Nigel Clough, the Sheffield United manager, told his players they could be set for an all Steel City quarter-final during the interval of yesterday’s dramatic FA Cup victory over Nottingham Forest.
United moved to within 90 minutes of Wembley after goals from Chris Porter (2) and Conor Coady cancelled-out Jamie Paterson’s opener for the visitors and ensured the possibility of meeting Sheffield Wednesday edged a step closer after the League One club were handed a home tie against either Charlton Athletic or Stuart Gray’s side in the last eight.
With former England international Robert Lee and his son Olly performing the draw midway through the first-half of a pulsating fifth round tie with Forest, Clough said: “We knew what had happened. We thought we might not tell the lads, pondered the idea for a few seconds and then thought ‘What the hell.’
“So we let them know just before they went out for the second-half. A few of them didn’t believe us at first so we had a laugh and a joke saying ‘No, it’s Brighton and Hove Albion or Hull City away.’
“Seriously, though, they knew exactly what the situation was. Did it inspire any of them? You’d have to ask the players themselves but it might have had a very small effect.”
“We just wanted to let them know what they might be able to look forward to if they went out there and got the result,” Clough added. “They knew what the possible incentive was and that was the thinking behind it. We wanted them to get out there and just have a real ‘go.’
“Everybody has been talking about the possibility of facing Wednesday as we’ve gone through the rounds. It wasn’t going to do any harm and if it does happen, if it does transpire that we face them, then it’s something to look forward to.”
United, who become the first team to beat Forest in all competitions since November, fell behind when Paterson glanced home Andy Reid’s cross before Coady restored parity following an error from Dorus de Vries. Porter edged them in front from the penalty spot after Greg Halford was adjudged to have handled Jamie Murphy’s 90th minute centre with his second coming deep into added time.
Porter’s late intervention prompted jubiliant scenes among the home sections of a 25,118 crowd with some spilling onto the pitch at the final whistle.
“We won’t be making any complaint,” Billy Davies, the Forest manager, confirmed. “They were happy and that’s understandable.
“There won’t be any fuss from us. What we do is wish Sheffield United all the best.”
Clough, whose squad resumes its battle for survival at Gillingham on Wednesday, praised United’s “honesty, application and endeavour,” but insisted: “The only thing which matters now is our next three matches in the league. Those are all important and nothing will be allowed to distract from those.
“Those, starting with Gillingham, will be getting all our attention and complete focus.”
* Rest of the sixth round draw: Arsenal v Everton, Brighton or Hull v Sunderland. Man City v Wigan.