Football: Cardiff draw inspiration

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SACKING the manager the day before a fourth-round home FA Cup tie against opposition from two divisions higher might seem eccentric preparation but it worked for Third Division Cardiff City, who dismissed Russell Osman on Friday, and gave First Division Reading a fright at Ninian Park before the Royals fought back to force a draw.

Cardiff, who in 1927 became the only club ever to take the FA Cup out of England when they beat Arsenal 1-0, grabbed the lead two minutes into the second half thanks to Kevin Nugent. But Carl Asaba earned the replay with his 56th-minute strike.

There are exciting days ahead for the supporters of Tranmere Rovers if the FA Cup is destined for Merseyside this season. With Liverpool and Everton already eliminated, John Aldridge's team set aside their First Division struggle to beat Peter Reid's in-form Sunderland 1-0. Andy Parkinson, discarded by Liverpool, got the Rovers goal 13 minutes from the end.

Three other ties which were Nationwide First Division matches in all but name saw Birmingham City beat Stockport County 2-1 at St Andrews, Ipswich Town and Sheffield United share a 1-1 draw while Charlton Athletic and Wolverhampton Wanderers also have to try again after their 1-1 draw.

Stockport, bidding to reach the fifth round for the first time since 1950, were down to 10 men after only 25 minutes when striker Brett Angell was sent off after two bookings from tussles with Steve Bruce. Seven minutes later, Bryan Hughes gave Brum the lead when Gary Ablett flicked on Martin Grainger's corner.

County must have realised it definitely was not to be their day when Martin McIntosh became their second player to see red, for a foul on Hughes, but Alun Armstrong's 66th-minute equaliser gave the nine men hope. However, Hughes returned to torment them with the winner six minutes from time following a bungled back pass.

At Portman Road, David Johnson, the former Bury striker, scored his 10th goal in 14 games to give Ipswich a first-half lead when he headed in Bobby Petta's free-kick. But Dean Saunders equalised when he fired in the rebound after his his second-half penalty had been blocked.

Dean Richards put Wolves ahead from a corner two minutes into the second half at The Valley but Keith Jones equalised with a 20-yard shot in the 64th minute.

In the all-Premiership tie at Selhurst Park, a Bruce Dyer hat-trick saw Crystal Palace into the last 16 as Leicester City did their level best to live down their "hard-to-beat" tag. Palace took the lead against the run of play thanks to a fine solo effort by Dyer who beat two defenders, went round Kasey Keller in the Leicester goal and fired in from a narrow angle. Dyer's second and third followed, er, dire defending by Leicester.

Leeds United of the Premiership beat Second Division Grimsby Town 2-0 at Elland Road, Robert Molenaar and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, set up by Harry Kewell, scoring.