Sheffield United FA Cup verdict and reaction: Blades 1 Oldham Athletic 0
With his plain black boots, sensible haircut and unassuming disposition, Matt Done is like a throwback to a bygone era.
After scoring the goal which secured Sheffield United’s place in tonight’s third-round draw, the centre-forward revealed an old-fashioned attitude towards the FA Cup too.
While dwindling crowds and radical team selections suggest his generation is becoming increasingly apathetic about a competition which has created countless legends, Done takes a markedly different approach. By, having joined United 10 months after their semi-final appearance two seasons ago, daring to dream.
“It’s a brilliant tournament, a very special tournament and, personally speaking, I want to go as far as I possibly can,” he said.
“ Full credit to the lads, they had an unbelievable run back then. I’ve heard all the stories about what it was like. Hopefully we can emulate them and create some of our own now.”
The tale of Saturday’s contest, against League One rivals Oldham Athletic, contained several fascinating sub-plots.
The visitors, naming three former United players in the matchday squad, provided awkward and at times irascible opposition, with Che Adams dismissed for retaliation after confronting Liam Kelly midway through the second-half.
Bob Harris, the United full-back, was taken to hospital following an accidental collision moments before the interval. But Done, who ensured his employers maintained their proud record of reaching this stage every year since 1981, hopes the collatoral damage will prove worthwhile.
“I will watch the draw from home, with my family, and put my feet up,” he said. “It’s always an exciting time on the football calendar and it’s great to be involved. We would like another home game really, or a big Premier League club away.
“Personally, I would like to face a big Premier League team - I have never really had a big fixture - especially with Sheffield United. Which ever Premier League team we got here, we would sell out. It would a great atmosphere and a great occasion too.”
Done’s goal, like United’s performance during a game played in deceptively difficult conditions, was all about perseverence.
Neill Collins’ pass, which split the Oldham defence, was perfectly placed and weighted. By Done’s own admission, a stroke of good fortune helped him steer the ball beyond the advancing David Cornell.
But, after harassing the visitors’ defence throughout, he deserved some reward. Having seen injury stall his progress at the start of the campaign, Done is now presenting an almost irrestistible case to become a permanent fixture in Nigel Adkins’ team.
“I am not going to give anyone a second on the ball, that’s my game,” he said. “If I change that I am probably not going to play. I always put 100 per cent in. The harder you work, the luckier you get. There was probably a little bit of luck in there with the ricochet.”
“Credit for my goal must go to Neill, it was a great pass,” Done continued. “The gaffer changed personnel and formation at half-time. Me and Che were always going to run away from the ball, to create space.
“I saw the space between the two centre-halves, made the run and somehow I have got it in. I got lucky with the bounce and it went in. I have scored a few against Oldham now. It must be an omen.”
Done, on target for the first time since United’s outing at Boundary Park in October, had earlier seen Cornell deny him from close range as the hosts came bursting out of the traps.
But following an encouraging start - Danny Philliskirk turning Mark Yeates’ inventive free-kick on to the near post as Oldham responded - the match was then meandering towards a replay until Collins and Done intervened.
“All that mattered was getting through to the third round. That was the aim we set out with,” Done acknowledged. “The weather meant it was always going to be a battle, but it was the same for both teams.
“It was strange. We came out and thought ‘oh, it’s not too bad’. Then five seconds later there would be a gust of wind. It was hard to judge the ball when it was in flight. But there were no excuses. We had to get on with it. It was always going to be scrappy.”
George Long, again preferred to Mark Howard between the posts, prevented Mike Jones from drawing Oldham level as David Dunn’s side mustered a response.
But, with Jay McEveley producing a solid shift alongside Collins at the heart of United’s rearguard, the visitors were mostly kept at arms’ length until Adams’ sending-off changed the dynamic.
Adkins felt the teenager had been harshly judged after reacting to a heavy challenge. But his exit at least provided United with the opportunity to demonstrate they are ready to roll up their sleeves and fight.
Oldham’s Jake Cassidy wasted a glorious chance soon after - heading Joseph Mills’ centre into the turf and over the crossbar - but United should have extended their lead when John Brayford’s fierce drive from outside the box was incorrectly adjudged not to have crossed the line.
“The last couple of years at this football club, there have been some special nights here,” Done said. “No-one would like to come here when the place is rocking. Even last week we took 5,000 to Barnsley. It gives the lads the extra 10 per cent.
“Playing a Premier League side would be a great occasion but we’ll be happy with whoever we get.”
Sheffield United: Long 7, Harris 6 (K Wallace 45, 6), Brayford 6, Basham 6, Coutts 6, Sharp 6 (Scougall 46, 7), Done 8 (Sammon 84), Collins 7, McEveley 7, Adams 6, Hammond 7. Not used: Howard, Flynn, Reed, McGahey.
Oldham Athletic: Cornell 7, Mills 7, Dieng 6, Wilson 6, Kelly 7, Jones 6, Philliskirk 6 (Poleon 72), Cassidy 6, Winchester 7, Wilson 6, Yeates 6 (Rasulo 77). Not used: Coleman, Vassell, Eckersley, Edmundson, Tuohy.
Referee: Eddie Ilderton (Tyne and Wear).