Football / FA Cup: Warhurst feeds Wednesday's double ambition

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The Independent Online
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SHEFFIELD has its dream tie. Taking their cue from the epic which installed United in the semi-final of the FA Cup, Wednesday duly joined them last night, and local pride, as well as a place at Wembley, will be at stake when they meet at Elland Road on 4 April.

The Premier League side outplayed Derby in their sixth-round replay, and are still firing on all fronts. Already through to the final of the Coca- Cola Cup, where they play Arsenal, they retain a mathematical interest in the championship, where they are fourth, with two games in hand.

Derby's demise will disappoint those romantics who love to see a side from the lower orders at Wembley, but they could have no complaint with a defeat which would have been much heavier had Wednesday's finishing matched the rest of their play.

All-Premier League or not, Sheffield vs Sheffield Wednesday is an appealing semi-final, if only for its novelty value. Unlike Arsenal and Tottenham, who complete the last four, the steel city neighbours have never met before at this advanced stage of the most prestigious cup competition of them all.

Paul Warhurst, whose late equaliser at the Baseball Ground necessitated the replay, was the match- winner here, his 12th goal in as many matches coming midway through the first half.

Apart from providing Sheffield with its big day, the two quarter-final replays were a not altogether unwelcome reminder that you cannot buy everything in football - not even in these increasingly mercenary times.

Blackburn Rovers and Derby have together spent some pounds 23m, only to lose on successive nights to teams assembled at much less expense.

Wednesday were clearly the better side for most of the 3-3 draw at the Baseball Ground, but surrendered their grip for long enough to allow Derby back into the tie. The First Division side had fought like tigers to earn their reprieve, scrapping a mite too hard for the refined tastes of Trevor Francis, the Wednesday manager. He said some of his players had been looking forward 'to proving a point or two'.

Warhurst, who had scored twice in the first game, wasted no time in proving his. He had already gone close, shooting over from 12 yards from John Sheridan's cross, before he rewarded Wednesday's supremacy with the decisive goal, after 23 minutes.

The persistence which is his hallmark took him to within stretching range of another angled cross from Sheridan, and he was able to prod the ball in as it bounced, 12 yards out.

Martin Taylor, the Derby goalkeeper, had come off his line to meet the danger, but the lofted pass held up in the strong breeze, and he was beaten to it by Warhurst, who had also shaken off the attendant Craig Short in his determined pursuit of yet another goal.

Derby created a couple of half- chances but Chris Woods was required to make only one save of any consequence, when Tommy Johnson tested his reflexes with a shot from close in.

Derby managed a brief flurry in the second half, but Wednesday quickly reasserted themselves, and by the end they were pouring forward in droves.

Sheridan had a meaty free-kick tipped over, Nigel Worthington shot against Andy Comyn and Viv Anderson sent a running header flashing inches over from six yards.

Outclassed, Derby could offer only rugged resistance, which became rather too rugged for most tastes when Mark Pembridge flattened Waddle with a terrible foul which warranted the red card rather than the yellow produced by the referee.

Sheffield Wednesday: Woods; Nilsson, Worthington, Palmer, King (Hirst, 76), Anderson, Wilson, Waddle, Warhurst, Bright, Sheridan. Substitute not used: Hyde.

Derby County: Taylor; Patterson (Comyn, 43), Coleman, Nicholson, Short, Pembridge, Hayward (Stallard, 76), Kuhl, Kitson, Gabbiadini, Johnson.

Referee: G Ashby (Worcester).

The two Sheffield clubs were rebuffed by the Football Association after last night's replay when they asked for their semi-final to be played at Wembley rather than Elland Road on 4 April. Graham Kelly, the FA's chief executive, said there was no chance of a change of venue. 'Arsenal and Spurs are playing their semi-final at Wembley,' he said, 'but theirs is an exceptional case where safety was the prime consideration.'