Dave Bassett, manager of Sheffield United was making his return to Watford for the second time since he departed the Hornets in 1988, in his first return only a few months previous the Blades recorded a 3-1 win and were eager to make the same score again.
Three days previous the pair had drawn 1-1 at Bramall Lane and thus required a replay at Vicarage Road to determine the winner which would face Barnsley at home in the following round. The referee had rightly chosen to delay the match by 15 minutes due to an influx of fans entering the stadium, this largely due to the late announcement of the gates opening.
Played under floodlights, the pitch was not at its best and displayed the joys of winter football with a weathered pitch supported by three brown swamps in the central areas and a gusty wind acted as a neutral and soon dried up the pitch. United were in an era where ‘long pass’ football was much desirable by Bassett’s Blades and there former name of the ‘mudlarks’ which came into use during the 1920’s came quite apt as they manpowered sticky patches with venom and within the space of a few minutes were ahead.
Tony Agana created the goal, supplied from a quick throw-in and unsurprisingly it was the lanky striker Brian Deane who was on the end to score his eleventh goal of the season. The pair always complimented each other throughout their career and this was shown during the first hour of the match but missed opportunities prevented United from doubling their lead.
The opposition were clearly in distress each time a wave of a united attack confronted them – when they did breach the attack and found themselves in front of the Blades defence they couldn’t find a way through despite being propelled by the wind. In the fortieth minute was handed a lifeline into this match via a controversial penalty decision awarded in Watford’s favour.
Porter looked to have handled before he was pushed in the back by defender Colin Hill, the Blades appealed to the linesman who gave an offence but to the visitors surprise awarded a spot kick. The referee ignored any complaints and Porter took full advantage of the situation, scoring past Simon Tracey.
The goal gave the home faithful belief that they could win this tie, a goal to their name (even if the scores were tied) and home advantage but despite their beliefs they continued to be lackluster and harvey at the back. They almost took the lead when Henry broke through but Tracey was given full credit, saving his effort onto the outside of the post as the score remained a goal each.
Just before the hour the tie was over when the unsteady Watford defence allowed opposing defender Paul Stancliffe to head home Carl Bradshaw’s cross. Virtually immediately that goal United lost full-back Hill who was stretchered off after being concussed following a collision with Williams.
WATFORD: A Coton; N Gibbs, B Ashby, G Williams, D Holdsworth, G Roeder, L Henry, G Penrice, G Thompson, G Porter, G Hodges (sub: P Wilkinson).
SHEFFIELD UNITED : S Tracey; C Hill (sub: R Booker), D Barnes, S Webster, P Stancliffe, M Morris, C Bradshaw, J Gannon, A Agana, B Deane, I Bryson (sub: D Whitehouse).