Sheffield United took a break from League One matters last weekend having been involved in the FA Cup and pulled off the shock of the round with an unforgettable 2-1 win over Aston Villa in their own backyard. United made national headlines whilst Villa boss Paul Lambert was made to look the joker following his comments the day prior to the game - suggesting that the cup played second fiddle to that of the Premier League. The 6,000 travelling Blades didn't see it that way and with 20 minutes of play played out they had taken the lead when Jamie Murphy cut in from the left hand side and ghosted past Matt Lowton before his goal ward shot cannoned off the leg of Ashley Westwood and bounced over the stretching Jed Steer to score in front of the Holte End.
Belgian striker Christian Benteke saw two headers drift wide as the first half drew to a close as the hosts put up a poor performance, this largely due to United's no nonsense approach and despite having far less of the possession defended like Trojans. Lambert introduced Nicklas Helanius (for Aleksander Tonev) and with 15 minutes remaining a cross into the box fell kindly to the Danish striker who's first time shot fired past George Long; 1-1. A draw would have been injustice on United's part who had commanded the game from the off but there was to be a final twist in the tale when Ryan Flynn picked up the ball on the left and after almost being tackled got the batter of a Villa challenge before smashing past Steer to win the game and set up a home tie with either Fulham or Norwich City in Round 4.
Striker Shaun Miller could return to the starting line-up after the former Crewe striker was rested in the games against Tranmere Rovers and Walsall - he appeared as a late substitute at Villa Park. Meanwhile Aaron Barry has been recalled from his loan spell at Dumbarton and may feature amongst the substitutes whilst Marlon King has seen his contract terminated and Lyle Taylor has joined Partick Thistle on loan - Simon Lappin who was refused permission to face Villa by parent club Cardiff City may be re-installed into the team.
Blades boss Nigel Clough is likely to feature former Magpie forward Febian Brandy amongst his 18-man squad to travel to Meadow Lane. Brandy joined the Magpies around the same time as Kevin McDonald (now at Wolves), signing on a free transfer from Manchester United in February 2011 and made his debut a week later in a 1-0 home defeat to Peterborough United and failed to score where he was released at the end of the season having made 5 league starts and 4 substitute appearances before moving to Greek side Panetolikos.
Having been dumped out of the FA Cup by League Two outfit Hartlepool United by two goals to three at the first hurdle at the Victoria Ground the League One relegation contenders haven't played a competitive fixture since New Year’s Day when they beat Bradford City 3-0. County had taken the lead through former Barnsley forward Jamal Campbell-Ryce on 30 minutes and there win, which took them off the bottom of the table was completed with late goals from Jack Grealish (88) and Callum McGregor (90).
"We understood what type of system Bradford was coming with and what their strengths are," Derry said. At times there was an element of frustration in the building - from our fans, from ourselves and from the players. But we stuck in there, defended like Trojans and scored three goals by playing some great stuff. This league isn't nice all the time and we have to be able to adapt to that. I know how we want to play and the lads definitely know how we want to play. We need to be able to mix it. We have to set our stall out and get out of the bottom four as quickly as possible, then see where it takes us. We are down there, we are second from bottom and it's not nice to read - but it's better to read knowing we're off the bottom of the table."
County will be expected to see Alan Sheehan return from suspension after the midfielder missed their victory over the Bantams having being sent-off for two yellow cards the previous game. The Meadow Lane club hope to see Callum Ball (head) available after suffering injury, whilst Joss Labadie (ankle) is fighting to be fit.
The Magpies have no former Blades players amongst their squad; however manager Shaun Derry spent just over two years at Bramall Lane as a player after he joined from Nott's County in January 1998 in a £700,000 transfer fee. He made his debut in the 1-1 home draw with Huddersfield Town but having already been cup-tied missed the FA Cup semi-final defeat to Newcastle United. He scored his one and only Blades goal in a cup-replay at Rushden & Diamonds in December 1999 as United went through on penalties. Derry played his last game on 11 March 2000 in a 3-2 win at Port Vale before being sold to Portsmouth for £300,000 under then boss Neil Warnock. He left the Lane having made 73 (+10) appearances and scored once.
Blades-Mad Prediction: Nott's County 0 Sheffield United 2