Sheffield United crash out of Johnstone’s Paint Trophy

Sheffield United 1-1 Bradford (Bradford win 6-5 on penalties)

Danny Wilson reflected on a missed opportunity as his Sheffield United side crashed out of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy against League Two strugglers Bradford City on penalties. Wilson bemoaned a lack of desire in his players, as the visitors held their nerve to go through to the Northern Section semi-finals after Matt Phillips’ opener was cancelled out by Michael Flynn, in front of a sparse crowd of 5,692 at Bramall Lane.

It was Bradford who had the first real chances. Firstly, Ross Hannah headed over from inside the six yard box; then Chris Fagan’s header was brilliantly saved by Steve Simonsen.

But on 27 minutes it was the home side who took the lead. Matt Phillips cut inside from the left and shot low past Jon McLaughlin from 25 yards. It was Phillips’ sixth goal in his seventh and final game for United in a short term loan spell from Blackpool, making him top scorer at Bramall Lane. Manager Danny Wilson later admitted that he doesn’t think it will be possible to extend the deal and surely Blackpool manager Ian Holloway will want a player in such form available to him.

Five minutes before half time, though, Bradford were level. Captain Michael Flynn won the ball 30 yards from goal and strode forward hitting a fizzing drive with his left foot into the bottom left hand corner from the edge of the area.

Bradford seemed spurred on by the equaliser and started the second half the better team but couldn’t add to their lead. Fagan, Flynn and Jamie Devitt all cleared the bar with efforts while they were unable to turn the ball home in a goalmouth scramble.

Sheffield United’s best chance of the second half came with the last kick of the game. Four minutes into injury time, Lowton launched a free-kick into the area and Billy Clarke tried to force the loose ball in but McLaughlin stayed firm. It was almost a repeat of their late show against Rotherham in the last round for the Blades, but this time they were taken to penalties.

Three misses from eight for Sheffield United by Chris Porter, Harry Maguire and Erik Tonne allowed Chris Mitchell to fire the winning penalty down the middle for Bradford. This was the third time in a row they had gone away to a team inside the League One top five and won on penalties after dispatching Huddersfield Town and Sheffield Wednesday in the previous rounds.

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