Sheffield United pulled off one of the shocks of the FA Cup third round by beating a lacklustre Aston Villa team 2-1 at Villa Park.
A goal in each half by Jamie Murphy and Ryan Flynn saw Nigel Clough’s underdogs through to Round 4 with an emphatic victory against a team two divisions higher.
The Blades first sliced into the team from the Premier League with 19 minutes gone when midfielder Murphy received the ball on the left hand touch line. He cut inside into the penalty area and his shot took a wicked deflection off Villa centre back Ciaran Clark and flew past Villa keeper Jed Steer.
Villa struggled to create openings but just before half-time off-form Villa striker Christian Benteke had two good chances to grab the equaliser but failed to trouble Sheffield ‘keeper George Long, the second the Belgian headed wide when it looked easier to hit the net.
On the half time whistle the home team were greeted by loud boos from their supporters venting frustrations at manager Paul Lambert who reportedly said the famous trophy was not one of his top priorities for the season.
If anyone thought United would defend the one goal lead until the final whistle, they were completely wrong as former Derby manager Clough sent his team out to attack and they certainly looked the most likely to score as Villa struggled to break down the solid wall of yellow shirts.
Chris Porter fired wide and Ryan Flynn forced goalkeeper Steer to punch clear before Villa finally made the breakthrough on 75 minutes. Ashley Westwood swung a curling corner in from the left hand side and Andreas Weimann's shot cannoned into the path of substitute Nicklas Hellenius on the left of the penalty spot and the substitute made no mistake, firing the ball past Sheffield keeper Long from 10 yards.
Unfazed by the possibility of a Villa comeback the team situated in 18th position in League One launched an immediate reply. Another example of poor defending by the home team left United striker Chris Porter free on the right hand side of the penalty area but he fired over when it looked easier to score.
On 81 minutes Clough sent on wide man Conor Coady who received the ball on the edge of the penalty area. He slipped a pass to Ryan Flynn who cut into the centre of the area from the right and fired the ball home with his left foot to devastate the Villa team and fans and send the 6,000 Blades supporters into a state of euphoria.
For Villa there was no way back and at the final whistle the players were greeted by more angry boos and jeers as some fans ripped up their tickets and threw them at manager Paul Lambert as a gesture of their frustrations.
The Villa boss admitted he hated losing but was positive about his team saying “I can’t fault their endeavour”. He also emphasised that he respected the proud history of the FA Cup and said he had put out a strong team in an attempt to win the game.
Blades manager Nigel Clough was absolutely delighted with his team’s performance. “I thought the players were outstanding. It was a huge, huge effort on their part. We played some exceptional stuff today,” he said.