Wrexham manager Phil Parkinson was “choked” they had not been able to hold off Championship high-fliers Sheffield United after his side were denied a famous victory by an added-time equaliser.
Paul Mullin’s 27th goal of the season four minutes from time had put the National League leaders within sight of the FA Cup fifth round only for John Egan to make it 3-3 deep into seven minutes of additional time.
Blades striker Oli McBurnie scored after just 64 seconds but goals from James Jones and Tom O’Connor early in the second half put the Welsh club on course for a second successive upset having accounted for another Championship side Coventry in the last round.
Proper cup tie. Six goals, a red card and a late equaliser 🤯— Emirates FA Cup (@EmiratesFACup) January 29, 2023
They even bounced back from an Oliver Norwood equaliser and, after Daniel Jebbison was sent off for an off-the-ball incident, Mullin struck to put Wrexham – watched by one half of their Hollywood ownership duo Ryan Reynolds – on the verge of another shock only for an even later goal to flatten the atmosphere at the Racecourse Ground.
“The start we had, conceding a goal and losing two players (Jordan Tunnicliffe and Aaron Hayden to injury), for the team to reset ourselves as well as we did I thought was outstanding,” said Parkinson.
“When that happens heads can drop quickly and people start looking around for excuses and there wasn’t any of that. I thought the lads were immense.
“These are a good side, as their league position suggests, and they have Premier League written all over them but we pinned them back for long periods and it’s a real blow we didn’t get over the line.
“It’s a mix of emotions. I am choked for the fans we haven’t got over the line and created history here.”
Reynolds, who flew in from America, has ambitions together with fellow actor Rob McElhenney to get the club into the top flight and this performance – ending a run of 16 straight home wins – provided more encouragement.
When @RMcElhenney and I got into this it all felt so impossible. But impossible is @Wrexham_AFC’s favourite colour. That was one of the most exciting things I’ve EVER seen. Thank you each and every Wrexham supporter who came out and aimed your heart at that pitch tonight ⚔️🏴⚔️ pic.twitter.com/s4dbCDJS7W— Ryan Reynolds (@VancityReynolds) January 29, 2023
“Ryan came into the dressing room after I’d finished my bit and said some great words to the lads and it meant a lot to the team because the lads gave everything,” added Parkinson.
“The lads were flat in the dressing room, I think that shows the group they are.
“But when we wake up tomorrow we have to take enormous credit for the way we have gone about the business but also the atmosphere created in the ground.”
Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom was told to leave midfielder Sander Berge out of the squad as he is the subject of interest from Premier League side Fulham.
The Blades boss was not happy – the club needs funds as it is under a transfer embargo due to a missed payment and is also subject of a takeover bid – and will only be placated if he can replace Berge.
“We’ve been asked not to use him as we are speaking to other clubs – the club wanted to protect the asset,” he said.
“The situation we are in – mid-takeover and embargoed – the one way to potentially resolve the issue is to sell a player.
“But it would be foolish to sell a player and not have a replacement.”
Heckingbottom praised his players for the way they handled the game.
Late leveller, @JohnEgan92! ☘️ pic.twitter.com/vvVWXAcZrY— Sheffield United (@SheffieldUnited) January 29, 2023
“It doesn’t surprise me that we fought and dug in to keep ourselves in the hat and upset everyone,” he added.
“We all know why everyone turned up today and I’m glad we didn’t give them what they wanted.”
On Jebbison’s “massively disappointing” red card, after referee Dean Whitestone took advice from fourth official Scott Oldham, the Blades boss said he had yet to see convincing evidence to warrant a sending-off and a three-match ban.
“I was stood next to the fourth official and he said he’d seen something I’ve not,” he said.
“I’ve looked at footage and I can’t see anything in it yet. We can’t just accept it, we have to get to the bottom of it.
“Either Jebbo has to learn from it or if there’s nothing in it we want the player and we will have to appeal it so we need some footage.”