DANNY Wilson is a hopeless footballing romantic, determined to chase every piece of silverware on offer no matter what the dangers or odds.
But Birmingham City’s brutal finishing ended the Sheffield United manager’s love affair with FA Cup competition - for another year at least - and condemned his team to its heaviest defeat of the season.
Chris Hughton’s side arrived at Bramall Lane in form and, having beaten neighbours Wolverhampton Wanderers en route to South Yorkshire, most definitely in the mood.
They departed clutching a ticket in the fifth-round draw too having made a mockery of claims this tie was an upset in the making.
Indeed, such was the ferocity of the visitors’ attacking play, Wilson felt compelled to admire not only the technique but also the timing of their goals.
“Their sharpness going forward was the difference,” he said. “When City got a chance they invariably took it whereas we didn’t.
“But they also scored at crucial times in the match. They scored in periods of the game when we were in the ascendancy and looked as if we were coming back.
“Sometimes you’ve just got to take it on the chin and take your hat off to your opponents.
“I don’t think that was a 4-0 contest. I don’t think that tells the entire story of what went on out there.
“But, equally, we can have no complaints about the fact that City won because they deserved to go through.”
Wilson, writing in his programme notes, described Saturday’s match as a “barometer” of United’s progress in recent weeks.
The final scoreline did not reflect their contribution to an intriguing tie but City’s incisiveness, speed of thought and movement served to remind there is still a considerable gulf in quality between the upper echelons of the Championship and League One.
Scotland international Chris Burke gave United defender Lecsinel Jean-Francois a torrid time along the flanks while Wade Elliott embellished a commanding performance by claiming City’s third after Nathan Redmond had also netted and Adam Rooney converted the first of an impressive brace.
Kevin McDonald, again oozing calm and composure in midfield, impressed for United with Lee Williamson and Matthew Lowton, who struck a post early in the second half, also catching the eye.
“I couldn’t say beforehand put I’ll say it publicly now,” Wilson admitted. “I didn’t want Birmingham City. I’d have rather got Wolves.
“I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way at all but they would have made nine or 10 changes whereas I knew Chris wouldn’t.
“We’ve effectively played his strongest 11 out there.
“But my lads can still take a lot from that game. There are positives there for them without a shadow of a doubt.
“Okay, we’re disappointed to go out. I make no bones about that.
“But performance wise I thought they did ever so well against top-quality opposition.
“They worked Birmingham hard and showed they are a quality team capable of playing some good stuff themselves.”
United started both halves brightly with Lowton and Ched Evans nearly fashioning an early strike when the latter’s decision to step over a low cross came with a whisker of releasing Stephen Quinn.
Evans also tested City’s Colin Doyle with two long-range efforts but a well-worked corner from Jordon Mutch had seen Redmond break the deadlock in between.
Rooney powered the ball into the roof of Steve Simonsen’s net during the closing stages of the first period but United’s spirited resistance meant it was not until the second that things swung decisively in City’s favour.
Williamson forced a fine save from Doyle as United appeared set to reduce the deficit with Lowton hitting the woodwork during the melee which followed and Rich-
ard Cresswell diverting inches wide from another set-piece.
But City strangled their hopes of a comeback when Elliott pounced following an excellent
interchange with Burke and David Murphy created Rooney’s second.
“I was delighted with the clean sheet, the overall display and the goals,” Hughton said. “That was a real team effort and it had to be.
“We had to weather some heavy pressure in certain periods of the game but I thought that once we found our rhythm we were strong and did ever so well.”