Sheff Utd 3 – 2 Blackburn
Tommy Doyle took matters into his own hands to ensure he will emulate his
grandfathers by playing at Wembley after firing Sheffield United into the FA Cup
semi-finals with a stunning injury-time winner against Blackburn.
The Manchester City loanee has watched video footage of his paternal grandfather Mike Doyle and maternal grandfather Glyn Pardoe playing at the national stadium for City in the late 1960s and 1970s and he will now join them after his 25-yard thunderbolt earned a dramatic 3-2 quarter-final win at Bramall Lane.
His strike completed a late turnaround as United were heading out, trailing to goals from Ben Brereton Diaz and Sam Szmodics, which came either side of Sam Gallagher’s own goal, until the final 10 minutes.
Oli McBurnie got the Blades level in the 81st minute before Doyle’s heroics booked a first FA Cup semi-final spot for the Blades since 2014.
It was harsh on Blackburn, who have still yet to play at the new Wembley, but they will now focus all their attention on their Championship promotion push.
Paul Heckingbottom’s second-placed side are in an even stronger position in the league and the boss said in the build-up to the game that this has the potential to be one of the biggest weeks in the club’s history.
They had the early ascendency and created a fine chance to open the scoring in the eighth minute.
James McAtee raced on to John Egan’s defence-splitting pass, but never looked confident to score, with his shot well saved by Rovers goalkeeper Aynsley Pears.
But it was Blackburn that took a 21st-minute lead after they were awarded a penalty following a VAR check.
It did not seem obvious at the time, but Gallagher’s shot hit the outstretched arm of Jack Robinson and referee Tim Robinson awarded the spot-kick after checking the pitchside monitor. Brereton Diaz fired home from 12 yards for his 14th goal of the season.
The Blades’ response was swift and they levelled six minutes later.
A cleared corner fell to Max Lowe 25 yards out and his fierce effort was going wide until it hit the knee of Gallagher and was diverted into the far corner, leaving Pears a helpless onlooker.
The second half began in end-to-end fashion, with both sides having chances to go in front.
The hosts’ best opening came in the 57th minute as a stray pass from Lewis Travis again sent McAtee through on goal, but another weak finish saw Pears save with his legs. And that miss looked like it might prove pivotal as three minutes later Blackburn did go ahead.
Lowe’s poor touch in a dangerous position saw Gallagher claim possession. He slipped Szmodics in on goal and there was no mistake as the midfielder fired into the bottom corner.
The visitors sniffed glory and Ryan Hedges was inches from killing the game, but his low shot hit the inside of a post and rolled along the goal-line before going to safety.
The Blades were hardly banging the door down in search of an equaliser, but one came out of nothing in the 81st minute. McBurnie shrugged off two challenges in the area before rolling a smart finish into the far corner.
It was one-way traffic after that and Doyle completed the turnaround in fine style in the first minute of injury time as he fired home a thumping effort, which Pears could not keep out.
Heckingbottom hopes for ‘unbelievable FA Cup story’
Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom:
“For us to be in April and be in with a chance of automatic promotion and be in the semi-final of the FA Cup is an unbelievable achievement, it is fantastic and it is a big pat on the back for everyone at the club.
“I’m really focused and intent on us achieving something and not just getting credit, but getting an outcome.
“It’s been a fantastic season so far and I am focused on capping it off, it could end up being an unbelievable one.
“It could be an unbelievable story, but it’s just a story everyone should enjoy, people should enjoy the position we are in the league and in the FA Cup semi-final. And we will take it game by game now. It’s going to be tight and intense.”
Victors Sheffield United next face a trip to Norwich while Blackburn will visit Birmingham City. Both Championship ties take place on April 1, kick-off 3pm.