North End Pegged Back To Ensure Replay

By Joseph Richardsonpreston

Preston remain in the FA Cup 5th round draw, after a hard fought 1-1 result at home to Sheffield United.

Paul Gallagher’s long range free kick had given North End a deserved half time advantage.

But Diego de Girolamo levelled the tie with a close range effort midway through the second half.

The scoreline is a repeat of the home league game between the two sides at Deepdale in August.

Preston made six changes from their disappointing 1-1 draw against Yeovil, with Jermaine Beckford missing from the 18 with an ear infection.

On loan goalkeeper Sam Johnstone was cup tied, and replaced in net by Thorsten Stuckmann.

Nigel Clough made the mere eight alterations, with the second leg of the Capital One Cup semi-final against Tottenham clearly in mind.

The home side made a positive start, forcing a number of early corners, mainly through the guile of Gallagher.

Early efforts from Calum Woods, recalled to the side for Bailey Wright, and Gallagher failed to test visiting ‘keeper Mark Howard.

But it was the impressive Gallagher who broke the deadlock in spectacular fashion, 20 minutes in.

The Scot stepped up confidently, and his dipping shot from all of 35 yards, caught Howard by surprise, the ball nestling into the bottom corner.

It was all that the Lilywhites deserved for an enterprising start to the match.

Sheffield United rarely threatened in the opening half, Ben Davies wasting a good free kick opening with a tame effort on 26 minutes.

North End could have doubled their lead with five minutes to the break, Neil Kilkenny failing to divert the ball goalwards, after good approach play from Kyel Reid.

Into the second half and it was Preston who continued to be the better side.

But then Sheffield United were denied a certain equaliser, by a superb goal line clearance from Calum Woods.

Gallagher then went close to doubling Preston’s lead.

His shot from the left edge of the penalty area went inches wide of Howard’s far post.

The visitors then had a glorious opportunity to level, Michael Higdon leant back and blazed over the crossbar with the goal at his mercy.

At the other end, Tom Clarke then headed wide from Gallagher’s inswinging free kick.

That miss was to cost North End dearly, as the Blades levelled just a minute later.

Substitute Jamie Murphy’s deflected pull back found De Girolamo, who couldn’t miss from six yards out.

All of a sudden, the tie was back in the balance.

The ever present Italian went close again, this time his curling shot nearly finding the bottom corner, with Stuckmann beaten.

The Blades then spurned a golden chance to win it late on, Chris Basham miscuing a header.

5 minutes of stoppage time came and went, but in truth neither side did enough to force the winner.

Post-match, Simon Grayson was impressed by his side’s character: “If you’re not going to draw the game the next best thing is to be in the hat. We started the game extremely well, at a good tempo. I can’t fault how hard my players worked today, and we contributed to a cracking cup tie.”

A replay at Bramall Lane now awaits Preston, something both teams could potentially have done without, with important cup matches to come this week.

The Lilywhites will look to overhaul a two goal deficit away at Walsall in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

PNE: Stuckmann, Woods, Clarke, Huntington, Buchanan, Humphrey, Kilkenny (King 62’), Welsh (Davies 74’), Reid (Browne 85’), Gallagher, Ebanks-Blake

Sheffield United: Howard, Alcock, McGahey, Kennedy, Davies (Harris 82’), Reed, Dimaio (Murphy 56’), Basham, De Girolamo (McNulty 78’), Baxter, Higdon

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