Sheffield United: Spot on by Blades forgotten man

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Standing over six feet tall, blessed with solid technique and scaling well above the light-heavyweight limit, Chris Porter boasts the attributes required to become a mainstay of Sheffield United’s first-choice XI.

The centre-forward hopes his contribution to this FA Cup tie, combined with Nigel Clough’s appointment as manager, can reinvigorate a career which has stalled badly in recent seasons.

Porter, who seemed destined for the exit door earlier this term after being farmed out on loan to Chesterfield by the 47-year-old’s predecessor, David Weir, celebrated his return by despatching the penalty which sent Colchester apoplectic with rage and the visitors in to the second round of the tournament.

A typically Jekyll and Hyde display, which saw him dovetail well with Shaun Miller before inexplicably failing to convert one excellent second-half opportunity, will not have done enough to convince all the critics.

However, by refusing to shirk his responsibilities when Magnus Okuonghae was controversially adjudged to have handled Harry Maguire’s header, Porter dispelled any lingering doubts about his character.

“I’m not going to deny I was nervous taking it,” he said. “But I wanted to because I felt that I’d let the lads down by not scoring earlier and so I owed them that much.

“I should have wrapped up the game earlier but missed a sitter. I’ve had a bit of an up and down time of late and not played as many games as I would have liked so I was delighted to get an opportunity.”

Clough, who joined United last month after parting company with Derby County, made Porter his first signing after arriving at Pride Park.

Five seasons on, and with Miller deemed fit enough to make his first start since December, he used Saturday’s visit to the Weston Homes Community Stadium to resurrect a partnership which, until the former Crewe Alexandra marksman sustained a serious knee injury last term, had bristled with potential.

“We were aware that Chris and Shaun had worked well together in the past,” Clough said. “So we thought we’d give them a chance to do that again and we were pleased with how they performed.

“They held the ball up well, which is what they’d been asked to do, and brought others into play around them.

“Together with a few of the other lads who came in, they’ve given us some food for thought, and that’s pleasing because it helps to provide competition for places.

“On top of that, I thought Chris showed real guts to step up and take that spot-kick because he’d missed a golden chance just before that.”

The decision to penalise Okuonghae for handball infuriated Colchester who, despite falling two goals behind, demonstrated courage of their own by drawing level courtesy of strikes from Macauley Bonne and Luke Garbutt.

Joe Dunne, the Colchester manager, branded referee Phil Gibbs’ interpretation of events as “appalling”, claiming it was impossible for the defender to avoid being struck by the ball.

“I’ve just seen the incident back again. Magnus is one yard away so how has he got a reaction time to deliberately block that?” he asked.

Clough, conceding the officials’ reading of events was contentious, nevertheless had an altogether different take on the matter.

“Their lad was very close but so was the linesman,” he said. “And, in any case, we are all aware of the guidelines about raising your arms and such like.

“What I don’t think you can dispute, though, is that we have got a very hard-earned but deserved victory.

“We could have made it easier for ourselves, I suppose, but we didn’t want to just sit back and hold on to what we had got.

“Perhaps that cost us a little bit but, as I told the players beforehand, there were going to be hundreds of people making a very long journey to watch us out there and so we owed it to them to give it a real ‘go’ by putting in a performance.

“Make no mistake, we are very serious about wanting to do well and going as far as we possibly can. I think the way we dug deep reflected and demonstrated that.”

When Maguire met Stephen McGinn’s free-kick and Colchester’s Sam Walker turned into his own net after seeing Porter’s cross take a wicked deflection off Tom Eastman, United seemed likely to progress at a canter.

Dominating possession and creating numerous openings, Tony McMahon also went close following Miller’s deft touch while Matt Hill saw a venomous shot shave the crossbar.

Colchester, though, regrouped during the interval and reduced the deficit when Bonne flung himself at Garbutt’s centre before the left-back, on loan from Everton, drilled home from the edge of the box after Porter had somehow failed to convert from close-range despite meeting McMahon’s pass.

When Walker produced a superb reaction save to claw away his header at the far post, the United marksman appeared set to endure another frustrating afternoon until Okuonghae presented him with a chance of redemption.

“I thought we were very unlucky to get pegged back,” Porter, scoring for the first time since April, said. “The scoreline, in my opinion, doesn’t really reflect what went on out there, but the most important thing is that we went through.

“The lads are taking this competition seriously. We want to go as far as we possibly can, get through the early rounds and then hopefully get one of the really big names later on.

“But, basically, a club of our stature doesn’t want to be falling at the first hurdle.”

Colchester Utd: Walker, Wilson, Okuonghae, Eastman, Garbutt; Bond (Dickson ht), Bean, Eastmond (Vose 79), Gilbey; Morrison, Bonne (Szmidics 87). Unused: Cousins, Sanderson, Spence, Olufemi.

Sheffield United: Long; McMahon, Maguire, Collins, Hill; Coady, McGinn (Flynn 68), Doyle, Lappin; Miller (Baxter 75), Porter (Taylor 90). Unused: Howard, Cuvelier, King, Murphy.

Ref: Phil Gibbs (West Midlands).