Result: Crewe Alexandra 0 Sheffield United 0

Jon Guthrie and Harry Davis of Crewe & in action with Blades' Crraig Alcock. Picture:  Blades Sports Photography

Jon Guthrie and Harry Davis of Crewe & in action with Blades' Crraig Alcock. Picture: Blades Sports Photography

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Two hundred and nine days, 25 games and 16 victories after their last FA Cup appointment, Sheffield United embarked on the road to Wembley once again.

Two hundred and nine days, 25 games and 16 victories after their last FA Cup appointment, Sheffield United embarked on the road to Wembley once again.

United's  Jamal Campbell Ryce  is challenged by George Ray. Picture:  Blades Sports Photography

United's Jamal Campbell Ryce is challenged by George Ray. Picture: Blades Sports Photography

But would they repeat last season’s march into the semi-finals of the competition or exit at the first round stage?

It is a question which remains to be answered after this match at Crewe Alexandra finished goalless.

Jose Baxter missed the best chance of the afternoon just before the hour when he shot wide with the goal at his mercy.

United, who spent most of this contest on the front foot, were thwarted by the width of the crossbar during the closing stages when Bob Harris unleashed a long-range shot from Murphy’s assist.

But, try as they might, Nigel Clough’s team could not engineer the breakthrough their dominance deserved.

Diego De Girolamo and Stefan Scougall were both introduced to try and force the issue but the match remained all square.

Both teams will now meet in a replay, a week on Tuesday, at Bramall Lane.

Clough had made no secret of the fact that, despite no longer being required to kick-start performances in the league, his team were still determined to reach the later stages of this tournament.

The manager underlined his determination by naming a strong first choice 11 featuring the likes of Baxter, Michael Doyle and Jamal Campbell-Ryce although centre-forward Marc McNulty was ruled-out with a facial injury.

United’s selections translated themselves into a fast start with Murphy and Campbell-Ryce combining well on one flank before Ryan Flynn prodded just wide when the ball was flashed across the the far post.

The former Falkirk winger enjoyed another opportunity soon after, this time when Harris powered forward down United’s left flank but Adam Dugdale, the Crewe captain, intervened at the vital moment.

The pattern of play continued as an intricate move across the edge of Ben Garrett’s area ended with Craig Alcock slicing high and wide from an acute angle before Baxter, allowing Murphy to operate as centre-forward, swept just wide after dropping deep to find a pocket of space.

Crewe, not usually known for their strong-arm approach, had seen George Ray dismissed for a ridiculous show of petulance when United triumphed here in League One competition a fortnight earlier.

This time it was Anthony Grant who seemed determined to pick-up where his team mate had left off and referee Mick Russell could easily have cautioned the midfielder when he squared-up to Michael Doyle.

United, though, continued to dominate both territory and possession although Jay McEveley, partnering Chris Basham at centre-half, was forced to clear a dangerous low cross towards Marcus Haber with 10 minutes of the half remaining.

Half-time: Crewe 0 United 0

Crewe introduced James Jones for Chris Atkinson at the start of the second-half but the flow continued to ebb towards Garrett’s goal. Murphy was a whisker away from finding Flynn, who later sustained a heavy knock tangling with Grant, at the far post but Dugdale again came to the home side’s rescue.

Lous Reed, a neat and tidy presence alongside Doyle, had a low shot blocked from the resulting corner as Clough, shadowed by Chris Morgan and Andy Garner, urged more from his players.

In the 57th minute, Baxter spurned a golden opportunity to hand United the lead.

Checking his run to escape Crewe’s rearguard after Doyle had released Campbell-Ryce, the former Everton and Oldham Athletic youngster could, indeed should, have converted beyond Garratt.

Instead, with the goal at his mercy, Baxter miscued wide. It was a bad miss as the reaction from the visiting bench proved.

Campbell-Ryce beat the offside trap soon after but could not turn in time to test Garratt after being shepherded out wide. Baxter was withdrawn five minute after his error with Scougall entering the fray.

Murphy thought he had broken the deadlock in the 68th minute after Doyle, from a deep lying central position, split Crewe’s defence but was adjudged offside.

De Girolamo, a 71st minute replacement for Flynn, tried to hunt down the loose ball after Scougall’s shot had been deflected but could not react in time.

Murphy drilled a low centre tantalisingly across Crewe’s six yard area following another incisive run but neither De Girolamo not Campbell-Ryce could connect with what wou;ld almost certainly have been a decisive touch.

In the 82nd minute, Crewe withdrew Greg Leigh and sent Bradden Inman on in his place.

In the 83rd, Harris saw an superb curling attempt bounce back off the cross bar from Murphy’s cross before De Girolamo dragged wide of the far post from an acute angle.CREWE ALEXANDRA: Garrett, Guthrie, Davis, Dugdale, Turton, Atkinson, Cooper, Baillie, Leigh, Haber, Grant. Substitutes: Shearer, Inman, Saunders, Waters, Jones, Ng, Ness.

SHEFFIELD UNITED: Howard, Alcock, Harris, Basham, Flynn, Doyle, Murphy, Baxter, McEveley, Campbell-Ryce, Reed. Substitutes: Scougall, McGinn, McGahey, Porter, De Girolamo, Turner, Kennedy.

Referee: M Russell (Hertfordshire).