Football FA Cup: Fergie's name still on the Cup

United manager watches son Darren make a killing in the competition his club spurned
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The Independent Online
Wrexham 2

Gibson 50, Ferguson 68

Middlesbrough 1

Deane 42

Half-time: 0-1 Attendance: 11,755

EVEN WITH his own side controversially missing from the competition, Sir Alex Ferguson still tasted FA Cup glory at the Racecourse Ground, thanks to his son, Darren, who was the architect of another Cup fairytale for Wrexham's celebrated giant-killers.

The 27-year-old midfielder, hired as a free agent last summer after spending seven months in Holland, hit a 68th-minute winning goal for Brian Flynn's side to send the 1997 finalists spinning out. Sir Alex, his Manchester United team not required to defend their trophy, was in the directors' box to witness his son's glorious moment.

Middlesbrough - beaten 1-0 here in 1974 in another famous Cup drama - had taken the lead before half-time through Brian Deane and looked to have the measure of their struggling opponents, who have not won in the Second Division since mid-September.

But, drawing on the spirit, not only of 1974 but of more recent deeds against Arsenal in 1992 and West Ham in 1997, Wrexham responded by pushing the Premiership side deep into their own territory from the start of the second period, equalising through the 20-year-old Robin Gibson before Ferguson's magnificent long-range strike caused a near-12,000 crowd to erupt.

For Flynn, the taking of celebrated scalps is a familiar experience. In charge at Wrexham since 1989, the former Leeds and Wales midfielder had plotted the downfall of both the London sides. He rated this triumph as their equal. "The Arsenal win was special because it was my first, but looking at the quality in the Middlesbrough side this one has to be just as good," he said.

Ferguson joined Sparta Rotterdam last season after seeing his career with Wolverhampton Wanderers peter out, but still relishes the thrill of England's favoutite competition. "I've had some good times in the Cup, playing in a quarter-final against Chelsea with Wolves," he said. "Winning a game like this is fantastic and the goal I scored is certainly up there with my best."

Wrexham lie 18th in the Second Division and Flynn's position as the third longest-serving manager in the four divisions has been looking precarious for some time. But they still fancied their chances yesterday as an awkward, swirling wind worried the Premiership side's defenders and were close to going ahead after 35 minutes.

A slip by Gary Pallister let in Neil Roberts. Phil Stamp made a fine tackle, but then Kevin Russell followed in fiercely and only Steve Vickers's block prevented a goal before Ferguson dragged the loose ball wide. Pallister, three times an FA Cup winner with this season's absentees, was substituted before half-time, struggling again with a back injury.

However Boro, boasting the craft of Juninho and Paul Gascoigne in midfield, were the stronger side in the opening half and their 42nd-minute goal was well signposted. Kevin Dearden, in the Wrexham goal, had made two saves in a minute to deny Hamilton Ricard and strike partner Deane and full back Phil Hardy headed a Deane effort off his own line.

Deane put them in front after Ricard, eager to add to his five goals in as many matches, had one attempt messily blocked. There were claims from the home side for hands against the Colombian but the referee, Steven Lodge, dismissed them and Deane slid home the loose ball from close range.

The lead lasted all of seven minutes before it was cancelled out splendidly by the 5ft 6in Gibson five minutes into the second period. Controlling a pass from Ferguson with his right foot on the edge of the Boro box, the 20-year-old winger cut inside his marker before stroking the ball left-footed beyond Schwarzer.

Now, penning Middlesbrough in their own half, the home side had the scent of a frightened quarry in their nostrils. They also had 11 players intent on being heroes and found one in Ferguson, who made his bid for a place in local folklore with the kind of stunning goal for which Wrexham have been famous ever since Mickey Thomas stunned Arsenal in 1992.

Cutting inside from the right flank unchallenged, Ferguson looked up to see a gap to Schwarzer's right inviting him to let fly and did so with devastating effect. But if Ferguson, himself a one-time Manchester United starlet, was the headline maker, Wrexham had another hero in goalkeeper Dearden, who saved his side twice in the closing moments to thwart Deane and Ricard, watching with relief in between as Christian Ziege sent a fine chance sailing over the crossbar.

"Our players thought they could coast through after they went ahead," said the Boro manager, Bryan Robson. "We were so slack it was as if we wanted them to come back into the game. We encouraged them and they accepted the invitation."

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