Aaron Bower was at Bramall Lane tonight, and his report has landed. Here it is! Thanks for reading this MBM. Nighty night.
No word from Phil Parkinson, other than he’s very “proud” of Wrexham’s performance tonight. Seems to be a theme within the club, and can you blame them?
If it’s not already been a good enough night for Sheffield United fans … Max Cleworth’s mistake that led to Billy Sharp’s decisive goal was reminiscent of the blunder made by Gerry Young that cost Sheffield Wednesday the 1966 FA Cup final.
Billy Sharp, who wasn’t particularly enamoured with Wrexham boss Phil Parkinson at the end of the game, talks to ITV. “It was a great cup tie over two games … they played excellent … I think they’ve been disrespectful though, a few things before the game … thinking he was already through … I’m glad we’ve beat them … they’re doing well in their league, we’re doing well in ours, but I wasn’t happy with a few of their players tonight … that’s it now, we’ve got one over on them … good luck to them for promotion and hopefully we’ve put that one to bed now … a few of their players I wasn’t happy with … a little bit frustrated at the end there, I should have put the game to bed before I did … but it’s one of them things … I wasn’t happy with the way they’ve been as a club, before the game, eyeing up Spurs, as though they’d beat us, we’re an honest set of lads who want to go as far as we can in this competition, if we get beat in the next round so be it, we’ll give it a right go … but I think they thought we were just going to roll over when they got back in it … the referee was helping them all night as well … I don’t think he gave me one foul all night … but yeah, it’s one of those things … probably lost my head a little bit, but I’ve got a smile on my face as we’re through to the next round of the cup.”
[NARRATOR: He did not have a smile on his face.]
That was a marvellous FA Cup tie, played out in the old-fashioned rollercoaster tradition. Sheffield United were the better side and deserved to win, but Wrexham pushed them all the way, the final scoreline perhaps a little harsh on them. Paul Mullin will rue his missed second penalty, but he was Wrexham’s star man and scored the first one emphatically. Wrexham, their eye on promotion back to the Football League, can look forward to the rest of their season … and back on their cup run with immense pride. It’s culminated in two memorable matches in which they set one of the best teams in the Championship a real test. Sheffield United have done extremely well to pass it. What a tie! The majesty of the FA Cup, right here!
FULL TIME: Sheffield United 3-1 Wrexham
The Blades plant a dagger in the Red Dragons’ hearts late on, and will host Tottenham Hotspur in the fifth round!
90 min +8: Wrexham hearts may have been broken, but in a bittersweet fashion. Their team have played marvellously, and their fans serenade the players. A lot of proud smiles in the away end.
GOAL! Sheffield United 3-1 Wrexham (Berge 90 +6)
Ndiaye dribbles down the left and glides infield. McAtee picks up possession and plays a cute pass down the inside-right channel to release Berge into the box. Berge lifts a shot across Lainton and if this wasn’t already over, it is now!
90 min +5: Wrexham launch a Hail Mary. The ball pings around the United box. Lowe kicks up onto Robinson’s arm. Wrexham want a penalty, but it’s never going to be awarded. And United break again …
GOAL! Sheffield United 2-1 Wrexham (Sharp 90+4)
Palmer has a shot on the edge of the United box. Blocked. The ball’s whacked long. Cleworth should intercept, but lets the ball roll under his foot, allowing Sharp to tear clear! He drifts in from the left channel and whistles a forensic shot across Lainton and into the bottom right. Heartbreak for Wrexham! Delight for United!
90 min +3: Berge is furious enough to talk himself into the book. Paul Heckingbottom is far from happy. But no matter, because …
90 min +2: Norwood has another dig from distance. Just to the left of the D. His drive hits the diving Cleworth on the arm. The referee isn’t interested in giving the penalty … but VAR surely would have done. Cleworth’s arms were well away from his body. Perhaps the short distance between the players saved Wrexham there.
90 min: … and there will be six added minutes. Plenty of time for someone to find a dramatic winner. Can Sheffield United break Wrexham hearts in injury time again?
89 min: Berge bursts down the right and cuts back for Norwood, romping in from deep. Norwood absolutely pearls a drive goalward, only for Lee to throw himself at the ball to block. From the resulting corner, Egan rises at the right-hand post, but can’t cause any trouble. Wrexham are suddenly hanging on a bit here.
88 min: Ndiaye and McAtee combine at pace down the middle. The ball’s shipped left to Robinson, who can’t get a shot away but earns a throw. That throw on the left is shuttled out to the other flank. Norwood swings in for Sharp, who bundles a close-range shot into the right-hand side of the net! But the flag goes up for offside. It’s the correct decision. Wrexham breathe again!
86 min: McAtee pings a long pass down the inside-right channel. Sharp gets it under control and enters the box, but slashes at his shot, the ball sailing high and wide right from ten yards. Hardly a missed sitter, but a good chance nonetheless.
84 min: Berge’s speculative shot is deflected out for a corner on the left. It’s worked back up the flank. Norwood swings it in low, and Palmer gets down to head out for another corner. This one’s battered clear by Bickerstaff. Extra time begins to loom.
82 min: … but the Wrexham manager doesn’t want to risk his star man, and quickly pulls rank. Up goes the board and off Mullin trudges. Cannon also departs. On come Bickerstaff and Lee. Mullin’s clearly broken-hearted – the penalty miss won’t be helping his mood – but he still rallies the away fans as he departs, then gives his replacement all the encouragement he can.
81 min: Mullin goes down, having felt a tweak after chasing Berge. Phil Parkinson wants to sub him, and there’s a long argument between them. The player wins the row and plays on!
79 min: Norwood attempts to wedge Osborn clear into the United box down the inside-left channel. Cleworth heads clears just in time.
77 min: Ahmedhodzic is replaced by Lowe.
76 min: Confirmation that Egan was earlier booked for dissent after the award of the first Wrexham penalty.
74 min: Lennon is replaced by Tom O’Connor. A certain generation will think only of this.
73 min: Sheffield United counter straight from the save. They’re three on two! McAtee attempts to slide Ndiaye clear down the middle, but the striker runs slap bang into Tozer. United claim it’s a foul, and a potential red card with Tozer being the last man, but the referee’s not interested. The Bramall Lane faithful aren’t happy, but we play on.
72 min: Mullin pulls the trigger … but instead of going straight down the middle, he blasts left. It’s not the worst effort, hit high and with pace, but Davies sticks up a strong arm to parry clear! That’s more excellent save than miss!
Penalty for Wrexham!
71 min: There’s no doubt about this one! McAlinden plays a cute ball in from the left touchline. Mullin runs in front of Norwood to meet it. Norwood doesn’t spot him coming, and clips his man to the floor! The referee points to the spot, again, and well, well, well.
70 min: “If there were VAR I have no doubt that the penalty would’ve been changed to a free kick on the edge of the box, but the foul by Ahmedhodzic was so boneheaded that a spot kick was the morally correct outcome.” Kári Tulinius can speak for me. VAR can do one.
69 min: McAlinden crosses low from the left. Ahmedhodzic blocks. Another chance for a long Tozer throw. Davies punches half-clear. Then flaps half-clear. McAlinden’s snapshot is blocked. Eventually United tidy things up, but Wrexham are asking the hosts all sorts of questions here.
67 min: United go up the other end, McAtee’s dink in from the right headed over by Sharp at the far post. They then replace Coulibaly with Norwood.
66 min: The corner’s hit long from the right and flicked on. Cannon tries to get a shot in from a tight angle on the left, but instead rolls back to Jones, who attempts a curler from the edge of the box. It’s not all that.
65 min: Palmer drops deep and sprays a delicious ball wide right for Jones, who looks like romping clear down the wing only to be crunched by Robinson’s no-holds-barred last-ditch tackle. The ball pings out for a throw, which is flug into the mixer by Tozer, and leads to a corner.
63 min: Palmer and Mullin link up down the inside-right channel. Palmer clatters into Basham and claims another penalty, but Wrexham have had one decision go their way, and they aren’t getting this one. “Can you have a foul and a dive at the same time?” wonders Samuel Campbell. “He is definitely pulled back but usually when you are pulled back you don’t fall forward like that. Great penalty all the same. Game on.”
62 min: Wrexham were preparing a double change before the penalty. They make it regardless. Mendy and Dalby are replaced by Palmer and McAlinden.
61 min: There’s a pause as a red flare has been thrown into the United box. That’s Wrexham red, as opposed to Sheffield United red, naturally. Eventually we restart.
GOAL! Sheffield United 1-1 Wrexham (Mullin 59 pen)
Mullin sends the penalty straight down the middle, roofing it. Davies dived out of the way, which is just as well, because had he stayed put, it’d have most likely taken his head off. Wrexham are back in this tie! Again!
Penalty for Wrexham!
57 min: Mullin tries to spin Ahmedhodzic down the inside-left channel. He can’t get away, but only because Ahmedhodzic had a fistful of his shirt! Mullin goes over, right on the edge of the area. The referee points to the spot! VAR might have overruled that – the initial contact was outside the area, though Mullin fell inside – but there’s no such thing here tonight! Penalty it is!
56 min: United should be two up. McAtee tears into acres of space down the right and tees up his man perfectly this time. He rolls across to Sharp, who slams his shot straight at Lainton. And that’s a costly miss, because …
54 min: Space for Ahmedhodzic on the right. He’s got the option of releasing Basham on the overlap, but instead curls a stunning low outswinging cross towards the far stick. It just evades both Sharp and Ndiaye, who applaud his team-mates delivery. That would have been one hell of an assist to follow his aforementioned finish.
52 min: That was one hell of a finish by Ahmedhodzic. The keeper was beaten at his near post, but he really couldn’t do too much about that. It was a lovely move down the inside-right flank by United.
GOAL! Sheffield United 1-0 Wrexham (Ahmedhodzic 50)
It’s been all Wrexham since the restart … but it’s United who take the lead. Basham plays a clever ball in from the right. McAtee slips it immediately down the inside-right channel for Ahmedhodzic, steaming into the box along the channel. Ahmedhodzic lines himself up and roofs a shot over Lainton and into the top-right corner. Unstoppable!
49 min: United can’t keep hold of the ball at the minute, and now Tozer has the opportunity to Delap a throw in from the left. He’s got more scope for a run-up on this side of the pitch, and launches this one towards the edge of the six-yard box. United half-clear again, whereupon Forde, in space down the right, has the opportunity to flick Mullin clear … but doesn’t spot his team-mate making the run.
47 min: Young looks for Lennon at the near post but Egan clears, albeit at the cost of another throw. Tozer fizzes that one in too, and Egan deals with the danger again. An impressive start to the half by the underdogs, though.
46 min: Wrexham immediately win a throw deep in United territory down the right. Tozer flings it in. The ball pings off Robinson and out for a corner. Young to take.
Wrexham get the second half underway. No changes.
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HALF TIME: Sheffield United 0-0 Wrexham
Sheffield United have had the better chances. Had McAtee and Ndiaye kept their heads, they’d be in the lead. But as things stand, non-league Wrexham are holding a team who may be playing Premier League football next season. The fairytale of a home fifth-round tie against Tottenham Hotspur remains alive for the Red Dragons.
45 min +1: One corner leads to another, then Wrexham attempt to break upfield. Coulibaly wrestles Mullin, then handballs, and goes into the referee’s notebook.
45 min: McAtee tees up Berge, 20 yards out. He takes his eye off the ball and loses the chance to shoot first time. He eventually shoots, winning a corner.
43 min: “How did that not end in a Blades goal?” asks Mary Waltz of the McAtee-Ndiaye break. “Is it the Magic of the Cup? Is God a Dragon"? Or is crushing reality about to put a pin in the Wrexham balloon?” On ITV, Ally McCoist has just answered the first question. Ndiaye should have held his run, making it easy for McAtee to roll across and tee him up. But he went too early, possibly bringing offside into play, a state of affairs which may have made McAtee’s mind up for him.
41 min: A United corner from the right this time. Osborn pulls it back for Berge, whose shot on the penalty spot is blocked. Then the flag goes up for unnecessary argy-bargy in the middle.
39 min: Yet another United corner down the left. Osborn finds the head of Egan, who sends an unmarked effort over the bar.
37 min: Tozer buys a ticket to the raffle from 25 yards out on the right. His rising, swerving shot heads for the top left. It’s an easy enough parry for Davies in the end, but at least Wrexham have now warmed the United keeper’s hands.
36 min: Sharp attempts a curler from the edge of the Wrexham box but it’s straight at the keeper. Wrexham counter, Dalby crossing low from the left, Mullin denied on the penalty spot by Egan, who takes the ball off his toe.
35 min: This is better, quicker, more direct from United, though, as Ndiaye works his way in from the right briskly, laying off for Ahmedhodzic, who slaps a first-time shot straight at Lainton.
33 min: Berge considers passing this way and that. Wrexham sit deep, holding their shape. Berge eventually makes a decision and pings it towards Basham on the right. Basham can’t control the pass. All a little too ponderous.
31 min: Mullin has come alive since taking that shot, and makes two probes down the left. Neither of his crosses passes muster, or the first man. But this is better from Wrexham … if you factor out the two-man break that should have led to the opening goal, that is, but hopefully you get the general gist.
29 min: … Sheffield United should take the lead on the counter. Sharp heads clear. Cannon’s loose pass is intercepted, and suddenly McAtee and Ndiaye are barrelling clear on goal from the halfway line! McAtee takes the ball to the edge of the box and should tee up Ndiaye, to his left, for a tap-in … but decides to pass the ball into the bottom left himself, and steers it out for a goal kick! Oh dear.
28 min: Mullin controls a ball flicked down the middle, turns, and shoots from the edge of the D. The effort flicks off Ahmedhodzic for a corner, from which …
26 min: Berge drives at the Wrexham back line before teeing up Coulibaly for a shot. The full debutant slips while shooting and the ball sails over the bar in comedic fashion. The Wrexham fans stop singing their hymns and arias to enquire, in strident terms, what the exactly that was.
24 min: United work their way down the left again, Robinson and Osborn combining to earn another corner, which the latter takes. This one’s met at the near post, Egan eyebrowing gently goalwards, Tozer clearing easily enough. Berge curls in from the other flank. Sharp meets this one; Tozer heads clear again. United getting closer.
22 min: Berge, again prompting from deep, finds McAtee in a pocket of space in the middle of the park, 30 yards from goal. McAtee takes a touch forward and should take a whack, but opts to drift left before slicing wildly off target.
20 min: It’s been mainly United, though Wrexham will be happy with their start. Lainton hasn’t been troubled too much, and the away side have quietened the home crowd a tad.
18 min: Ndiaye is looking lively, as he cuts in from the left, one-twos with Osborn, and takes a shot that’s blocked. The ball pings back to Robinson, who hoicks his deep cross harmlessly out for a goal kick. United quickly come again, Sharp crossing from the left. Lennon flicks away from danger with a couple of red-and-white shirts lurking.
16 min: Sharp takes the first shot in anger, bobbling a half-volley towards the bottom left from the edge of the Wrexham box. Lainton gets down to smother, though it was almost certainly going wide anyway.
15 min: Ndiaye dribbles into the Wrexham box from the left. Tozer blocks. Osborn latches onto the loose ball and sends yet another ball towards the far stick, from open play this time. There’s nobody there to attempt to take advantage this time.
13 min: Ndiaye turns briskly down the inside-right channel and loops a cross towards Sharp on the left-hand corner of the six-yard box. Just too much on the pass, which bounces out for a goal kick. Meanwhile Peter Oh’s opening zinger didn’t land with Joe Pearson. “But I liked Deadpool 2!” Tough crowd in tonight.
12 min: Osborn tries to release Ndiaye down the left but Tozer comes over to cover, at the expense of another corner. Osborn hits this one long as well. Egan rises highest at the far post and slaps a header straight at Lainton in the Wrexham goal. The hosts are on the front foot.
10 min: Sharp dribbles across the face of the Wrexham box but dithers over a shot and eventually runs into his own man McAtee. In an effort to make good, McAtee tries a shot from the edge of the D but it’s easily blocked.
9 min: Osborn sends the corner long. Robinson connects with a downward header but the ball doesn’t get through a crowded six-yard box.
8 min: Robinson whips a cross in from the left. Sharp is lurking, so Lennon does well to extend a leg and deflect the ball out for the first corner of the game. The hosts load the box. Osborn to take.
6 min: Berge is seeing a lot of the ball, playing quarterback with Wrexham lined up on the edge of their own box. He tries to find Basham with a forensic pass down the inside-right channel, but hits his pass too crisply and the ball flies out for a goal kick.
4 min: United push Wrexham back a little and probe this way and that. Possibly more representative of how most expect this replay to pan out, though we’ll see.
2 min: An early sign that Wrexham haven’t come here only to depart and die wondering. Mendy strides powerfully down the left wing and very nearly gets a shot away upon reaching the edge of the box. He’s barged off the ball and United counter through Sharp and Ndiaye. That move doesn’t come off either, but that’s a lovely open start to the game. Another 3-3 on the cards? Yes please! If you can! Yes please!
A paean to Magnet, Woodbines and chip butties rings around this famous old stadium … then the hosts get the ball rolling. The winner of this replay – which could go to extra time and penalty kicks - will host Tottenham Hotspur in round five. “I hate to break it to Wrexham fans but the sequel is almost always worse than the original,” quips Peter Oh, because somebody had to. He’s here all week, ladies and gentlemen. Try the popcorn.
Before kick-off, another perspective on Paul Mullin’s boots. “As an autistic football fan myself, Mullin’s message is great,” writes Yash Bagga of NHS England. “However just for the sake of awareness, I would really appreciate if you could include that most of us don’t like the puzzle-piece symbol. It has been used by some very questionable organisations in the past, notably Autism Speaks, and has its roots in a belief that there’s a piece missing from us that needs to be fit in the right place. But I really do appreciate Paul’s effort in generating awareness and his support for his son!”
The teams are out! Sheffield United wear their famous red and white stripes, while Wrexham sport second-choice blue. A wonderful old-school FA Cup replay atmosphere at Bramall Lane. We’ll be off in a couple of minutes! “The game isn’t on S4C,” sighs Alun Pugh. “The commentary is so gloriously biased towards Wales when we play it’s wonderful. I’m sure it would be the same for clwb pêl-droed Wrecsam tonight.”
Paul Mullin: a tale of two boots. The Wrexham striker showcases his good heart in more ways than one.
Obligatory Hollywood-on-Clywedog reference. “Hollywood makes all the difference!” begins Joe Pearson, our man in Indianapolis. “Since ‘Welcome to Wrexham’ premiered, I have seen the team play way more than I would have expected from your average National League football team. Today’s match is even on regular cable, being featured on ESPN2. And frankly, that’s bonkers! I can’t imagine how much their celebrity is adding to the bottom line via broadcast dollars (or pounds, I guess). I’m just glad Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney seem to be decent people, rather than irritating, arrogant fratboys. Or so it appears.”
Blades manager Paul Heckingbottom talks to ITV. “Another tough one! … for both teams it’s a break from the league … we’re both at the top end of our respective leagues, so that’s obviously a priority but this is a game you want to win … we’re expecting another tough game … we were OK in patches down at Wrexham but without the ball we weren’t … we need to be on the front foot and dominate the game … we know we have to concentrate for the full 90 minutes and defend our box … we’ll certainly be using the bench in this game … we know the schedule coming up and if we could have made more changes, we would have … Oli McBurnie has a sore calf and we aren’t taking any risks … we are light so if he’d been available and fit he’d have played, he’d have had to play, but with the schedule we wanted to wrap him up and get him ready for the weekend.”
Wrexham manager Phil Parkinson speaks to ITV. “It was a terrific first game … to come here to a great stadium, we’re looking forward to giving a good account of ourselves … some our changes are enforced, but in terms of Andy Cannon coming in, I just felt we needed some fresh legs in the midfield … it’s a cup tie, we’re going to have a real go … we fully respect them, they’re an excellent team … I believe we can create opportunities against them … we’re ready, we’re excited, we’re going to embrace it and give our 4,700 fans something to cheer about.”
Sheffield United make five changes to the XI selected to start the 3-3 draw at the Racecourse Ground. Sander Berge, Billy Sharp, Jack Robinson and Iliman Ndiaye all start, while Ismaila Coulibaly makes his full debut. Oliver Norwood drops to the bench, while Jayden Bogle, Tommy Doyle, Oli McBurnie and Daniel Jebbison miss out altogether.
Wrexham make seven changes to the XI that started the original fourth-round tie at Y Cae Ras. Rob Lainton, Max Cleworth, Harry Lennon, Jacob Mendy, James Jones, Andy Cannon and Sam Dalby replace Mark Howard, Callum McFadzean, Aaron Hayden, Jordan Tunnicliffe, Tom O’Connor, Elliot Lee and Ollie Palmer.
Sheffield United: Davies, Basham, Ahmedhodzic, Egan, Robinson, Osborn, Berge, Coulibaly, McAtee, Ndiaye, Sharp.
Subs: Foderingham, Lowe, Norwood, Clark, Arblaster, Brooks, Marsh, Starbuck.
Wrexham: Lainton, Forde, Cleworth, Tozer, Lennon, Mendy, Young, Jones, Cannon, Mullin, Dalby.
Subs: Watson, James, Butler, Hosannah, McAlinden, O’Connor, Lee, Palmer, Bickerstaff.
The weekend before last, this blockbuster starring Ryan Reynolds premiered …
… and now tonight you are invited to the unveiling of the sequel. Red carpet arrivals at 7.45pm GMT. It’s on!