Shaun Miller's late goal sent Sheffield United into the fifth round of the FA Cup after what may well have been the worst match of all time
So, well done to Sheffield United. They're into the fifth round and will play Nottingham Forest or Preston, who play their replay tomorrow night. It's bound to be just as exciting as that was. I'm off to sit in a darkened room. Thanks for keeping me company. Seriously.
Curbishley in! Meulensteen doesn't appear to know what he's doing.
IIITTTTTTTTTTTTTTT'SSSSSSSSS OVER! IT'S FINALLY OVER! WE'VE DONE IT! FORGET ABOUT SHEFFIELD UNITED! WE - YOU AND ME - HAVE DONE IT! WE HAVE SUCCESSFULLY SAT THROUGH THAT RUBBISH FOR TWO WHOLE HOURS!
ET 30 min: Oh Fulham.
A goal! A goal! A goal! A goal! A goal! A goal! No penalties! A goal! A goal! I don't believe it. I honestly don't believe it. Baxter swung the corner in to the far post and it was headed back across goal by Maguire and found Miller, who ... well, given the way this match has gone, he definitely could have missed his header from two yards out. But he didn't! The Sheffield United fans go wild! It was all worth it for this, all that atrociousness, it was worth it to see a header go in from two yards out.
Et 29 min: Sheffield United win a corner. Do not deny me my penalties! Brayford has cramp. He's been all right.
ET 28 min: Kasama goes close again, his bobbling drive from the edge of the area tipped wide by Howard. The corner is headed away.
ET 25 min: Kasami swings a shot inches wide from the edge of the area! Here's the mbm from Switzerland v Ukraine at the 2006 World Cup.
ET 24 min: Two points to Sheffield United for the conversion by Baxter!
ET 23 min: Passley brings Baxter down on the edge of the Fulham area. They couldn't, could they?
ET 22 min: I think I get it. They're doing this on purpose.
ET 21 min: "Intrigued, I’ve tuned in to my favourite Argentinian live feed to see this game , and I can confirm that it is such that it has reduced the commentators - of world-class excitability - to stupefied silence," says Charles Antaki. "Or near silence; noblesse oblige."
ET 20 min: "Let's go fucking mental!" sing the Fulham fans, failing to realise that they already are on account of still being at this game BY CHOICE.
ET 18 min: "All 11 Fulham players should be more embarrassed than someone who has to bring their sister to their school formal," says William Peake. "Not that I did. First cousin before you ask."
ET 17 min: If I don't get my penalty shoot-out now, seriously, the toys are exiting the pram with extreme haste.
ET 16 min: And off we go again! Yay! Yipee! Huzzah! Hooray! "This is rarefied Samuel Beckett territory," says Ian Stuart.
There will be 15 more minutes of fouls, misplaced passes, bad touches, useless shots and boredom.
Rene Meulensteen looks lost on the touchline.
ET 15 min: Sidwell is booked for a lunge on someone or other. "Theres a joy of six in this; Worst FA Cup replays," says Richard Finch. "I nominate Newcastle vs Bournemouth in, I think, '92. You'd have liked it, it was two crap teams, playing crap football settled on penalties - and to put the sugar on it, it was televised by skysports BEFORE they started showing premier league matches."
ET 12 min: The cameraman locates Kostas Mitroglou, who is probably wondering what he's gone and done by swapping Olympiakos for whatever this is supposed to be. "If cup matches being extended can change tv scheduling, then surely they can also pull the plug on a game as bad as this and show some repeats of the Borg McEnroe tie breaker footballing equivalent; eg Istanbul 2005, Germany vs France 1982," says Christopher Gardiner.
ET 10 min: Miller is booked for a studs-up challenge. That's his first contribution. "Please inform John Marshall that Crewe are God's Team (Exodus 4:13)*, and he should consider himself blessed to have lost to teenage genius passing football," says Alex Brown. "Ave Dario."
ET 9 min: Really! Brayford charges through the crumbling Fulham facade and reaches the edge of the area, from where he shoots low and hard towards the bottom-right corner, only to be denied by a good save from Stockdale, who gets lucky that the rebound eludes a Sheffield United player.
ET 7 min: Yeah, well done mate, you get to go home, well done. Miller is on but we all know that Scougall is faking it and hasn't really done his hamstring. I'm not stupid.
ET 6 min: Scougall claims he's pulled a hamstring but I'm not so sure, I think he just wants to get out of here as quickly as possible.
ET 5 min: The wind, it must be said, is playing a part in the low quality. Burn stretches to head a cross behind from the right. Brayford heads the corner over.
ET 3 min: "We're down to two in O'Caseys on Nord Einde," says Andrew Sparrow. "One of the loyal Dutch Blades has had enough and gone to get his tram..."
ET 2 min: Have you ever fallen asleep with your eyes open?
ET 1 min: Matt Hill has replaced Bob Harris.
"I'm being forced into watching some god awful program on a wedding registry office, a goal or something substantial would help alleviate the pain," says Sam Dickerson.
"Who wants chowder?" says Simon McMahon.
"News from Co. Down, Code Brown, I repeat Code Brown!" says William Peake. "My sister is now dressed like a bomb disposal expert to go into the wee man who has just screamed "Bingo". On some level, I'm pleased for him, on the other hand, it wouldn't have killed him to wait for extra time to have elapsed."
"Imagine trying to convert a non-soccer fan here in Seattle by telling them our star player is on loan in the Premiership playing in London," says Greg Booth. "Just watch a Fulham game and you'll see just how exciting soccer can be! Honestly, I hope none of them are watching this pathetic display..."
"How bad are Fulham?" says John Marshall. "This Sheffield united team lost 3-0 to Crewe (CREWE!) only 3 days ago...only difference is that the Blades now have their second choice goalie in net."
"Though you may be screwed I am watching Nantes-PSG before I go back out to shovel some more," says JR in Illinois. "And not to rub it in or anything but it's pretty awesome. Nantes just tied it up!!! Yes!! Oh, I see your game is going to extra time. Congrats."
I think this is the worst game I have ever seen.
90 min+4: "At the risk of being branded a wuss, I'm restraining myself from joining the Twitter mocking of Hugo Rodellega - maybe the poor fella's had some personal problems?" says David Hopkins. "Those having a laugh at his expense might feel a bit sheepish if it turns out he's been bereaved?"
90 min+3: You'll be sorry if you don't SCORE.
90 min+2: SCORE.
90 min+1: Score!
90 min: Four minutes.
89 min: How dare Neil Swarbrick not give Fulham a penalty as Clint Dempsey goes down with Maguire nearby. How dare he. Anyone would think he's enjoying this. What a sicko.
87 min: Does this travesty even deserve to be called football? It should be called BALL or BLAH or WHAT THE RUDDY HELL DO YOU CLOWNS THINK THIS IS, DO YOU THINK THIS IS ACCEPTABLE, MY EYES ARE STARTING TO BLEED WITH BOREDOM, I WASN'T TIRED AT THE START OF THE GAME BUT I SURE AS HELL AM NOW AND THERE'S A TUBE STRIKE IN A MINUTE AND YOU'RE GOING TO MAKE US ALL SIT HERE FOR ANOTHER HALF AN HOUR AND PENALTIES AND OH GOD HAS IT REALLY COME TO THIS, I'M SUPPOSED TO LIKE MY JOB BUT YOU'RE MAKING IT BLOODY HARD, I HOPE YOU'RE PLEASED WITH YOURSELVES YOU JOYLESS, TALENTLESS QUARTER-WITS!
Or we could just call it football.
86 min: Flynn is down after being kicked by Amorebieta. "There is an ineffable drama unfolding here of equal proportions," says William Peake. "My sister's 4 year old kid has not gone to the bathroom in 10 days, the milk of magnesia and pure orange juice cocktail the poor tyke has just imbibed is sure to bring this stand off to a close. Fulham game also on in background."
85 min: Jose Baxter tries to score a volley from 25 yards but this not the night for that sort of thing. "With the standard of football being what it is tonight one can only imagine how long a penalty shot out would go on for," says Phil Withall. "Wonder what the record is, 70, 80 90 penalties??"
84 min: Flynn cuts inside from the right and aims for the corner flag. Almost!
83 min: Father Scougall dashes past Dejagah on the right and cuts the ball back to Baxter, whose horrible slice is blocked.
82 min: Amorebieta is booked for catching Brayford on the right as the right-back crosses. He tried to get away with it by feigning injury but no dice.
81 min: "LPistening to the commentary in the bath, it so was so dull that it took all my effort not to drown myself!!" says Mark Goodchild.
80 min: The referee should blow his whistle and tell both teams that this simply isn't good enough and that people have paid actual money to come and watch this. "I hope you won't be too spent after tonight's football match to cover Preston v Forest tomorrow (7.45PM on BT Sport 1!); the first leg was a cool 0-0 draw, I predict another feast for the neutral," says Luke Healey. Tom Bryant has that honour.
79 min: "There must be worse things than doing this MBM," says JR in Illinois. "For instance we are in the middle of getting yet another foot of snow and since this game is not on TV here I have been listening to it on Talksport as I have been shovelling.
"On the bright side now I do not have to go to work tomorrow.
"Also, you know who's in big trouble?
77 min: Tankovic, who has been fairly bright, squirms away from a tackle and then hammers a shot wide from the edge of the area. Up the other end, Brayford's cross is comically missed by Stockdale but Baxter can't head into the open goal. The ball breaks to Harris on the left of the area but he can't reach it either.
75 min: Sheffield United bring on Jose
Mourinho Baxter for the hobbling Chris Porter. "I somehow think Fulham have employed the wrong Curbishley here, they should have gone for Alan's older brother Bill," says Ian Burch. "His CV includes being tour manager of The Who and the Crazy World of Arthur Brown and acting as the manager of Robert Plant and Jimmy Page. Not only that but he did 15 years for armed robbery and was a pall-bearer at Reggie Kray's funeral. The perfect man to act as the bad cop to Ray Wilkins good cop at Fulham."
74 min: Passley there with the worst cross of all time, sliced miserably out for a goal-kick.
73 min: "I hold a Fulham season ticket," says William Peake. "It's been really helpful this season as I had a wonky dinner table and it is just the perfect fit to even it out. Soup is now less of a drama to consume. Magic."
72 min: I said score, you idiots! Not block your own team-mate's goalbound headers, as Porter did to Brayford's here!
71 min: Like this, Scougall shooting from the edge of the area, Hangeland blocking wide for a corner. Now score!
70 min: WILL SOMEONE PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, DO SOMETHING.
68 min: Dejagah tricks his way past two challenges and is cynically fouled by Harris, who should receive his second yellow card. Neil Swarbrick has fallen asleep, though, and just about manages to wake up to award a free-kick which is a complete waste of time. Before it, Steve Sidwell replaced Private Scott E. Parker.
68 min: Aggravation.
66 min: An aimless cross from Duff is inadvertently flicked by Collins and Howard has to react quickly to tip wide, for that was destined for the corner. "Rodallega has obviously just been told that, rather than actually play in it, he will have to follow the rest of the match on the MBM (including extra-time if necessary)," says Simon McMahon.
64 min: Clarke Carlisle reckons that someone should let fly from 30 yards and hit the bar, just to give everyone a lift. I never understand the words that come out of that man's mouth.
63 min: This is bizarre. Rodallega still has his head buried in his hands and a team-mate has rather tentatively draped a coat over his back.
61 min: Rodallega now appears to be crying on the bench. He's being consoled by a Fulham member of staff.
60 min: Some Fulham changes. Ashkan Dejagah is on for Hudo Rodallega, whose look of bafflement at being given the look is a thing of beauty, an expression that suggests he thinks he's put in a performance akin to Messi's against Arsenal in 2010, rather than one in which the ball has mostly bounced witlessly off his head and out for throw-ins. And Damien Duff is on for Alex Kacaniklic.
57 min: Betty Draper reckons that only boring people get bored, but I'd like to show her this match and then see if she still thinks that. And then take her out for dinner. Need to build a time machine first, though.
55 min: In desperate search of entertainment, the ITV cameraman has located Alan Curbishley in the stands. Curbzzzzzz. That'll do it. Down on the pitch, Dempsey has a swing and his shot is deflected out for a corner.
54 min: A clearance from Howard bounces all the way through to Stockdale. Shot on target!
52 min: Actually, Ashdown reckons that "this is already in our top four or five displays of the season." Blimey, I didn't realise how bad it had become for you lot. I blame Tevez.
51 min: "As a Blades fan in Australia, the "sleep or watch United?" has been tVery much tipped in favour of sleep the past couple of seasons," says Richard Quance. "Having just woken up and scanned your MBM, I'm going for the back to sleep option again." John Ashdown, the world's second most prominent Blade in the world after that toaster, Sean Bean, is in the office. The game is in London, he lives in London and he's not at Craven Cottage. That sums it all up.
49 min: Bob Harris has a clunk from the left but it's straight at Stockdale.
48 min: Sheffield United break with a two-on-two possession. Within 10 seconds, Fulham have a throw.
47 min: The free-kick isn't in a terrible position for a shot actually - and Harris fancies this. With Stockdale only putting two men in the wall, he curls the ball over it but a yard or two over the bar.
46 min: Let's do this. Sheffield United are on the attack immediately, Murphy winning a free-kick on the right after a clumsy foul by Amorebieta.
"It's curious that Nantes have seen fit to employ a (not-so-) Fab Barthez impersonator (or perhaps the real Fab?) as goalkeeper against PSG," says Lou Roper.
"I understand that Swansea have been in rotten form in the past couple of months but surely there are some pretty obvious mitigating circumstances that deserve to be taken into account (e.g. very challenging fixture list, endless injuries to an already small squad, etc)," says David Wall. "Given how sensible and well thought out Swansea's decisions about management have been in the recent past it seems very out of character for Hugh Jenkins to have sacked Laudrup, and what does he expect a novice caretaker to be able to achieve that the Dane couldn't in the same conditions? Has he been irked by being usurped as the most high-profile chairman in Wales by Vincent down the road so is making a bid to regain his status? Doesn't he realise that it's not the case that all publicity is good publicity?" I doubt Laudrup will mind, he was probably off in the summer anyway.
Half-time entertainment with Zlatan Ibrahimovic. This is going on elsewhere.
I'll pay someone to do the second half.
45 min+2: "I'm sure you'll be relieved to know I am currently tonking down the Massachusetts turnpike outside Boston RIVETED to your mbm," says John Marshall. "As a long time Blades fan I can confirm we look a lot more accomplished from 3000 miles away."
45 min+1: Kasami curls the corner to the far post and Burn rises highest and weirdly heads back across goal, rather than in. He looked certain to score. But he didn't and nor did any of his team-mates.
45 min: Tankovic's cross from the left is harmless enough, at least until McGinn haplessly miscontrols it behind for a corner, which is, of course, a waste of time. Kasami then wins another corner on the right.
42 min: Oh Fulham. Sheffield United weave some pretty patterns down the left and Scougall wriggles into the area, only to be denied by Amorebieta, who promptly and hospitably gives the ball back to the visitors, because why not, let's make this interesting. Scougall then diddles his way to the byline and his low cross is scooped up into the air and then put behind for a corner, Fulham getting away with some extremely farcical defending. A trio of corners come to nothing.
41 min: Ok, I admit it, I missed who it was Harris fouled. But now I know because Harris has fouled Passley - and "again" apparently. He's actually lucky not to receive a second booking for catching Passley on his shin with his studs.
40 min: Just going to leave that there and see if anyone notices I never said who Harris fouled. It's an mbm experiment.
39 min: Bob Harris is booked for a crunching foul on
38 min: If a football match is happening and no one cares, is it really happening? Maguire heads wide from another corner from the right. "Three life long Blades here, watching in an Irish bar in The Hague," says Andrew Sparrow. "Even we're struggling to pay attention to this..."
37 min: Fulham are useless. I can't think of a use for them. "I remember that 4-0 humiliation, and I remember screaming at the TV for the first half and then spending the second half curled up in a ball and sobbing on the floor," says Daniel Stauss. "A first half hat-trick! The horror." Robbie Keane!
36 min: Sheffield United are starting to believe. They know that this Fulham side isn't up to much. Coady creates some space on the right and lobs a cross to the far post, where Murphy rises above Passley and heads a few yards wide.
35 min: Once again, Kacaniklic dithers in his own half and is smothered by Brayford, who robs him of the ball, romps forward and then fires high and wide from 20 yards. Stockdale wasn't that concerned.
34 min: A corner to Sheffield United on the right. The noise from their end grows. They're having fun, which is nice. It's not often you get to go to Craven Cottage. The corner is flipped in and Porter flicks a header wide. Up the other end, Dempsey and Rodallega try a one-two but the Colombian's touch when seemingly through on goal is too heavy and Howard gathers.
31 min: Kasami drills a pass into Rodallega's feet. With his back to goal, he cleverly lays it back to Dempsey, who batters a first-time volley high and wide from the edge of the area. He didn't have time to take a touch.
30 min: Just saying this now, this better not go to extra-time.
29 min: Kasami wins possession in a deep position on the right with a firm challenge and hoicks a cross into the area. Sheffield United make a mess of getting it away, two defenders going for the ball, but there's nothing for them to worry about, Tankovic slashing a volley well over from 18 yards.
27 min: Kacaniklic loses the ball with an errant pass on the right, allowing Flynn to dash away from him on the right. He looks for Porter in the middle but Hangeland is assured in the middle. "I've considered your question many times over the years, Jake, with the other half and children too, and the answer is always the same," roars Simon McMahon. "Be it the pool table, dartboard or putting green, never, ever, let them win. By all means give them some encouragement - I'm not Competitive Dad from The Fast Show - but just don't let them win. You'll never hear the end of it."
26 min: Tankovic tanks one straight at Howard from 25 yards out.
25 min: It seems that Porter will be able to continue.
24 min: Porter is down in the centre circle after appearing to turn his ankle on the turf. A man with a magic sponge is on to treat him.
22 min: This is every bit as thrilling as we thought it would be.
21 min: "As a fan of both the USMNT and Seattle Sounders FC (MLS - It's not as bad as you think!), I'd really like to see Clint Dempsey do something during his loan spell with Fulham," says Daniel Stauss. "Really, anything at all would be ok. As far as "let" the better half win? She's the merciless one. Our 7 year old learned all of his trash-talking skills from his momma." I saw a Sounders game in a Sounders bar last year. They lost 4-0 to LA Galaxy and were torn apart by Robbie Keane. Oh, the shame.
20 min: A chance for Fulham to put some pressure on the visitors, then. But Kasami heads the floated free-kick wide at the far post.
19 min: Fulham win a free-kick just outside the area on the left as Tankovic, which is foreign for "tank", is pulled over. A bearded Sheffield United player bellows angrily in Neil Swarbrick's face but he's unmoved.
18 min: But Maguire heads the corner well over. Ah well. Both efforts in these opening 18 minutes have come from Sheffield United, even though they've not seen much of the ball.
17 min: Brayford's driven cross is deflected behind for a corner. Sheffield United's fans are pleased.
15 min: Murphy tries to outpace Passley on the left but the young right-back is having none of it, shepherding the ball out of play for a goal-kick.
13 min: Fulham are trying to spray the ball about in confident style, problem being this team has hardly played with each other before, so there's an obvious and expected lack of cohesion. It's scrappy.
12 min: "In truth Tiziana Giansante is my girlfriend's name says Steve Phillips," says Steve Phillips. "In fact I find both tonight's and tomorrow night's ties intriguing as the first one sees two sides who this season are used to losing and someone has to win. Differently, tomorrow, regardless of the divisions they play in, two teams are up against each who are in the habit of winning and someone has to lose. I think this is significant in cup football. Then again Rochdale failed to get the better of Sheffield Wednesday."
I did wonder, Steve. Hey, my neighbour's a Preston fan. He never wants to talk about football, strangely. Or maybe he doesn't want to talk to me. But that can't be it! Ha! Ha ha ha!
10 min: But maybe something is going to happen. Kasami and Dempsey combine neatly on the right and the American has his heels clipped by McGinn around 25 yards from goal in a central position. Dempsey slams it into the wall. He probably won't write a rap about it.
8 min: In many ways, you could say that showing no mercy is dealing out a useful lesson in the harsh realities of adult life. You're performing a favour. No, there's not a lot going on yet.
7 min: A question for all you romantics out there. It's for a friend. Let's call him ... Jake Steinburg. Would you ever let your better half win, say, a game of pool in order to keep them sweet? Or do you show no mercy, like Turk taking on Carla in an arm wrestle?
5 min: Fulham are meandering. "I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict this for Said & Done on Sunday," says Fraser Thomas. Poor Fulham and Sheffield United, overshadowed by Swansea City.
4 min: The number of Fulham fans who have stayed away at least means we get to see the quaint wooden seats in the stand opposite the TV cameras. A real throwback.
2 min: Sheffield United go so close to taking an early lead! Parker bottled a challenge with Flynn outside the area and the ball broke to Murphy, who whipped an instant shot just wide of the right post. Stockdale was beaten. "Can we be sure Laudrup really has been sacked?" says Simon McMahon. Some of the sackings will be false.
Peep! Football! Fulham, kicking from left to right, get us going. The visiting fans are making a racket. "As we are destined to get the better of Forest tomorrow night please, please please let it be Fulham," says Tiziana Giansante. "Sheffield United are probably wise to us, whereas Fulham, in total diasarray, are there for the taking and hence the North End, with Kevin Davies bullying them into submission, would be odds-on favourites for the quarter finals. Plus, Craven Cottage is a nice ground. Preston's name IS on the cup."
Here come the teams. Fulham are in white, Sheffield United are in yellow, Craven Cottage is in silence.
Kevin Pietersen for Swansea!
Some breaking news from south Wales - Michael Laudrup has just been sacked by Swansea City. They were dreadful at West Ham on Saturday. Come in, Garry Monk, your time has come.
Let's have us some teams.
Fulham: Stockdale; Passley, Hangeland, Burn, Amorebieta; Kasami, Tankovic, Parker, Kacaniklia; Dempsey; Rodallega. Subs: Stekelenburg, Sidwell, Karagounis, Duff, Dejagah, David, Christensen.
Sheffield United: Howard; Brayford, Maguire, Collins, Harris; Flynn, Coady, McGinn, Scougall; Porter, Murphy. Subs: Long, Hill, Baxter, Miller, Kennedy, De Girolamo, Dimaio.
Referee: Neil Swarbrick.
Evening. In theory, the chance to both watch and participate in a football match should be an occasion embraced by anyone with a passing interest in the sport. And yet, it doesn't always work like that. I don't know if I should admit this to you, whether my license to journalise will be revoked, but there have been occasions - Thursday nights on Channel Five, say – when I have decided there are better things to do than spend my evening watching a Europa League group match - and I say that as an apparently sane person who paid cash money to watch the second leg of West Ham's semi-final gubbing by Manchester City the other week. Me and 11,093 other ... sane people.
This, then, feels like one of those occasions, a match that both Fulham and Sheffield United probably could have done without, to the extent that both sides probably wouldn't have been too bothered about losing the first game at Brammal Lane. But Darren Bent's farcical late miss for Fulham put paid to that possibility and so here we are, Fulham v Sheffield United in the fourth round of the FA Cup on a nondescript February evening at an empty Craven Cottage. In truth, Fulham, who are decidedly not hot but who are dropping like it is, probably have about as much interest in this as I do in neknominations (is that really an acceptable way for grown men to carry on?). They are bottom of the Premier League, after all, even though they have
Sir Alex Ferguson Rene Meulenseteen in the dug-out. Sheffield United, meanwhile, are 23rd in League One.
Still. It could be all right. Chance of an upset, maybe. A look at some of Fulham's young players. And football, a chance to watch a game of football, talk about the football, write about the football, maybe even enjoy the football. Never know. Might be fun.