Survival must take priority over Cup, says Clough

Sheffield United manager Nigel Clough
Sheffield United manager Nigel Clough
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NIGEL CLOUGH hailed Sheffield United’s “unbelievably special” achievement of reaching the FA Cup quarter-finals before reminding them that their relegation battle must be their principal focus.

The League One side, who had already defeated Aston Villa and Fulham in the competition, added Nottingham Forest to their list of higher-ranked scalps with a dramatic 3-1 win at Bramall Lane.

The score was 1-1 when Chris Porter entered as an 87th-minute substitute and his last-gasp brace – a penalty and a close-range finish – sparked a mini pitch invasion as fans celebrated reaching the last eight.

A tantalising Steel City derby is next up if Sheffield Wednesday beat Charlton, but Clough has his mind elsewhere.

For despite the Blades’ stunning cup form, they remain 22nd in the third tier and must balance their Wembley dreams against the need for survival.

“It was unbelievably special, with the atmosphere and 25,000 in Bramall Lane – I’m not sure when was the last time that happened,” said Clough.

“It was great, but we won’t be getting that in League Two if we don’t get out the bottom four.

“That victory wasn’t as good as against Shrewsbury, believe it or not, because three points were more important to us.

“The cup is great, we enjoy it, it’s a few more quid in the coffers but, in the end, we need points on the board because we are still in the bottom four.

“We have to keep reminding ourselves of that.”

Clough’s personal agenda may have the League Two run-in firmly at the top, but he accepts a derby date against Wednesday would generate huge interest.

“We would look forward to it,” he admitted. “Hopefully, they might even pick us for TV if we got a Sheffield derby.

“The belief of the lads grows with each round and it’s good to be back at home in the next round.

“When you’re scrapping for league points you can relax a bit more in the cup.”

Forest chief Billy Davies, whose relationship with Clough was tense when the latter was in charge of Derby, did nothing to spark old arguments on this occasion.

The pair spoke prior to the game and shook hands in the tunnel and Davies spoke generously of the Blades’ prospects.

Asked if they were in sight of Wembley, the Scot said: “Why not? They’re a team that is working very hard and their attitude is very good.

“They’ve a fantastic game versus Sheffield Wednesday possibly and you never know what happens after that.

“Good luck to them.”