Preston 1-1 Blades - report
United's barrage of cup fixtures continued with a replay needed to decide this FA Cup fourth round tie.
Less than 24 hours after Kieron Freeman, Paul Coutts and John Brayford signed for the Blades, Nigel Clough's side played out another close encounter with Preston North End.
At Deepdale, Paul Gallagher gave Preston the lead before Diego De Girolamo's first Blades goal secured a draw.
Boss Clough made a total of eight changes for today's all Sky Bet League One tie - Preston made six of their own. Baxter, a scorer at Deepdale earlier in the season, skippered the team, which included four teenagers and Davies making his first appearance following a foot injury sustained in October.
The make-up of the Blades line-up was interesting, starting with three at the back, Davies and Alcock in wing back positions, Dimaio, Reed and Baxter in midfield and Higdon and De Girolamo as the front two.
The home side looked the more threatening early on, Gallagher particularly - he started and almost finished a move on eight minutes but the subsequent shot was deflected wide. The former Blades loanee did, however, open the scoring soon after. Kennedy was adjudged to have fouled Reid 30 yards out and GALLAGHER's pin-point free-kick found the bottom corner of Howard's net.
A couple of Davies free-kicks gave United opportunities to get back into the game. His first saw Higdon win the initial header but Basham could not get on the end of it and the second was a shot at goal, but was wide of the near post.
During the first half United also reverted to 4-4-2 with Basham moving into midfield which coincided with chances drying up for both sides. Baxter was industrious but neither Stuckmann nor Howard were troubled again before the half-time break.
The first chance of the second half was the result of a mistake by De Girolamo, but Howard saved from Reid's 25-yard shot. It was the start of an eventful ten minutes, in terms of chances. From Basham's flick, De Girolamo beat Stuckmann but Woods cleared off the line and then Baxter shot at the home goalkeeper.
For Preston, Reid's mazy run ended with his shot being deflected wide and then Gallagher curled just past the post, whilst Murphy was introduced for the Blades and was quickly denied by Stuckmann.
The Blades were applying the majority of pressure and Higdon thought he should have had a penalty following Huntington's challenge but referee Stroud was unmoved. Higdon also fired over from Murphy's pass on 65 minutes.
Kennedy was the first to be booked and Preston went very close to adding a second when Clarke met Gallagher's free-kick but United were continuing to be the aggressors with regards to attacking and the leveller arrived on 68 minutes. Baxter went early with a free-kick and Murphy got around the back of the defence before pulling back for DE GIROLAMO to force the ball home in front of the 2,819 Blades fans.
De Girolamo went close to adding a second following Reed's pass before the goalscorer was replaced by McNulty.
As the last 10 minutes approached, Gallagher shot at Howard and Baxter was booked for kicking the ball away before Harris replaced the tiring Davies. Late on Reed was book despite appearing to win the ball.
Huntington headed at Howard from a late, deep free-kick and five minutes of added time gave both sides hope of snatching a winner but apart from late corner when the Blades fans appealed for handball against Huntington, there were little opportunity for a winner.
Preston: Stuckman, Clarke, Humphrey, Kilkenny (King 62), Gallagher, Woods, Buchanan, Reid, Welsh (Davies 74), Huntington, Ebanks-Blake.
Unused: Hudson, Laird, Wiseman, Brownhill, Browne.
Blades: Howard, Alcock, Basham, Baxter, Davies (Harris 82), McGahey, Higdon, Reed, De Girolamo (McNulty 78), Kennedy, Dimaio (Murphy 56).
Unused: Long, Doyle, Scougall, Campbell-Ryce.