It was a game of few chances and both keepers were largely untroubled all game but United nicked it thanks to a penalty from Billy Sharp; after the skipper had been adjudged to have been brought down by Tom Clarke. After this Simon Moore made one smart save but United di ud enough to hold on and go into Monday’s hat for the last 16 draw.
Manager Wilder as expected changed the side around but kept a core of players from the win at Norwich with Moore, Baldock, Stearman, Fleck all starting but with many of the new players cup tied and some rested it still equalled seven changes all together. Ched Evans joined James Wilson on the bench where Jamal Blackman was still missing; with Jake Eastwood as the sub keeper. Preston also made a number of changes and featured January signings Lewis Moult and Billy Bodin up top.
The game began with an early crunching tackle when Welsh saw him booked after he scythed down Duffy. United were the better side early on with Baldock influential down the right linking with Fleck and Duffy twice but the ball was cleared on both occasions.
Baldock then got in and squared across after a neat ball from Duffy inside the full back but Donaldson could not turn it goalwards and shot wide. Fisher then knocked behind under pressure but the corner came to nothing. Preston had a rare break when Johnson fed Bodin but Stearman made a great tackle. They then shot well wide from Browne. Both keepers had not had a save to make in a poor game.
Lafferty then was booked for a poor foul after Fleck’s pass had put him in trouble. Both teams struggled to penetrate and were giving it away too easily. United won two corners but these came to nothing. The game had been relatively even overall but even though Donaldson won a number of free kicks, the front two had not been much of a threat. Duffy saw a lot of the ball but for him was quite wasteful when in key areas. One attempted ball failed to put Baldock in and then another sailed behind. Soon after the half time whistle came.
The second half saw the Blades make the best move of the match when Duffy and Baldock linked again but Donaldson shot wide after Duffy’s cross. Baldock’s cross was then grabbed by Rudd as Sharp waited to pounce. he best chance of the game came when smart work down the right again saw Duffy centre but Lafferty from point blank range was denied by Rudd who flicked over. Either side of the keeper and it would have been a goal.
Lundstram was then booked for a pull back on Horgan as Preston tried to break. Evans and Basham came on for Donaldson and Henighan in an attempt to freshen things up for the home side. Hugill came on for Preston in an attempt to give the visitors more of a threat. Johnson was booked for a poor foul on Fleck and then soon after was lucky to escape a second yellow for delaying a free kick again. The same man had been spoken to at length in the first half for such an offence.
Preston had not offered anything of note second half but Johnson who had stayed on the pitch drove wide with Moore full stretch after no one closed him down in their best attempt of the game on 78 minutes. Evans was competing hard but the game continued to be stop start with a fussy referee not helping matters. It seemed sure he would have an influence on the verdict and so it proved with 10 minutes to play.
Basham played a long ball forward and SHARP managed to turn his man and got his body between the man and the ball and Clarke’s challenge was clumsy to say the least. He may have got something on the ball but also got a large chunk of the man and the referee pointed to the spot. After the protestations which featured a Preston fan coming onto the field; the United skipper put the ball on the spot and emphatically beat Rudd who went the right way but was nowhere near the ball that was despatched high to the right-hand side of the goal.
Soon after Evans also got tackled into the box but Scott waived play on. A neat move nearly saw Sharp in again as United looked to turn the screw.
After this Preston became understandably more adventurous and Moore had to come off his line to use his feet and make a clean slide tackle before soon after a ball from the left saw Hugill hit an instinctive effort towards goal but straight at Moore. Moore then also flicked away a long shot that may have been going wide as the visitors finally came to life.
The game went into four minutes of stoppage time as the scorer Sharp came off for Stevens just before a final free kick was knocked into the United box after a foul from Baldock but the linesman flag thwarted any attempt on goal. Preston failed to really offer any significant efforts in the final few minutes and Stearman and Wright headed away long punts into the box before the final whistle came.