En route to Bramall Lane to watch this Fourth Round tie of the FA Cup, a trio of obstacles blocked my path. The first, a heavy traffic jam ungraciously punctuated my serene afternoon with the inane ramblings of Radio DJs and shouts out to my ex’s.
Second, a rotund lad with a begoggled hood pulled up over his head asked me, with a breaking voice, who I was. After the incident, I came to realise he was asking me if I supported DEM BLADES or the Lily-Whites, but at the time I explained that my name was Steve. As a kindness, I decided not to pry too much into his identity as I suspected that anybody with such a complex hood-arrangement would likely be beset with robust acne.
The Twelve Labours of Heracles were completed in twelve years, whilst the three Labours of Steve were done in just under an hour. The final hurdle (almost literally) was the Olympian effort required to force open the extremely stiff turnstile to enter the ground, but just like North End, I pressed on.
When DEM BLADES lost 1-0 to Preston a few weeks prior, I documented P.N.E’s favourite daughter, Lily White. White, the first lady of Preston, would have been horrified to see her beloved club’s kit stained so much as to become yellow. The First Lady, who was a chain smoker herself and eventually died from slipping in the bath, always made sure to tip a few soda crystals into the washing machine before she pressed on.
They look like a glassy salt. The expensive kind that Nigella Lawson might sprinkle on yoghurt, as opposed to the powdery kind that I don’t put on yoghurt.
DEM 90 MINUTES
The first half was a whirlwind affair of two or three quarter-chances intermingled with possession versus lack-of. What DEM BLADES lacked in clear-cut chances, they more than made up for with side-to-side passes, short passes and passes that didn’t reach their intended target. The opposition were much the same, however, they might’ve had slightly less possession (it’s a stat I’m not willing to research).
In the second-half, things livened up a bit. Baldock skipped past a challenge and prodded the ball outside to Mark Duffy. He crossed from the right-hand side and only a ruddy good save by the Preston goalkeeper prevented a half-volley flying into the roof of the net by the foot of Daniel Lafferty – and no I didn’t see any of the Preston players laughing.
I was deeply disappointed not to hear the debutant Ben Heneghan’s name being chanted, repeatedly, to the tune of manamana by the Muppets. I had a Twix to get over my disappointment and, as my nerves calmed there was some movement on the Blades bench (tactical). Heneghan was replaced by Chris Basham and Chudwin Evans came on for Clayton Donaldson. The crowd went wild for Heneghan – he must be a controversial figure, but I can’t work out why.
The game ebbed and flowed like a table. Then the referee was called into action to make a big decision. Was the clean looking tackle on Billy Sharp a penalty, or was it a clean tackle? A penalty. Harsh, but anything to avoid a replay. Billy Sharp stepped up and smashed the penalty home, leaving the Preston keeper almost rudderless. “We’ve got Billy Sharp,” we chanted, “We’ve got Daniel Johnson,” Preston didn’t chant back.
Preston might’ve equalised in the latter stages of the game and, at the same time, I might’ve indulged in a second Twix, but I didn’t bother and neither did Jordan Hugill on the volley…the final whistle brought an end to the game. It might not have been the prettiest of football matches, but DEM BLADES have pressed on to the fifth round.
To play well in the league and win in the cup; the impossible dream (ask Nigel Clough). It might have taken years of consummate faffing in the third rung of the English football league, but we have risen beyond League One wilderness thanks to Wilderness – Chris Wilderness.
Now, DEM BLADES have reached a new high point in describing an FA Cup tie with Preston as ‘a bit boring,’ just as we did all those months ago with the likes of Swindon, Blackpool and indeed, the Rochdale’s of this world. Let’s not be snooty, they were character building times that we have come through. With Wilder in charge, I feel content that DEM BLADES will always press on.
Man of the Match
Paul Coutts. There was little by way of skill on show at Bramall Lane. What there was, if only you had the imaginative eye, was an abundance of Paul Coutts. In between the boring moments, if you squinted your eyes, you could just about make out what Coutts would’ve been doing if he were playing – that truly is the magic of the Cup at work.