Football / Coca-Cola Cup: Wednesday endgame pays off once more

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The Independent Online
Queen's Park Rangers. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

Sheffield Wednesday . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY again managed a late rally in the Coca-Cola Cup, as they have done in all four of their previous games in the competition this season, to hand Trevor Francis his first victory back at the club who showed him the door four years ago.

Only three minutes remained when last season's finalists broke down the left through Chris Waddle and Nigel Worthington, and arriving late in the penalty area was Ryan Jones, the Welsh Under-21 midfielder, who dived full length to bury his header.

Remarkably, it was a goal in the last 10 minutes that helped Wednesday to reach last night's stage, and another one has now given them the prize of a quarter-final place. There was no time for Rangers to reply and it was Wednesday, through Mark Bright twice, who should have made the scoreline more flattering.

At 2-1 it was already that, for Rangers were the superior side and their manager, Gerry Francis, rightly rued their missed opportunities afterwards. None came easier than the one Les Ferdinand smacked against the crossbar on 67 minutes from an opening England centre-forwards are expected to put away in their sleep.

'That's why you want to pack the job in at the end of the season,' Francis said, smiling through the pain of an unexpected defeat. 'I feel sorry for the team and the supporters because we dominated the game and this is the most disappointed I have felt for some time.'

With Ray Wilkins back after flu to harness operations (and talking about a new playing contract to scupper any move to give him the England job), Rangers had the early impetus and were only denied the goal they desired when Kevin Pressman kept out Simon Barker's effort from close in.

Wednesday had shown little save a readiness to scuffle, but from an unpromising background they suddenly fashioned an opening goal. Waddle was at the start of this one as well, knocking a long ball forward which Nigel Jemson beat Alan McDonald to and then ran on to strike a splendid drive into the top corner for his fifth goal in six games. A Wednesday double was on the cards when Worthington suddenly emerged in the six-yard area but he hurried his shot and over it went.

Rangers won their equaliser before half-time. Andrew Impey found room on the right for a cross from which Michael Meaker found the high point of an impressive night with a far-post header to register his first goal for the club.

Queen's Park Rangers (4-4-2): Stejskal; Bardsley, McDonald, Peacock, Wilson; Impey (White, 80), Wilkins, Barker, Meaker; Allen, Ferdinand. Substitutes not used: Holloway, Roberts (gk).

Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2): Pressman; Nilsson, Palmer, Walker, Worthington; Hyde, Jones, Bart- Williams (Poric, 59), Waddle; Jemson, Bright. Substitutes not used: Coleman, Key (gk).

Referee: P Durkin (Dorset).