Sheffield United are getting rather good at this. Following victories over Premier League sides Southampton and West Ham in the League Cup this season that have propelled them to the semi-final, the Blades carried on the trend at Loftus Road on Sunday, dumping Queen’s Park Rangers out of the FA Cup to increase the pressure on Harry Redknapp.
Marc McNulty and two goals from Jamal Campbell-Ryce made the difference as League One side United humiliated QPR.
The result continued United’s remarkable recent cup record; Nigel Clough’s men also reached the FA Cup semi-finals last season, beating Aston Villa and Fulham along the way. The Blades have now put nine top-flight opponents to the sword in the FA Cup – more than any other side in the Premier League era.
“They were better than us,” admitted Redknapp, who made seven changes from the side that drew 1-1 with Swansea on New Year’s Day. “They looked like a team that hadn’t played for 10 days, and we looked like a team that has played four games in 10 days.
“I had to play four or five players who have played three games in a short period, but I had no one else. There’s no point shouting and screaming. But the last goal today summed us up, it was a horrendous goal.”
It continues QPR’s trend of early exits, several against lower-division opposition, in the 18 years since they last made it past the FA Cup third round without needing a replay. The west London outfit have won only two cup ties in the last 11 years.
QRR made a decent start, with Leroy Fer seeing a stinging shot saved at the near post by keeper Mark Howard, who also denied Jordon Mutch. But they never looked comfortable at the back and Campbell-Ryce gave the hapless Armand Traoré the runaround on the right flank.
Stefan Scougall was also a constant threat for the visitors and fired over before they eventually went ahead nine minutes before half-time courtesy of McNulty’s ninth goal of the season. McNulty slotted in after being put through by Louis Reed’s pass.
Redknapp sent Bobby Zamora on at half-time, but United were two ahead within four minutes of the restart.
Traoré needlessly conceded the corner and Alex McCarthy, in for the rested Rob Green, got nowhere near Reed’s right-wing delivery. After the ball bounced off Mutch, Campbell-Ryce had the simple task of scoring from close range.
Zamora squandered a golden opportunity to pull a goal back when he headed Matt Phillips’ cross wide of the target – and Phillips was also guilty of a glaring miss, slicing high and wide from inside the box following a surging run by Mauricio Isla.
Fer’s stoppage-time error – a weak header towards his keeper latched upon by Campbell-Ryce, who rounded McCarthy before scoring – summed up their display and they were booed off by the home fans at the final whistle.
The Sheffield United coach, Chris Morgan, said: “We were confident but when you come away to Premier League sides you’ve got to work hard and get the blocks in like we did.
“We know we can come and compete with top teams. It’s great to have a run in the Cup – great for supporters and for the revenue of the club.”
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