No fears as Blades target new Wembley campaign

SHEFFIELD UNITED captain Michael Doyle acknowledges his side have the “knack” of defeating higher-division opponents, but fully realises that does not make the task of winning their FA Cup tie at Queens Park Rangers any easier.

WEMBLEY DATE: Michael Doyle battles with Liam Rosenior in last season's FA Cup semi-final. Picture: Martyn Harrison.

During the last 12 months, the midfielder has led the League One club to a series of successes over Premier League teams in various knockout competitions.

United won at Aston Villa and Fulham during last season’s stunning FA Cup run which saw them almost outwit a third top-tier opponent in Hull City, in a memorable semi-final at Wembley.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Nigel Clough’s side have continued that characteristic this term, proving it was no fluke, by seeing off both West Ham and Premier League high-fliers Southampton on the way to a Capital One Cup semi-final against Tottenham Hotspur later this month.

Given all of that, it is easy to see why the South Yorkshire side are not apprehensive heading to Premier League QPR for Sunday’s 
FA Cup third-round encounter.

Asked if they thrive in such conditions, Doyle replied: “I think we do and with the results we’ve had we’ve sort of found our way to play.

“Whether that comes to an end on Sunday, who knows, but we’ve certainly found the knack of what to do.

“It’s not just about frustrating them. We’ve played well against these sides and never really hung on against any of them or thought we’ve been lucky to get through.

“Every time we’ve beaten a higher league side I think we’ve been worthy of the victory so it’s all about us really.

“I wouldn’t say a lot of it’s luck; it’s down to the performance and how hard we’re working and that’s what’s working.

“The Premier League players are used to that work-rate every week and when they play lower league sides it’s probably a bit difficult mentally for them to get their head around it.

“So, if you’re still in the game after 50 or 60 minutes, I think it does probably frustrate them.”

That said, the Irishman knows there is greater expectancy on them now to achieve yet another giant-killing act at Loftus Road even though their recent form in League One has been indifferent.

QPR have a wretched away record in the Premier League, losing all nine games so far, but are more secure on their own ground, Harry Redknapp’s side losing just once there since falling to Hull on the opening day of the season.

“They seem to be picking up a lot of points at home and have a lot of momentum going with them, having picked up after a slow start,” admitted Doyle.

“They have a striker (Charlie Austin) bang in form, too, and a lot of players who have played in the lower leagues and are now 
established in the Premier like Bobby Zamora and Austin.

“Whether they’ll play, who knows, but there’s a lot of quality; Jordan Mutch and Joey Barton in the middle, at the back you’ve Richard Dunne, Rio Ferdinand...

“It’s going to be a really difficult day for us and, no doubt, it will be tight, especially on that small, compact pitch, but it’s the kind of draw you want at this stage, another big game for us and we are all looking forward to it.”

The ex-Leeds player, who is approaching 200 games for the Blades after joining from Coventry City in the transfer window four years ago, cannot put a finger on just why United have enjoyed such rich rewards recently in cup competitions.

Doyle, 33, said: “It just happens like this sometimes.

“If you go back a few years, I remember teams like Bolton doing the same. Sides go through phases where they take a few scalps and get a lot of confidence from it.

“You get to manage games properly and know how to stay in them and come through those difficult times. Hopefully, the opposition then punches themselves out a bit and you get an opportunity you have to take. We’ve managed to do that and we’ll need the same on Sunday.”

United have failed to win in their last six league games, a bleak run which has left them in sixth spot, but have beaten Plymouth (FA Cup) and Southampton during that period.

Doyle maintains automatic promotion is still possible.

But has there been much talk about Wembley again?

“Those involved will always cherish it – it was brilliant even though disappointing when we ran out of steam,” he said.

“I’m sure people will be putting bets on now (for Blades to progress) as we’ve caused a lot of upsets over the last year, but we’ll take this for what it is and the main focus is still the league.”