Blades book fifth-round spot as Billy Sharp helps sink Plymouth
Sheffield United secured just their third win of the season as fans’ favourite Billy Sharp helped Chris Wilder’s men avoid an FA Cup upset against Plymouth.
The Blades have endured a wretched campaign but the Premier League’s bottom side have shown flickers of life recently, making it three wins from four matches in all competitions on Saturday.
Veteran striker Sharp was the key man at Bramall Lane, providing a lovely cross for Chris Basham’s opener before scoring a fine goal early in the second half of a 2-1 fourth-round win against League One side Plymouth.
Panutche Camara’s goal made it a nervy final 15 minutes, but the Blades held on to set up a home fifth-round tie against Bristol City.
The hosts dominated the opening period and their pressure told as half-time approached as Sharp, one of two changes made by Wilder, clipped over for Basham to head home.
The 34-year-old found the net himself after impressively rounding the goalkeeper 90 seconds into the second half, which proved enough to see them progress.
The hosts flew out of the blocks, with Rhian Brewster, Wilder’s other alteration, looking determined to open his account, sending a downward header wide before stinging the palms of keeper Michael Cooper from 20 yards.
The ex-Liverpool striker was unable to make clean contact with a low John Fleck cross as the home side dominated proceedings, only for Plymouth to waste a great chance to score against the run of play.
After patient build-up down the left, Luke Jephcott cut the ball back and Camara blazed over from close range, a huge let-off that jolted the Blades into life.
John Lundstram hammered a low effort narrowly wide before the video assistant referee checked Kelland Watts’ block from an Ethan Ampadu strike for handball.
Plymouth avoided conceding a spot-kick but their resistance would be broken in the 39th minute as Sharp sent a lovely cross for Basham to power home at the far post.
Conor Grant fired into the side-netting as Argyle looked to level before half-time, only for hope of an upset to be dented moments after the restart.
Oliver Norwood’s sent an outstanding pass through to Sharp, who kept his cool under pressure and rounded Cooper before directing into an empty net.
United were in control and Brewster saw a fierce half-volley saved before Sharp struck over after showing good strength and composure.
Will Aimson flashed a volley across the face of goal as Plymouth redoubled their efforts towards the end, with Ryan Lowe’s men clawing one back in the 75th minute.
Camara caught Lundstram in possession and burst into the box, where he turned home substitute Byron Moore’s cross to give the visitors hope.
Enda Stevens and Ampadu had efforts to put the tie to bed, with Moore lashing over for Plymouth and United substitute Oliver Burke denied by a superb Cooper save in stoppage time.