Ryan Flynn’s double sent Sheffield United into the second round of the FA Cup after a comfortable 2-0 victory over Crewe at Bramall Lane in this replay.
Flynn, who had earlier seen goalkeeper Mark Howard at his brilliant best to deny the visitors, opened the scoring in the first half, when tapping home from close range.
His second was more pleasing on the eye and was well received by United boss Nigel Clough, who was growing anxious as his side searched for a killer second to avoid the threat of extra time. The excellent Chris Basham’s through-ball was inch-perfect for Flynn, who help off the challenge of a Crewe defender before finishing confidently.
Earlier, Howard had excelled by first keeping out George Cooper and then Callum Saunders - the son of former Blade striker Dean - when he followed up and shot from close range.
With Louis Reed and Michael Doyle pulling the strings in midfield, United were rarely threatened until Cooper’s shot from range, which was parried away by Howard.
Saunders, following up, looked odds on to score but Howard somehow recovered to save the rebound and keep his side on level terms - until, at least, Flynn’s welcome intervention.
Brendan Inman almost dragged Crewe back on level terms but his shot hit the post and bounced to safety before half-time.
Inman collected a superb through-ball from the visiting midfield, beat Craig Alcock and unleashed a shot which beat United goalkeeper Mark Howard, but couldn’t find the back of the net.
United youngster Louis Reed then turned excellently at the other end of the field, but his shot was off target - and his search for a first senior goal in red and white goes on.
United captain Michael Doyle then sent a stinging shot wide of Ben Garratt’s right-hand post and Stefan Scougall also went close to adding a second, as the first half ended as it began - with United well in the ascendancy.
Chris Basham had his “goal” ruled out for offside in the second half after he bundled home Flynn’s driven cross as United continued to press in the second half, with Scougall embarking on a determined driven run.
But that elusive second didn’t arrive - although several close offside calls prevented that - before Flynn’s second, which eased a few nerves amongst the 5987 crowd inside Bramall Lane.
Clough introduced Jose Baxter and Diego De Girolamo in the closing stages but the largest cheer was reserved for Ben Whiteman, who earned a call-up to the senior squad after a string of impressive displays for United’s U21 squad.
Blades: Howard, Alcock, Harris, Basham, Flynn, Doyle, Murphy (De Girolamo 81), Scougall (Whiteman 88), McEveley, Campbell-Ryce (Baxter 69), Reed.
Subs not used: McGahey, Turner, Kennedy, Khan.
Crewe: Garratt, Guthrie (Leigh 83), Davis, Dugdale, Turton, Atkinson (Jones 71), Inman, Cooper (Waters 65), Saunders, Ness, Grant.
Subs not used: Shearer, Ray, Baillie, Tate.
Referee: Geoff Eltringham (County Durham),
Nigel Clough has made three changes to his Blades side as he prepares to negotiate the FA Cup first round replay with Crewe Alexandra.
Mark Howard, Michael Doyle, Stefan Scougall and Jamie Murphy all feature in a strong Sheffield United starting eleven for tonight’s FA Cup first round replay against Crewe Alexandra.
Paddy McCarthy was ineligible for selection after being sent-off at Doncaster Rovers. In addition, his loan from Crystal Palace was not renewed before these two sides drew 0-0 at Gresty Road earlier this month.
Jose Baxter drops to the bench while James Wallace misses out entirely.
Diego De Girolamo, Otis Khan and Ben Whiteman were named on the bench. Likewise Crewe’s George Ray who was dismissed when United beat the visitors in League One competition before that stalemate.