JOSE’S A SPECIAL ONE FROM SPOT
MIDFIELDER Jose Baxter and substitute Marc McNulty made the difference as Nigel Clough’s Sheffield United progressed into the third round of the FA Cup by sinking League Two Plymouth.
After a drab first half, the game sprung into life with three penalties in 15 minutes.While Argyle’s Reuben Reid missed the first, Baxter made no mistake from the spot, firing home on two occasions to put United in control.
McNulty sealed the win with a late third, and Blades boss Clough admitted the forward gave his side a real lift to advance into the next round.
“We struggled away in the first half without getting any reward, and the penalty for Plymouth was almost the wake-up call we really needed,” he said.
“Once our goal went in though, some confidence started to return to the side – it was a really important victory for us out there, in all honesty.
“We were fearing the worst when they got the penalty, but the team showed good character to get a much needed win at home and progress.
“Marc gave us some great impetus when he came on. Jamal Campbell-Ryce struggled and the team were a bit flat in the first half, but those fresh legs gave us a real lift.
“We’re still in both the major cup competitions midway through December, and for a League One side that’s a great effort. It shows how hard we’ve been working.”
The first half provided little in the way of clear-cut chances and it was only after the break when the game truly sprung into life with chances.
The first spot-kick was awarded when Blades defender Chris Basham hacked down Lewis Alessandra to give the visitors the chance to go in front.
However, Reid’s penalty was way off target with the forward blazing his effort high and wide to keep the game level.
And just eight minutes later, the Blades were in front via a penalty of their own.
Ben Purrington chopped down sub McNulty, and Baxter made no mistake, firing past Luke McCormick to put the home side in front.
It was 2-0 seven minutes later; referee Gary Sutton awarded his third penalty of the afternoon when Michael Doyle was brought down inside the box, and Baxter again smashed home to put the Blades within touching distance of the third round.
Argyle offered little hope of a comeback, and with seconds left off normal time, McNulty turned home a superb cross from Florent Cuvelier to seal a fantastic afternoon for Bramall Lane boss Clough.
Argyle boss John Sheridan felt that had the penalty from Reid gone in to give the visitors the lead early in the second half, the game could have had a completely different outcome.
“It’s disappointing to lose 3-0; I was pleased with how we played in the first half, we looked really dangerous on the break,” Sheridan said.
“The penalty was the break we wanted, and if we had scored that goal it would have probably been a completely different story out there.
“We could have held on and the crowd would have got on their backs.
“We just lacked that little bit of quality after that; we gave the ball away too cheaply and we didn’t finish the game all that well.
“There was something there for us out there but we let it slip. The first penalty of theirs was comical.
“I don’t know what we were thinking making a tackle like that inside the area.
“After the second penalty went in our heads dropped, and it was clear the game was up for us after that moment.”
SPOT ON: Sheffield United’s Jose Baxter scores the first of his two penalties
MR COOL: Jose Baxter celebrates