Ten-man Sheffield United held Fulham 1-1 at Bramall Lane in their fourth-round FA Cup tie, forcing a replay at Craven Cottage after some distinctly miserable football in equally miserable conditions.
As befits an awful Premier League team playing a weakened squad meeting an awful League One team on an awful pitch, the first half was awful. The first incident of any note saw John Arne Riise withdrawn with a hamstring injury, and it took a long time for things to get any better for Fulham.
The Blades were edging the muddy battle in the centre and causing the visitors some serious issues in defence, so it came as zero surprise when they took the lead just after the half hour mark. Harry MacGuire drove forward unopposed, broke into the penalty area and sent what looked like a far-post shot fizzing in on David Stockdale's goal.
It never got there, because Chris Porter stole in between Aaron Hughes and Philippe Senderos to re-direct the ball into the back of the net from point-blank range, giving Stockdale no time to react. Fulham nearly replied immediately, with Giorgos Karagounis sending Hugo Rodallega clean through only for the striker to go down under the combined challenges of George Long and Michael Doyle; a clear penalty. Naturally, Andre Marriner waved off the appeals.
The second half saw the Blades undergo a severe personnel shakeup. Porter was withdrawn at halftime for Stephan Scougall, Macguire went off with injury three minutes later, and Doyle was shown a red card when he retaliated for a clash with Chris Davids, fouling the youngster off the ball and giving Marriner no chance but to dismiss him.
The hosts were still threatening despite going down to ten men and might have doubled their lead just after Doyle's sending off, with Ryan Fynn flying past Hughes before being denied by Stockdale's trailing leg. And he had a penalty shout of his own turned down a little later -- having beaten Hughes once more he was sent tumbling by a late challenge. It was a blatant foul, and once again Marriner ignored it.
Just when it looked like the most boring upset in history was on the cards, Rodallega gave the Cottagers a lifeline. A clever ball from Muamer Tankovic picked out the Colombian on the edge of the area, and he made no mistake, smashing home a thundering shot which left Long well beaten.
Having equalised, Fulham knew they had a chance to press on and win outright. Senderos should have done just that with eight minutes to go with a free header from a set piece that he crashed into the crossbar rather than the virtually open goal, and Darren Bent somehow contrived to miss from four yards after an incisive move had left the Blades defence utterly flummoxed.
Those misses cost the visitors a replay -- the Cottagers huffed and puffed through four minutes of injury time, but they couldn't find a breakthrough, and they'll be added a rather unwanted extra match to the fixture list as they desperately try to avoid relegation.
Sheffield United starting lineup (4-4-2): George Long; John Brayford, Harry Macguire (Bob Harris 48'), Matt Hill, Neill Collins; Ryan Flynn, Michael Doyle, Jose Baxter, Connor Coady; Chris Porter (Stephan Scougall 45'), Jamie Murphy.
Goals: Porter 31'.
Fulham starting lineup (4-4-1-1): David Stockdale; John Arne RiisePhilippe Senderos, Aaron Hughes, ; Pajtim Kasami, Giorgos Karagounis, Chris David (Darren Bent 57'), Damien Duff; Muamer Tankovic; Hugo Rodallega.
Goals: Rodallega 75'.