Danny Hall: Sheffield United’s dreams didn’t die, they just switched focus

editorial image
0
Have your say

“Some dreams never die” was the message which, perhaps appropriately, flashed up on Wembley’s advertising hoardings just after Stefan Scougall had put Sheffield United ahead in their FA Cup semi-final against Hull City on Sunday.

It was there to promote Cup sponsor Budweiser’s open trials initiative, but could just as easily sum up United’s fairytale run to the last four of the world’s oldest knockout cup competition.

The run began right at the first round stage back in November, at Colchester’s Weston Homes Community Stadium and finally ended on Sunday, as Steve Bruce’s Tigers prevailed 5-3 to book a cup final date with Arsenal.

But what a ride it has been.

Nigel Clough’s United, already conquerors of Aston Villa, Fulham, Nottingham Forest and Charlton, just didn’t have one last scalp in them.

But for a stunning 45 minutes, their dream refused to die. Jose Baxter’s opener after 19 minutes was met by an almighty roar from one end of Wembley, who had waited over 20 years to see one of their own score a goal at the home of English football.

Hull’s equaliser, from Yannick Sagbo, failed to dampen their spirits, and Scougall’s second - brought about after typically-tenacious work from fellow Scot Jamie Murphy - sent them into pure delirium.

Their beloved Blades, for genuine relegation candidates before the turn of the year, were now 45 minutes away from making history, as the first third-tier team to ever make an FA Cup final.

Clough, a veteran of that occasion as a player, was determined to return as a manager and his half-time sprint down the tunnel summed up United’s first-half effort and endeavour.

But a combination of Hull’s top-flight quality, and the after-effects of United’s crowded fixture schedule, told in the second half. Former Owls loanee Matty Fryatt got the Tigers back on level terms just minutes after coming on, and Tom Huddlestone put them ahead for the first time.

Ex-Blade Stephen Quinn made it 4-2 after coming off the bench, but Murphy’s late volley gave them hope.

That was extinguished by David Meyler’s late fifth, but a spontaneous ripple of applause from the United end for their prostrate heroes summed up the day.

Clough’s men, 11th in the League One table, have five games remaining of a season of two halves. Next term, the expectation must surely be promotion - but who could rule out another Wembley cup appearance?

After all, some dreams do never die.