Sheffield United booked their place in the fifth round of the FA Cup with a 2-1 home win over Plymouth Argyle on Saturday afternoon.
Goals from Chris Basham and Billy Sharp saw Chris Wilder’s men defeat Argyle by two goals to one, despite Panutche Camara’s late strike for Ryan Lowe’s team.
Argyle are going steady in League One this season, with Ryan Lowe’s side sitting just above midtable having lost only one of their last six games. Today was very much a chance for the Pilgrims to forget about the league campaign for a short while, and focus on pulling off an upset in the fourth round.
United, meanwhile, have struggled for wins this season, recording only one victory from their 19 Premier League outings this term. A win today, then, would give them a great deal of confidence to take into the league campaign.
It was Rhian Brewster who had a few chances for the Blades early on. After seeing his tame header saved easily by Mike Cooper, his next effort was hit with much more power a few minutes later, striking straight at the goalkeeper’s midriff from the edge of the area.
Brewster’s best chance of the three presented to him came a minute later, just shy of the 20-minute mark. John Fleck was afforded too much time to drive down the left channel, cutting the ball across goal before Brewster skewed a shot just wide on the outstretch.
Argyle had struggled to get into the game at this moment in time, but their first opportunity was a golden one. Lowe’s men played themselves out of trouble following United’s high press, and eventually a slick, passing move resulted in Luke Jephcott getting in behind down the left. He pulled the ball back for Panutche Camara to strike from 10 yards, but the midfielder blazed his effort way over the bar.
United nearly punished Argyle for their missed chance a minute later. Another dangerous cross from the left was cleared only as far as John Lundstram, who powered a strike wide of the post from 12 yards, despite the midfielder having time to take a touch.
A golden chance in quick succession for either side, then, and on the half-hour mark, United may well have had the opportunity to find an opener from the penalty spot.
A surging run forward by Ethan Ampadu resulted in the Chelsea loanee driving inside and firing an effort towards goal. The shot was blocked by Kelland Watts, whose arms were seemingly an unnatural position at the time. VAR intervened and was to squash those penalty shouts, though.
United weren’t left frustrated for much longer, though, as they broke the deadlock on 39 minutes. The hosts had to remain patient in and around the area as they looked to break down a compact Argyle defence, and in the end, Billy Sharp teed up a cross towards the back stick for Chris Basham to nod home.
A deserved lead for United heading into the half-time break, then, and the whistle blew not before Conor Grant found the side-netting, having broken free down the left.
United continued to dominate as the second half began, and on 47 minutes, they doubled their lead.
A crisp, driven through ball from Oliver Norwood found Billy Sharp, who coolly rounded Cooper and slotted home. 2-0 to United, and a mountain to climb for Argyle right after the interval.
The Blades could, and probably should have added a third only a couple of minutes later, but Cooper was there again to deny Brewster’s effort from close-range. A chance the former Liverpool man really should have buried with the goal at his mercy.
Lowe looked to add a bit of inspiration as he made three changes soon after. Ben Reeves replacing Tyrese Fornah in midfield, and Dom Telford and Byron Moore coming on for Ryan Hardie and Jephcott in attack.
Sharp threatened to double his tally for the afternoon in the 65th minute. The experienced forward profited from an Argyle defender losing his footing, but a good recovery resulted in him firing well over the bar.
Will Aimson was to come close for Argyle shortly after, however his volley across goal was just wide of Aaron Ramsdale’s goal.
On 75 minutes, Argyle found a goal back. Moore was the one to win possession in a dangerous area, before pulling the ball back for Camara to fire underneath Ramsdale.
Argyle had the wind in their sails at this point, with Reeves the next substitute to make an impact, curling a left-footed effort the wrong side of the far post.
As the visitors continued to threaten, Chris Wilder went for the kill, with David McGoldrick and Oliver Burke replacing the two strikers, Sharp and Brewster.
Four minutes were to be added on at the end of the contest, with Argyle mustering only a half chance as Moore fired a volley over on the angle.
Burke forced Cooper into a fine acrobatic save towards the latter stages, attempting to find the top corner from all of 25 yards.
That was to be that. United held onto their lead, booking their place in the fifth round despite a valiant second-half display from the visitors.
The Blades will face Bristol City in round five.