Preston North End vs. Sheffield United

Last updated : 23 January 2015 By @blades_mad1889

Sheffield United were disappointed to return to the Steel City with a 1-0 defeat despite pulling out a spirited performance at White Hart Lane. Andros Townsend's penalty saw Tottenham take control of their Capital One Cup semi-final with Sheffield United, although Nigel Clough will be buoyed heading into the second leg by his side's impressive display at White Hart Lane. The Blades' cup performances over the past year have belied their League One status, securing five Premier League scalps and reaching the last-four juncture of last season's FA Cup and now this competition. United looked like they would once again prove the scourge of top-flight opposition, only for Townsend's second-half penalty to see Tottenham eke out a 1-0 win in north London.

It is a welcome cushion ahead of what is sure to be a combative second leg at Bramall Lane next Wednesday, especially if Clough's men can match this performance. United started brightly and frustrated Spurs in the first half, showing no ill-effects of the traffic-delayed arrival which saw kick-off put back until 8pm. An Eric Dier header was the only shot on target either side could manage in a dull opening period, although Emmanuel Adebayor should have tested United goalkeeper Mark Howard as half-time approached.

The Togo striker, captaining the side on his first start since November 2, was perhaps fortunate not to receive a red card before that after catching Louis Reed - and was once again booed by some Spurs fans. His substitution proved a shrewd move as replacement Roberto Soldado quickly made an impact, with his presence causing Jay McEveley to flap an arm at the ball and referee Neil Swarbrick to point to the spot. Townsend duly converted the penalty, much to the home faithful's relief, although Mauricio Pochettino will know a much-improved display will be needed in the Steel City if they are to reach the Wembley finale.

Blades boss Nigel Clough has been busy in the transfer market abd has brought in new recruits, signing both midfielder Paul Coutts and defender Kieron Freeman from Derby County. Coutts is however cup-tied whilst Freeman is available for selection. We also expect the Blades to be without defender Jay McEverley who picked up his fifth booking of the season in London on Wednesday and should sit out a one game ban for his troubles.

Preston North End will have no doubt benefitted from the midweek rest and will look to evenge the 2-1 defeat bestowed upon them a Bramall Lane a fortnight ago in the league. They drew 1-1 at home to bottom club Yeovil Town last weekend which was enough to keep them in the top 6.

Substitute Sylvan Ebanks-Blake came off the bench to score his first goal since April 2013 and spare Preston's blushes in a 1-1 draw with Yeovil. Promotion-chasing North End appeared to be heading for defeat against the struggling Glovers, who led through Gozie Ugwu, before Ebanks-Blake salvaged a point 14 minutes from time. Strikers Jermaine Beckford and Kevin Davies were off target with early efforts for the home side and the visitors slowly grew into the contest as the half wore on.

Makeshift defender Kieffer Moore planted a fine chance wide when a loose ball broke to him inside the box before North End goalkeeper Sam Johnstone made a pair of saves from Ugwu and Sam Foley. Given Yeovil's glut of chances it was no surprise to see them take the lead in first-half stoppage-time, Ugwu sweeping home after Foley's free-kick had bounced through to him at the far post. That made it two goals in two games for the former Reading striker and he nearly helped himself to another with a curling effort which bent just wide of Johnstone's post. The hosts continued to be frustrated, crosses narrowly evading Chris Humphrey and Beckford, before Josh Brownhill's low drive was turned away by Jed Steer's right hand.

Yeovil were content to sit on their one-goal lead as Lilywhites skipper Tom Clarke nodded a set piece from Paul Gallagher wide. The visitors should have gone two goals ahead but Stephen Arthurworrey glanced a rare chance over the top and, less than 60 seconds later, Preston levelled. Davies' flick sent Ebanks-Blake clean through and the former Wolves forward rounded Steer before steadying himself and firing into the empty net. He nearly won it for Preston too, sending an audacious overhead kick narrowly over in the final five minutes but it ended all square, which was not enough to move Yeovil off the Sky Bet League One basement.

Lilywhites boss Simon Grayson will be looking to select duo Paul Gallagher and Jermaine Beckford after the pair were granted permission to play by their parent clubs Leicester City and Bolton Wanderers. However keeper Sam Johnstone (on-loan from Manchester United) is cup-tied and will be replaced by German stopper Thorsten Stuckmann. On the injury front they are without Andy Little (groin), Jordan Hugill (knee) and Joe Garner (shin).

Blades-Mad Prediction: Preston North End 0 Sheffield United 1

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