At home against third-tier opposition, Fulham had an opportunity for little harmless escapism, with a Sheffield United team floundering at the bottom of League One more likely to give the Cottagers momentum than mount a serious FA Cup challenge. Though they’d managed to earn a replay at Bramall Lane, a place in the FA Cup’s fifth round was too much of a reach for a Blades team currently sitting 67th in English soccer.
At least, under normal circumstances it would be too much to ask. But those normal circumstances don’t account of how Fulham’s evermore atrocious form – a state that reached a new nadir on Tuesday. Held scoreless for 120 minutes against a team languishing near the bottom of League One, the Cottagers were embarrassingly escorted out of the FA Cup, with Shaun Miller’s 119th minute goal giving Sheffield United a 1-0 win in West London.
According to STATS, Inc., a team that saw Clint Dempsey, Alexander Kacaniklic, and Pajtim Kasami restored to the starting XI could only muster two shots on target, one of which was credited to goalkeeper David Stockdale. Sheffield United were only one better, the teams’ five shots on goal part of two mind-numbing hour London’s The Guardian described as “what may well have been the worst match of all time.”
Minutes before penalty kicks, Miller gave viewers a reprieve, allowing the tie of end after two ennui-inducing hours. Converting a corner with the last chance of the game, Miller’s header from two yards out secured a place in the competition’s fifth round, where Sheffield United will host the winner of Wednesday’s Nottingham Forest-Preston North End replay.
As for Fulham, Old Trafford awaits, with the Cottagers set to face fellow strugglers Manchester United this weekend. But whereas the Red Devils are trying to transcend their merely good selves, Fulham’s problems are more severe. The Whites are fighting for their first division survival, but instead of using Tuesday as an opportunity to build toward that goal, Fulham’s given another indication that relegation is closer than it appears.