sport

Porter: We're stronger now

Chris Porter is doubly determined to banish Sheffield United's previous Wembley nightmare with victory against Hull on Sunday.

The 30-year-old was a late substitute when the Blades lost a nerve-shredding penalty shoot-out in the League One play-off final at Wembley against Huddersfield two years ago.

Porter converted his spot-kick after a goalless 120 minutes but, with the scores locked at 7-7, looked on in horror as Huddersfield goalkeeper Alex Smithies buried his before Blades counterpart Steve Simonsen blazed his effort over the crossbar.

"It was a nightmare," said Porter. "I think that's probably the worse way to lose one.

"Especially after they missed their first three penalties, I thought we were on our way.

"I was taking the fifth penalty and thought I was going to have the chance to score the winning penalty, but it wasn't to be.

"The dressing room after was as bad as anything I've ever seen. We were devastated."

However, Porter - who has scored four goals in the Blades' coupon-busting FA Cup run - insists that Wembley heartbreak can now work in their favour.

"A lot of the lads who played in that are still here," he said.

"There are probably five or six players and the experience from that can only benefit us."

Porter is in his second spell under manager Nigel Clough, who signed the forward from Motherwell in 2009 soon after taking charge of Derby.

A career-threatening hip injury curtailed Porter's progress at Pride Park and he moved on to the Blades in the summer of 2011.

"I was a bit apprehensive when he came in here because I'd had a bad time with injuries when I was at Derby," Porter said.

"I had an operation while I was there and it set me back a long time and that was the reason I ended up leaving.

"But he (Clough) has been great with me since he's come here. He threw me straight back in and I've played a lot of games."

Clough's fortunes at Bramall Lane since replacing David Weir in October have been nothing short of remarkable.

He has steered the Blades from second-bottom to within eight points of the play-off places in Sky Bet League One.

FA Cup wins at Colchester and Cambridge were followed by more eye-catching victories over Aston Villa, Fulham, Nottingham Forest and Charlton - the last two scalps taken during a recent nine-game winning run.

"It's exciting," Porter said. "We got off to a bad start this season but managed to get through the first couple of rounds of the FA Cup and have gone from strength to strength.

"The manager has had a massive impact since he came in, he's been brilliant.

"It's difficult to say why, it's just the way he does things.

"It's been a more fun place to be around, there's a better togetherness in the squad.

"He's tried to make it a more enjoyable place to be and it seems to be working and our FA Cup form has gone hand-in-hand with the league."

The Blades are 90 minutes away from becoming the first club from outside the top two divisions to reach the FA Cup final in more than a century.

But history does not hang heavy on Porter's shoulders.

"I think there's less pressure on us," he added. "They're the Premier League team so will be massive favourites.

"We've been the underdogs in most of the rounds now and that's suited us and we'll be big underdogs again."