Bent fires high and wide to let Blades off the hook
Sheffield Utd 1 Fulham 1
It was the kind of missed chance that made Sandra Redknapp famous, with Darren Bent rediscovering the inaccuracy from two yards that has dogged his career just when he could have given Fulham a fortuitous place in the FA Cup fifth round.
Two yards out and with the goal at his mercy four minutes from full-time, Bent skewed his shot high and wide to evoke memories of the howler which signalled the end of his Tottenham career when Harry Redknapp suggested his "missus could do better."
As a result of Bent's miss, and a similar wasted opportunity by Philippe Senderos, Fulham must prepare for a replay tomorrow week after failing to overcome Nigel Clough's League One outfit.
The fact the Blades are languishing fourth from bottom of the third tier yet were still able to hold Fulham after being reduced to 10 men following the 53rd-minute dismissal of their captain, Dubliner Michael Doyle, emphasised the paucity of the Premier League team's performance.
"Looking at the second half, we should be able to put the game away after the red card," Fulham manager Rene Meulensteen said. "But maybe we have been lucky because they had a penalty that could have been given. Then again, Darren should have scored. He is disappointed, but he hasn't said anything. He knows."
Meulensteen's admission that the home side were unfortunate not to be handed a penalty after 71 minutes, following Aaron Hughes' foul on Ryan Flynn, was echoed by Clough, who erupted following Andre Marriner's refusal to award a spot-kick.
Clough and Marriner exchanged words on the touchline following the incident and the United manager insisted that the Premier League official had failed his team.
"Andre is one of the nicest guys you will meet, but some of his decisions today were not the greatest," Clough said.
After incessant rain fell overnight, Marriner was forced to undertake two pitch inspections before passing the sodden surface fit just an hour before kick-off.
United deservedly opened the scoring on 31 minutes when Chris Porter netted at the near post following a cross by Harry Maguire.
The red card gave Fulham a route back into the game, but they took their time to navigate themselves to safety. They finally took advantage of their extra man when Hugo Rodallega scored from 20 yards after 75 minutes to equalise.
It was harsh on United, but with Senderos and Bent missing open goals in the final stages they at least secured a second shot at an upset. (© Daily Telegraph, London)