Brave Argyle given sharp shock

SHEFFIELD UNITED 2, PLYMOUTH ARGYLE 1

Underdogs Plymouth Argyle pushed Sheffield United all the way with a spirited second-half performance in this FA Cup fourth round battle.

The Premier League strugglers made a bright and energetic start and put pressure on Argyle from the word go.

A John Fleck cross flew across the Pilgrims’ goal and was hooked away from inside the six-yard box as the Blades pressed. Early scares for the Pilgrims.

Billy Sharp then threatened when he got in behind the Argyle defence but a rather late offside flag came up to save the visitors.

As United pressed high up the field, Sharp continued to look dangerous. Two quick passes found him in the area. He shot but it was turned away for a corner.

The Pilgrims struggled to string passes together. United were moving the ball around with great runs, lots of energy and diagonal passes that were hurting Ryan Lowe’s men.

On 19 minutes United ought to have been in front. Rhian Brewster struck a swerving, curling shot from 20 yards which moved in the air but Michael Cooper palmed it away, and then a moment later Fleck pulled a cross back and Brewster slid in but nudged it wide.

After 24 minutes Argyle enjoyed their first real chance – and what a gilt-edged opportunity it was. The United defenders were caught flat, Panutche Camara found himself in on goal and only had to stroke it in but he didn’t connect with it cleanly and it went over the bar.

Then at the other end, John Lundstram steamed in at the back post but lost his composure and blazed his shot wide of the Argyle goal.

After 31 minutes, United players called for a penalty and it looked a decent shout. Ethan Ampadu lashed in a shot, Argyle defender Kelland Watts made the block with his arms up protecting his face. The referee turned down the home side’s appeals. But nine minutes later the Argyle resistance finally crumbled. Chris Basham scored with a fine header after good work from the ever dangerous Sharp inside the penalty box – a deserved lead for the Blades.

But Argyle didn’t wilt. They hit back, Connor Grant doing well but hitting the side netting with a good shot.

Argyle’s hopes took a brutal blow when Sharp extended the Blades’ lead within seconds of the restart, finishing brilliantly and knocking the stuffing out of the Pilgrims. Oliver Norwood slid a pass into the path of Sharp. He got in between the last defender and Cooper, skipped around the goalie and slammed it in with his left foot. Cooper then had to spoon the ball away after Brewster did well following a good pass from Fleck. Brewster then went close again, rattling a shot straight at the over-worked Argyle shot-stopper.

Sharp continued to torment Argyle, who were starting to feel the after effects of their long slog to Sunderland in midweek. Sharp cruised clear of the Pilgrims’ defence, cut inside and blazed over the bar.

The Pilgrims gave themselves hope with 15 minutes left when Camara struck, atoning for his earlier miss. Aaron Ramsdale in the Blades’ goal should have done better. Byron Moore had Argyle’s last good chance but shot over.