Sheffield Wednesday. . .1
IT WAS a case of third time lucky for Ipswich last night as, six minutes from time, the third in an increasingly vocal series of second-half penalty appeals finally provided the means for them to haul back Sheffield Wednesday and take their Coca-Cola Cup quarter-final to a replay.
While Steve Whitton drove home the spot-kick, the attention was centred on the Bulgarian international, Boncho Genchev, whose part in the equaliser will ensure he is a player who will travel to Hillsborough for the return.
It was a double disappointment for Wednesday, who had seen David Hirst waste a marvellous opportunity to increase their lead and injure himself in the process. Damage to his thigh while in the act of shooting rules him out of England's World Cup qualifying game with San Marino at Wembley next month, thereby increasing the problems of the manager, Graham Taylor, in the striking department.
The frustrations of Hirst's team-mates surfaced again as Genchev's fell dramatically under the challenge of Peter Shirtliff, although television replays showed that the big defender had indeed made contact. Nevertheless, Wednesday believed he had made a meal of it and let him know in no uncertain terms with strong words.
It was not the first time the sprightly Genchev had provoked admonishing glares. Nigel Pearson had earlier given vent to the verbals after a 66th-minute tackle which again ended with the Bulgarian all at sea on the floor.
An even struggle between two well-matched sides had reached half-time in deadlock, with the game screaming out for decisive action. It could have come two minutes after the interval, when Chris Kiwomya, a constant threat for the visitors, dallied in search of an opening and lost his footing as Paul Warhurst moved in to tackle. But, on this first occasion, Mr Holbrook was not moved by the penalty shout.
Two minutes later, the breakthrough did materalise as Chris Waddle and John Sheridan sent Warhurst free on a run which ended with the Republic of Ireland international heading home at the far post.
Within a minute of penalty appeal No 2 being denied came Hirst's moment of embarrassment. Mark Bright's clever lay-off gave the England hopeful the chance to expose John Wark's age and lack of pace. Hirst was well in the clear, the goal opening wide before him, but his effort went woefully astray.
'As he went to strike the ball he pulled his thigh muscle and it looks like we will be without him for three to four weeks,' the Wednesday manager, Trevor Francis, said. 'I would think he's definitely out for the England game, and, like me, seems to be jinxed where international football is conerned.'
It is bad luck for the player who was prevented earlier in the season from challenging the Alan Shearer-Ian Wright partnership because of a fractured ankle. He had looked odds-on to replace the prolific Blackburn forward for the San Marino tie if Shearer was not ready to return following his recent cartilage operation. It is another worry, too, for Taylor, who also is concerned about the availability of Les Ferdinand and David Platt while Wright has just begun a three-match suspension.
Of more concern to the Wednesday supporters on their journey back to Yorkshire was that Hirst must miss the return on 3 February to decide who goes through to meet Blackburn in the semi-finals.
Ipswich Town: Baker; Johnson (Bozinoski, 73), Thompson, Williams, Wark, Linighan, Yallop (Whelan, 81), Genchev, Whitton, Dozzell, Kiwomya.
Sheffield Wednesday: Woods; Warhurst, Worthington, Harkes, Pearson, Shirtliff, Wilson, Waddle, Hirst (Bart-Williams, 70), Bright, Sheridan. Substitute not used: Anderson.
Referee: T Holbrook (Walsall).
FA Cup Countdown, page 32
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