Walsall 1-0 Blades - match report
United's hopes of a Wembley visit in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy were dashed at Walsall on Wednesday night.
A second half header from Romaine Sawyers decided this area quarter-final at the Banks's Stadium.
United's hopes of glory now lie in three competitions after defeat in this encounter, televised live on Sky Sports.
Boss Clough made the maximum amount of changes allowed, five, for the tie at the Banks's Stadium.
Goalkeeper Turner, McGahey, McGinn, De Girolamo and Porter all started, the latter as the focal point of the frontline.
Neither side was able to put a stamp on the game early on with well organised defences limiting the amount of chances considerably, particularly in the opening half hour. Basham's tackle halted Cook in his tracks on 12 minutes and soon after McGahey and Harris picked up bookings in separate incidents.
On 33 minutes, after Porter's flick-on, Reed's shot was on target but saved by O'Donnell and Alcock half-volleyed well wide after latching onto Basham's pass. As half-time approached, Walsall's Bradshaw beat the offside trap but was outfoxed by Turner and late on Forde took the ball well on his chest but shot across goal and wide.
Early in the second half it was evident that the central defensive pairing of Basham and McGahey were continuing the policy of attempting to carry the ball out of the backline. The first opportunity of the half also fell to the Blades but the 25-yard free-kick from Harris was low and wide.
Walsall's first second half chance was Cook cutting inside and shooting, which was deflected wide, the resulting corner, however, was decisive. Forde delivered, SAWYERS won the header and despite Alcock's efforts, the ball squirmed over the line for the opening goal.
Manset almost doubled the lead soon after, cutting inside from the left before stinging the palms of Turner, but the Blades soon hit back. Porter clipped the ball away from O'Donnell but there was no penalty forthcoming when the striker fell under the goalkeeper's challenge, whilst a couple of flashes from De Girolamo put the home side on the back foot. Reed's shot on 67 minutes needed to be pushed around the post by the home goalkeeper.
Walsall used up all their substitutions with around 20 minutes to go and one of their replacements went close on 74 minutes but Manset's chip, with Turner committed, was over the crossbar.
De Girolamo fired wide on 77 minutes and Clough made a double change moments later, Scougall and Baxter being introduced and the latter's first contribution was to twist and turn on the edge of the box but his appeal or a foul was ignored.
Campbell-Ryce was United's last change, replace the tiring De Girolamo, and United continued to force the issue, Flynn almost connected with a deep cross from Harris. Turner, however, had to make a fingertip save from Grimes on 86 minutes following a break.
Baxter almost made telling connections to crosses from Alcock and Reed as the full-time whistle approached. Four added minutes was announced and there was 'entertainment' with the invasion of a male streaker but the Blades were unable to force another chance.
Walsall: O'Donnell, Purkiss, Taylor, Downing, A. Chambers, Bradshaw (Manset 45), Sawyers, Cain (Mantom 71), J. Chambers, Cook (Grimes 71), Forde.
Unused: O'Connor, MacGillivray.
Blades: Turner, Alcock, Harris, Basham, Flynn, Doyle, McGinn (Scougall 79), McGahey, Porter (Baxter 79), Reed, De Girolamo (Campbell-Ryce 83).
Unused: Howard, Kennedy.