FA Cup: Sheffield United see off Charlton to book semi-final spot
Last Updated: 09/03/14 7:34pm
Sheffield United's FA Cup fairytale will take them to Wembley following a 2-0 victory over Charlton Athletic at the quarter-final stage.
Ryan Flynn and John Brayford got the goals at a packed Bramall Lane to keep Nigel Clough's League One giant-killers in the hunt for major silverware.
A cagey contest sprung to life just past the hour mark, with there little to choose between the two sides before Jose Baxter swung over a cross from the left and Flynn arrived on cue at the back post to poke home.
Suddenly the Blades were rampant and doubled their lead within two minutes as Brayford was teed up 20 yards from goal and saw a low drive flick off Richard Wood to leave Addicks goalkeeper Ben Hamer wrong-footed.
Clough's side become the first team from the third tier to reach the last four of the competition since Wycombe Wanderers in 2001 and have extended their remarkable winning sequence to nine matches in all competitions.
The Blades were spiralling towards relegation when former Derby boss Clough took over in November, but five months later the club are daring to believe a late run on the play-offs is on, as well as now securing their place in the FA Cup semi-finals for the first time in 11 years.
United had swept aside Aston Villa, Fulham and Nottingham Forest in previous rounds and, save for a competitive first period, a determined Charlton could do little to stem the red and white tide.
Clough made seven changes to his starting line-up from the side that beat Peterborough in midweek. Defenders Bob Harris, Brayford and Harry Maguire, midfielders Flynn, Jamie Murphy and Stefan Scougall, plus striker Conor Coady all returned.
Charlton striker Marcus Tudgay, in for Astrit Ajdarevic, was Charlton's only change.
The Blades started full of purpose, as expected after extending their winning streak on Tuesday night, and despite the changes looked anything but disjointed in the opening stages.
But Charlton made clear their own intentions in front of a sold-out Bramall Lane crowd of 30,040 - swelled by 5,000 Addicks fans - as both sides ensured a helter-skelter start without creating clear chances.
Tudgay's shot following Simon Church's lay-off was turned away by home goalkeeper Mark Howard and at the other end Blades defender Harris drove inches over the crossbar shortly before the break after Murphy had played the ball into his path.
Blades' impressive centre-half Maguire turned sharply in the opposition box to fire the first effort of the second half just wide and Coady was inches away from connecting with Flynn's fine through-ball.
Charlton then spurned the best chance of the game up to that point. Tudgay did well to hook the ball back from the by-line, but Callum Harriott, who scored against Sheffield Wednesday in the previous round, dragged his shot wide from 10 yards.
It proved a costly miss as the Blades struck twice in as many minutes to seize control of the tie.
Flynn forced home the opening goal from six yards in the 65th minute with the sole of his right boot after Baxter's curling cross from the left bounced into his path.
And before the home fans could catch breath, Brayford's low drive from the edge of the area took a deflection to wrong-foot Hamer and nestle in his bottom left-hand corner.
Coady thought he had added a third with 13 minutes left after the ball rebounded back off the post, but his effort was ruled out for offside.
Charlton substitute Reza Ghoochannejhad went close in the closing stages, but Blades keeper Howard turned away his shot in style to ensure a sixth consecutive clean sheet for the home side and their place in the last four of the cup.
|Sheffield United||Team Statistics||Charlton Athletic|
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|2||Shots on Target||2|
|6||Shots off Target||3|
|46.6||1st Half Poss.||53.4|
|40.1||2nd Half Poss.||59.9|