The prospect of a second successive final being gatecrashed by the lower divisions is, admittedly, likely to command generously long odds.
But the potential riches on offer later in the tournament - City’s consolation after being swatted aside by Swansea was a cheque for £1m - are simply too tempting for those outside the
top-flight to resist.
Hence Weir’s assertion before kick-off that, while reaching the Championship remains United’s primary objective, they cannot afford the luxury of being able to prioritise games.
Most footballing fairytales boast a financial sub-plot.
Unfortunately for United, Albion had not read to script and they stunned the home crowd by opening the scoring in the 50th minute having survived several scares before delivering
the coup-de-grace seconds from the final whistle.
Gary Rowett, like Weir, has made an encouraging start to his managerial career.
Having guided Albion into the League Two play-off semi-finals last term, the former Everton and Derby County defender bolstered his squad with a series of shrewd acquisitions during
the close season.
Rory Delap, the most recognisable name to arrive at the Pirelli Stadium in recent months, featured alongside new signing Adam McGurk.
The centre-forward appeared destined to join Birmingham City after being released by Tranmere Rovers.
But when a contract at St Andrews failed to materialise, Albion’s promise of a two year deal proved impossible to resist.
McGurk repaid Rowett’s faith by providing the assist which saw Hussey fire the League Two outfit in front against the run of play although it was his team mate who emerged as
United, with Callum McFadzean, Conor Coady, Mark Howard and Ryan Flynn making their first starts of the campaign, dominated possession throughout the opening period.
Indeed, it was McFadzean and Coady who combined to force the second minute corner which Neill Collins headed inches over the crossbar before Flynn tempted Albion into conceding
a free-kick which Doyle passed short.
However Kevin McDonald, despite finding time and space on the edge of the area, could not find Porter at the far post.
That ninth minute move illustrated perfectly the patient, methodical approach United’s new regime are determined to instill.
Combined with a high-pressing game - Marcus Williams and Darryl Westlake both hunting down their opposite numbers when the situation demanded - meant it was not until the 34th
minute that Albion engineered a chance of note.
By that time McFadzean had again gone close for United while Porter nearly embarrassed Pickford when Albion’s teenage goalkeeper made a hash of collecting a simple through ball.
Pickford, on loan from Sunderland, redeemed himself in the 17th minute by acrobatically scrambling another close-range effort from the United striker to safety.
McFadzean’s powerful and direct runs continued to cause Albion’s defence problems with only Delap’s timely intervention preventing him from breaching their lines moments later.
McDonald was also a whisker away from dancing clear of Phil Edwards following another intricate exchange.
Nevertheless, having failed to turn their superiority into a commanding lead, United could have fallen behind if McGurk, seizing upon Chris Hussey’s centre, had made a better fist of his
Porter responded with a low shot on the turn which Pickford did well to palm away to safety and Westlake flashed wide from an acute angle as the hosts’ dominance grew.
But Albion took the lead during the early skirmishes of the second half when United failed to clear McGurk’s cross and Hussey converted from eight yards.
Porter’s shot was smothered by Pickford before the United marksman dragged the rebound wide.
That was the cue for Taylor to enter the fray but it was Doyle who restored parity with a looping 25 yard shot boasting enough top-spin to make Andy Murray proud.
As extra-time beckoned, Hussey powered an unstoppable header beyond the depairing Howard following good work from substitute Alex MacDonald.
Sheffield United: Howard 6, Westlake 6, Williams 7, Maguire 6, Flynn 6 (Brandy 74), Doyle 7, Porter 6 (Taylor 60, 7), McDonald 7, Collins 7, Coady 7, McFadzean 7. Not used: Hill,
McGinty, Murphy, Long, Whitehouse.
Burton Albion: Pickford, 6 Edwards 6, Hussey 7, Delap 6 (MacDonald 81), Sharps 7, Bell 6, Weir 6 (Palmer 72), McCrory 6, McGurk 6, Holness 6, Symes 6 (Kee 81). Not used: Reed,
Lyness, Knowles, Dyer.
Referee: Eddie Ilderton (Tyne and Wear), 7
Goals: Hussey (50, 90), Doyle (64)
Red cards: None