Sheffield United: Blades plan FA Cup fright

Darren Bent impressed during Fulham's third round replay against Norwich City
Darren Bent impressed during Fulham's third round replay against Norwich City
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Nigel Clough, the Sheffield United manager, has ordered his team to fight fire with fire against Fulham in the FA Cup this weekend.

The Premier League club visit Bramall Lane for a fourth round tie which has been selected for live European broadcast following United’s victory over Aston Villa in the previous stage of the competition.

Rene Meulensteen, Clough’s counterpart in the capital, has a wealth of attacking talent at his disposal with Darren Bent, Alexander Kačaniklić and Ashkan Dejagah all likely to feature during Sunday’s contest.

But, the 47-year-old insisted United’s performance during the Yorkshire derby with Bradford City three days ago must form the tactical template when they attempt to claim another top-flight scalp.

“In the past few weeks we’ve seen everything we could have wanted from the lads in terms of their display,” Clough told The Star. “And the first thing we said to them in the dressing room after the Bradford game was to take that into the match with Fulham.

“We’ve got to play the same way, be positive and take the game to them. We don’t want to sit back and be negative.

“Let’s do exactly what we have been doing lately and give it a real go.”

United remained 19th in the League One table after second-half goals from Gary Jones and James Hanson secured City a share of the spoils last weekend. Jamie Murphy and Harry Maguire appeared to have put the hosts on the verge of their first win since that memorable success at Villa Park earlier this month but, describing Jones’ deflected effort as “the real turning point,” Clough continued: “Billy Paynter was the first of our lads to come into the dressing room afterwards and he was adamant that we’d have won if it hadn’t been for that. He was right too.

“We couldn’t be critical because the lads gave everything out there. Absolutely everything and it was a great performance in so many ways.

“It was a cracking game, a real Yorkshire derby and we really should have taken all three (points) given the number of balls we whipped across their area. We could quite easily have won that by four or five and controlled things for long periods.”

Fulham are just one place above the FAPL’s relegation zone following their defeat by Arsenal but Meulensteen, speaking after that match at the Emirates Stadium, insisted: “I thought we did ever so well. We were up against a top side.

We limited them after their strong start. If we produced a bit more quality we could have nicked a goal in first half but we will take a lot of heart from this performance.”

Meanwhile, confirming Jose Baxter should be available for selection against Fulham despite hobbling-off towards the end of United’s clash with City, Clough said: “He’ll be fine, I’m sure. He just took a lot of punishment out there and we thought, at one stage, he might have been feeling a bit groggy but he’s okay and there doesn’t seem to be any problem.”