Sheffield United 2-1 AFC Fylde, FA Cup third round


Jordan Williams pulled a goal back for non-league AFC Fylde

AFC Fylde, the last non-league club standing in the FA Cup, bowed out of the competition despite giving a much-changed Sheffield United a scare.

Callum Robinson scored a deflected opener for the Premier League side – 104 places above their National League opponents on the football ladder.

Leon Clarke added a second after the break for a United side showing 11 changes from their previous match.

Jordan Williams pulled one back, but Chris Wilder’s side saw out the tie.

Wilder, whose line-up at kick-off had made just 14 Premier League starts between them, avoided a repeat of last season’s FA Cup third-round exit, when United were beaten at home by Barnet, also of the National League.

Robinson opened the scoring with a shot on turn from Luke Freeman’s cross which came off Coasters captain Neill Byrne before hitting the net.

Kieron Freeman’s looping attempt was tipped on to the bar by Fylde keeper Sam Hornby, but the home side then lost their Dutch debutant keeper Michael Verrips to injury as he was involved in a collision with team-mate Kean Bryan.

The visitors hit back strongly, with Alex Whitmore wasting a great chance to equalise after the break as he sent a free header wide.

But 34-year-old striker Clarke – who has played professionally for 17 clubs – then tapped home United’s second, with the ball rolling into his path after Luke Freeman’s attempt hit a post.

Former Rochdale winger Williams did find the net for Fylde, lobbing substitute keeper Dean Henderson following a lovely ball over the top of the defence.

But the Blades, who are on course for their best top-flight finish since 1974-75, secured their place in round four.

Fylde seek to replicate cup spirit in relegation scrap

AFC Fylde are in the National League relegation zone – two points from safety – yet went close to forcing a replay.

Soon after Williams’ goal, he was presented with a chance of equalising but fired into the side netting.

At the final whistle, Coasters boss Jim Bentley and his players were given a standing ovation by Blades fans as they left the pitch after a hard-working display.

AFC Fylde were playing in the 11th-tier of English football when Wilder was setting out in his managerial career at Alfreton Town in 2001.

Founded in 1988 as Kirkham and Wesham, they have come a long way in a short space of time.

Last season, they came within 90 minutes of winning promotion to the Football League before losing to Salford City in the National League play-off final, but this proved a step too far and they are now left to concentrate on securing safety in the fifth tier.

As for Sheffield United, who have won an army of new admirers for their Premier League exploits, this was a case of job done for Wilder’s fringe players.

This was the club’s fifth match in 16 days and apart from an injury to Verrips – promoted to back-up goalkeeper after an injury to Simon Moore in December – they came through relatively unscathed.

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