Sheffield United v Crewe: Murphy keen for Blades to make return journey

Jamie Murphy was part of a contingent of Scots at the back of the bus bound for Bramall Lane on Saturday night who could not help but let out a mischievous cheer when news of a goal for Slovenia at Wembley filtered through.

DERBY HERO: Jamie Murphy, right, shows his delight at scoring Sheffield Uniteds winner at Doncaster which has set them up nicely for tonights FA Cup replay. Picture: Martyn Harrison.

Jordan Henderson’s flick header over Joe Hart threatened to dent England’s Euro 2016 qualification hopes, and lit the blue touch paper on the coach departing the Keepmoat Stadium.

United’s players were already in jovial mood having defeated Doncaster 1-0 in a crucial League One derby.

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And with a tasty Scotland versus England clash lying ahead this evening, news of the travails of Roy Hodgson’s men was music to the ears of Bob Harris, James McEveley, Neill Collins, Ryan Flynn, Stephen McGinn, Stefan Scougall and Murphy himself.

DERBY HERO: Jamie Murphy, right, shows his delight at scoring Sheffield Uniteds winner at Doncaster which has set them up nicely for tonights FA Cup replay. Picture: Martyn Harrison.

“We couldn’t help but let out a bit of a cheer,” admitted Murphy yesterday, before his manager and former England international Nigel Clough could counter.

“I went back just to enquire what it was all about,” smiled Clough. “But England were 2-1 up 10 minutes later so it went quiet again pretty quickly.”

One of the first things the Blades players and staff will do after the final whistle tonight is head back into the dressing room to see whether it is the Scottish or English players who have the last laugh.

That is of course, providing they have given themselves reason to smile in the first place by despatching League One strugglers Crewe Alexandra in the FA Cup first-round replay.

That they are even able to joke and laugh amongst themselves says everything about the spirit at Bramall Lane, one that appears to have remained intact amid the ongoing national debate over whether the football club should have allowed convicted rapist Ched Evans to return to training.

It is the kind of spirit that saw them overcome a sending-off to win at Doncaster on Saturday; their fourth win in five in the league.

The type of character that has seen them score a hatful of late goals in league and cup competition, many of them en route to a Capital One Cup quarter-final next month.

That date with Southampton is on the horizon, but first up is the less glamourous visit of Crewe, though don’t expect anyone at United to be taking such opponents for granted.

“It all started for us last year against Colchester and then Cambridge away,” recalled Murphy, who played a part in every game but that tie at Colchester on a memorable journey that continued all the way to Wembley.

“They were the two games we had to get out of the way first before we could play Aston Villa and Fulham.”

This year it is Crewe and then potentially League Two Plymouth standing in the way of a place in the third round and the “incentive of one of the big boys” as Clough puts it.

And Murphy and his fellow players feel almost dutibound to honour last year’s efforts.

“The outstanding memory for me is the run – because we lost in the semi-final,” said the 25-year-old Glasgow-born winger.

“Winning games at Villa Park and the two wins against Forest and Charlton here – they were special days.

“Obviously the semi-final was special as well but for different reasons. If we’d have won I’d have changed my mind.

“The confidence we got from the cup run last year showed we can beat anybody on our day.

“But I don’t think we’re necessarily just a good cup side, I think we’re a good side in both league and cup.”

Paddy McCarthy serves his one-match suspension tonight. Strikers Michael Higdon and Mark McNulty are 10 days away from a return.

Last six games: Sheffield United WWLDLW; Crewe WWLDDD.

Referee: G Eltingham (Tyne & Wear).

Last time: Sheff Utd 3 Crewe 1; October 26, 2013; League One.