STEFAN SCOUGALL insists Sheffield United have nothing to fear next week when looking to book a Wembley return in front of a “rocking” Bramall Lane.
The Blades trail 1-0 after a hard-fought away leg of their Capital One Cup semi-final against Tottenham Hotspur.
Spurs, despite fielding a team whose combined transfer value stood way north of £100m, needed a late penalty to see off the plucky League One outfit.
Now, as Nigel Clough’s men prepare for not only tomorrow’s FA Cup fourth-round trip to Preston North End but also next Wednesday’s return tie against Spurs, Scougall is adamant that the Yorkshire club can claim a sixth Premier League scalp inside a little over a year to reach the March 1 final.
He said: “It is half-time in the tie and we are more than happy. We had to still be in it after the first leg and that is exactly how it stands.
“It was disappointing to lose, especially to a penalty. But we more than held our own against a top, top Premier League side.
“I don’t think we have much to fear, even if they probably will step up their game.
“I was maybe expecting a bit more from them, especially in the first half.
“They were on top of us a little bit in the first 10 minutes of the game. After that, though, we settled well and got into our rhythm.
“They did step it up in the second half, but maybe we were a bit surprised they didn’t do that for all the first half and come at us.
“That, though, is credit to ourselves and how we played. And, to be fair to us, right up until the penalty we were looking okay.”
United’s position would look even healthier, but for a moment of madness that saw Jay McEveley handle the ball needlessly inside his own penalty area.
Referee Neil Swarbrick was left with no option but to point to the spot and Andros Townsend did the rest from 12 yards to earn Spurs a precious first-leg advantage.
It was a disappointing blow for the Blades, who up to that point had seemed well on course to welcome Tottenham to Bramall Lane for the decisive second leg on level terms.
Even McEveley is at a loss to explain why he stuck an arm out when trying to clear after a mis-control by Roberto Soldado 16 minutes from time.
He explained: “The ball bounced up on me suddenly and I didn’t know where it was. I thought it might bounce a bit lower.
“I think my momentum then took me through. It was a bit unfortunate, really. But what can I do about it?”
The 29-year-old, in common with all his team-mates, had been outstanding up to that point at the heart of the defence and he agrees with Scougall in believing that everything is still to play for in Wednesday’s return.
McEveley said: “We are a little bit disappointed (to be behind), but if anyone had offered us 1-0 before the game, we would probably have taken it.
“All the lads are confident. Spurs have to come back to our place, in front of a full house – and we have done it (beating Premier League teams) a couple of times this season already.
“The place will be rocking. To come away from Spurs at 1-0 means everything is to play for.”
United have sold a little over 28,000 tickets for the return leg, which seems set to attract a full house to the Lane.
Before taking on Spurs, however, United must head to Deepdale and manager Clough has already hinted there may be changes with the semi-final in mind.
Scougall could be one of several to drop out in an attempt to keep things fresh ahead of Mauricio Pochettino’s side heading north next week.
On the prospect of returning to Wembley less than a year after taking on Hull City in an all-Yorkshire FA Cup semi-final at the national stadium, Scougall said: “The second leg should be a great occasion next week.
“Being at home, we can have a right good go and, hopefully, get the right result.
“Our results in the cups help our confidence and belief against teams like Tottenham massively. Hopefully, we can put it right and get a result to keep our run going.
“The fans will be a big help. They were fantastic at Spurs. As they always are, to be fair. No matter where we go or who we play, they sing along every game.
“Playing in front of a crowd like that is fantastic. They give us a good motivation and are with us to the end. We have got quite a few late goals this season and that is often down to them, and how they keep urging us on.
“Our fans made a lot of noise at Spurs. But Bramall Lane is going to be rocking next week, absolutely rocking.”
On how finely balanced the tie is after 90 minutes, Scougall added: “We knew before the first leg that if we are to go through we would have to score at home.
“It doesn’t matter if the score was 0-0 or 0-1, we would need to score. So, not a lot has changed. If we can get that goal, we could take it to extra-time and then penalties.”