Hull City 5 Sheffield United 3 match report: Tom Huddlestone keeps FA Cup dream alive for Hull
Hull reach the FA Cup final for the first time in their history
Monday 14 April 2014
It might not be much consolation to Sheffield United, who saw a 2-1 lead obliterated early in the second half, but they forced Hull City to produce their very best football in order to reach the FA Cup final. The 5-3 scoreline does justice to a compelling game but not as much to the efforts of Nigel Clough’s team, who dominated the first half before Hull finally woke up and started playing football.
“I’m certainly proud,” said Nigel Clough afterwards, “and that feeling will grow when we look back at what we’ve achieved, and that we were close to making history.”
There are 42 places in the leagues between Hull and Sheffield United, who would have been the first ever third-tier team to reach an FA Cup final had they won. The only way that could have happened was with United at their best and Hull at their worst – and that is precisely how the game went for the first 45 minutes.
Arsenal’s FA Cup semi-final on Saturday showed the danger of top-flight complacency but Hull showed few obvious signs of having taken that in. They started the game at walking pace, almost as if they were still taking in the game at Anfield. With Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long cup-tied they did not have as much incisiveness up front as usual, but that does not excuse the lack of focus or control.
United out-ran and out-fought Hull for the whole of the first half, snapping into tackles, closing down spaces and showing for the ball, catching their opponents well off guard. When they took the lead, after 19 minutes, it was fully deserved. John Brayford took a short throw, received the return pass and whipped in a cross to the near post. Jose Baxter darted in front of Curtis Davies and bundled the ball in, before a poignant celebration in which the Liverpudlian kissed his black Hillsborough memorial armband.
Hull were rattled, United started to play with confidence and verve and their fans were cheering every pass. Even when Hull equalised, three minutes before the break, Yannick Sagbo turning in Jake Livermore’s perfect low cross, Sheffield United took it in their stride and went back in front before the break.
Jamie Murphy burst down the left, shook off Liam Rosenior and pulled the ball back. Hull, again, were sleeping, Stefan Scougall burst in between Davies and Maynor Figueroa and smacked the ball past Steve Harper.
“We were awful in the first half,” Bruce admitted. “I saw more mistakes in the first half-hour than I’ve seen in six months. We kept surrendering the ball, passing it back to them, we didn’t defend properly, didn’t pick up, didn’t do anything.”
It was Davies, not Bruce, who did the necessary at half-time. “I didn’t say much,” the manager added, “I just had a cup of tea. The b*********s were down to the captain, he was a proper captain.”
Matty Fryatt and Sone Aluko replaced Figueroa and George Boyd, and within three minutes Fryatt, who has started more games for Sheffield Wednesday this season than for Hull, drew them level at 2-2, turning in James Chester’s effort from two yards out after an uncleared corner.
Clough said that goal was the “killer blow” and Hull, woken up, started to play. Tom Huddlestone, the best player on the pitch, put them ahead by exchanging passes with David Meyler, shrugging off Michael Doyle with real authority and clipping the ball into the far corner.
The Hull fans were now ole-ing their passes. Bruce threw on Stephen Quinn and it only took him two minutes to score the fourth. Meyler slid a pass through to Livermore in the inside-right channel and Quinn nodded in the cross.
That should have been that but United would not go quietly and made added time more anxious than it ought to have been for Hull. Murphy volleyed Ryan Flynn’s header to make it 4-3, but United’s desperate pursuit of an equaliser only allowed Hull in on the break.
Ahmed Elmohamady set free Meyler, who confirmed Hull’s place in the final. United, meanwhile, have just five games left this season, but a message from Clough to take this feeling into next season.
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