HE IS Sheffield United’s man in the mask, but match-winner Marc McNulty proved that the protection around his face was no impediment to goal by scoring the winner over Southampton on Tuesday and earn his side a place in the Capital One Cup semi-final.
The 22-year-old bundled home from close range in the 63rd minute to earn a second Premier League scalp of the season for the League One Blades, who have reached the last four of this competition for the first time since 2002-03. It is a remarkable story for McNulty, who was with Scottish Championship side Livingston until the summer when Nigel Clough came calling, paying £125,000 to take the player south.
The winner, which settled a one-sided tie where Southampton were out-played and out-fought, was his eighth goal of the season and McNulty admits he is living the dream. “I still need to pinch myself sometimes,” he said. “Twenty-odd thousand people here singing my name and scoring goals against Premier League teams in the cup is just a dream come true.”
McNulty wears the mask for protection after sustaining a facial injury in an incident in a Scottish nightclub which police are investigating.
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United are now just one step from a Wembley final, much to the delight of the striker who was released by Hibs when he was 16.
“It’s the stuff you dream of as a boy and it came true,” McNulty said of his winner. “It’s brilliant, it’s hard to describe nights like that, the fans made it extra special and to get the winner was just unbelievable.
“The boys were confident. We didn’t expect to come out with a flukey win, we came out with game plan to get in their face and the boys believed we could get something out of the game and I think that showed. This win could give massive confidence to the boys, Southampton have been flying in the Premier League and we can take great belief from results like that.”
The victory, which would have been far more resounding had Saints’ former Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster not made a string of fine saves, continues the Blades’ superb cup run over the last 12 months. Having knocked two top-flight teams out of the FA Cup last season to reach the semi-finals, they have sent two more packing in the League Cup and sit two games away from a return to Wembley.
There is a strong Scottish core to the side Nigel Clough has assembled at Bramall Lane. Joining McNulty in Tuesday’s team were former Motherwell striker Jamie Murphy, ex-Falkirk midfielder Ryan Flynn, one-time Queen of the South defender Bob Harris and former Scotland left-back Jay McEveley. McNulty’s former Livingston team-mate Stefan Scougall is also at United.
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