Sheffield United have had a fairly stable passage into the Fourth Round; scoring trice in each of the three fixtures played so far. They eliminated Oxford United (3-0) in Round One and quickly followed by Torquay United (3-2) before facing non-leaguers Salisbury City in the third.
They first had to see their way past Grimsby Town after a replay at Blundell Park and made easy comings of there low ranked opposition. The Blades lead 1-0 by the break thanks to Chris Porter's (18 minutes) neat finish; in the second half they trebled their lead if only through misfortune - Ched Evans (60) saw Kevin McDonald's shot cannon unknowingly off his head and when Evans squared the ball across the box Danny Webb (72) poked into his own net. City did score a well earned consolation via Lloyd Macklin (86) but the damage had already been done to set up a tie with either Wolverhampton Wanderers or Birmingham City.
The Blades were defeated in the league last week for the second time in 2012; a Johnnie Jackson (21) free-kick was enough for table toppers Charlton Athletic to open up a seven point lead over United, though Yorkshire rivals Huddersfield Town sneaked into second spot after a 3-2 home win over Brentford.
The result left United third in the table and without a league fixture this weekend look set to slip further, though will gain advantage of a match in hand as they were scheduled to face Scunthorpe United at Bramall Lane this Saturday. Ironically it was the first time since 1 October that United have failed to score in a competitive league or cup fixture (20 games) when they lost 0-2 at home to Charlton.
Both United and Athletic saw there teams reduced to ten men late in the game; on 85 minutes a mass scuffle of players resulted in straight red cards with Darel Russel (Charlton) and James Beattie (Blades) both being handed out straight red cards. Striker Beattie will now sit out a three match suspension and will miss the following fixtures against Birmingham City (h), Colchester United (a) and Wycombe Wanderers (h) - Danny Philliskirk or Erik Tonne could be handed a place on the bench instead.
Ryan Flynn could return to the side to face Birmingham City this weekend, the former Liverpool and Falkirk winger has missed games through illness but could be deemed fitness to feature against the npower Championship side.
Birmingham City were drawn against their Midland counterparts Wolverhampton Wanderers in Round Three were this time last season would have been an all Premiership affair, but after a goalless draw in Birmingam a replay at Molineux was to follow.
Shown live on ITV a game in front over just over 10,000 could only be described as a the perfect cure for those unfortunate to suffer from insomnia as City eventually turned a drab game into a victory; Wade Elliott (74) netted to give last seasons League Cup Winners a place in the Fourth Round. Elliott is best remembered for netting the winner at Wembley Stadium which saw Burnley defeat United in the 2009 Championship Play-Off Final.
City overturned Watford last weekend in a 3-0 victory - a result which put them sixth in the npower Championship table; just seven points behind second placed Southampton.
The Blues will be without Chilean winger Jean Beausejour who completed a full transfer (undisclosed fee) to Premier League outfit Wigan Athletic whilst striker Nikola Zigic has been offered to Spanish side Espanyol on a six month loan deal and may have left St. Andrews prior to the cup tie at the Lane this weekend.