Jan 26, 2014, 10:42 AM EDT
Fulham can look forward to another FA Cup replay after failing to score more than a goal against League One side Sheffield United, despite the Blades being down a man for nearly forty minutes.
Clint Dempsey didn’t even make the bench for Fulham’s trip to Bramhall Lane, possibly because the US international played the full 90 minutes against Arsenal last weekend, and René Meulensteen wasn’t prepared to risk him ahead of the midweek relegation battle against Swansea. All in all, the Cottagers made 11 changes to the side that lost 3-0 to Arsenal last time out, although Darren Bent still didn’t manage to make the starting XI.
But even the use of an entirely new side wasn’t enough to boost Fulham to victory over a side sitting two divisions below. In fact, it was Sheffield that scored first, in the 31st minute. Chris Porter easily wiggled through the Cottagers defense, got on the end of a low cross and neatly put the ball past David Stockdale.
The visitors very nearly got their own back minutes later, when Hugo Rodallega was brought down inside the area, but Andre Mariner waved away appeals. When halftime came around, the Blades were still on top, both in score and in play.
Fulham were thrown a lifeline when Sheffield captain Michael Doyle was sent off five minutes after the restart, although the hosts nearly doubled their lead just a minute after. But with fifteen minutes remaining, Rodallega leveled things up, sending a sharp shot into the bottom corner.
With Fulham sitting just a point outside the relegation zone, another replay is likely the last thing Meulensteen wanted. Now he’ll have to decide again: prioritize the league and send out another inexperienced squad to face the Blades, or field a few regular starters in hopes that a solid win will give his side a confidence boost.
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