Football: Bright sparks quick recovery

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The Independent Online
Cambridge United. . . . .1

Sheffield Wednesday . . .2

TWO goals in the space of two minutes prevented Sheffield Wednesday succumbing to the FA Cup fate they suffered at the Abbey Stadium two years ago - a bewildering 4-0 beating - and sent them on to a fourth-round tie at home to Sunderland.

For a few heady minutes after Mick Heathcote's goal shortly after the break, it seemed the First Division strugglers were about to revisit humiliation upon the Premier Leaguers in this postponed third-round tie. But John Harkes and Mark Bright prevented a repeat of an experience which their manager, Trevor Francis, recalled as his most painful moment since arriving at Hillsborough.

The days of freezing pre-match showers and obscurely inspirational posters are a thing of the past at the Abbey Stadium, with the manager who was wont to employ such bizarre motivational tools, John Beck, now at Preston. Beck's long- ball percentage game is no longer played as relentlessly as of old under the new manager, Ian Atkins, but Cambridge's game is still based on moving the ball swiftly forward and hustling.

This attitude was personified by the tough, crop-haired little figure of Steve Claridge, a Cambridge favourite who was signed back from Luton Town two months ago. Either side of half-time he scuttled through a ponderous and square defence to force Woods to concede two corners.

From the second, four minutes into the second half, the ball was inadequately cleared and Heathcote, the centre-back, dispatched it into the net via a deflection off Claridge.

It was too good to last. Within five minutes, Harkes, Wednesday's American right-back, found a gap low inside John Vaughan's right- hand post from an apparently unthreatening position inside the left- hand corner of the box. Two minutes later Bright was given ample room to turn home Roland Nilsson's cross at the near post.

Once Andy Fensome had headed Bright's effort off the line the home side recovered themselves. But not - despite close calls from their substitutes John Francis and Gary Rowett - the game.

'We had 10 minutes of madness,' said Atkins, still seeking a win after seven games in charge. 'I'm getting sick of saying, 'we could have . . . '. '

Cambridge United: Vaughan; Fensome, Kimble, Raynor, Heathcote, O'Shea, White (Rowett, h/t), Claridge, Butler, Clayton, Leadbitter (Francis, 76).

Sheffield Wednesday: Woods; Nilsson, Worthington, Harkes, Pearson, Shirtliff, Wilson, Waddle, Hirst (Warhurst, 83), Bright, Sheridan. Substitute not used: Bart-Williams.

Referee: B Hill (Kettering).