Football: Kennedy's caper saves Watford

Watford 1 Kennedy 65 Sheffield Wednesday 1 Alexandersson 64 Attendance: 18,306
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The Independent Online
Watford huffed and they puffed in a late onslaught in best FA Cup tradition but Sheffield Wednesday weathered the storm and will now host a replay at Hillsborough a week on Wednesday. Watford proved it is not the size of the dog in the fight, it is the size of the fight in the dog.

Wednesday took the lead through Niclas Alexandersson but Graham Taylor's plucky, reviving, Second Division team swiftly equalised through Peter Kennedy. They might even have grabbed a winner but Kevin Pressman kept out Nigel Gibbs's shot to avert embarrassment.

In theory, the Yorkshire club, in this first meeting between the two clubs in the competition, seemed ripe for the taking, as well. Watford went into the match having lost only one home game all season in assuming the leadership of the Second Division while Wednesday's mini-revival after Ron Atkinson took over as manager from David Pleat was stuttering; four matches now without a win in the Premiership.

They were, however, nearer full strength. While Watford were missing Ronny Rosenthal and the 17-year-old prodigy Grifton Noel-Williams, scorers of 16 goals between them this season, Wednesday fielded a three-man forward line in Benito Carbone, Andy Booth and Paolo Di Canio worth pounds 8m.

After a typically messy Cup tie beginning, with mood being set and territory being marked as Watford snapped at the heels of their supposed superiors, it was Carbone who fashioned the game's first chance with a neat piece of skill on the left that yielded a cross which Alec Chamberlain in the home goal could only push out to Alexandersson, who touched the ball over the bar. It prompted Watford into some attacking ambition of their own, though. Within a minute, Richard Johnson and Jason Lee fashioned a half- chance for Nathan Lowndes, who volleyed over the bar. Micah Hyde then shot over from 25 yards.

Now Watford were growing in confidence and began to seek to pass the ball neatly in competition with Wednesday, notably through Hyde, to show they were not all students of the long ball associated with Taylor's past. Johnson and Clint Easton - frail ball player rather than strong, silent type - were also competing capably with the busy Peter Atherton and the lanky, languid Petter Rudi.

Chamberlain, whose dependability has been a significant factor in Watford's success this season according to locals, continued to look a little uneasy in the swirling wind, however. He could only punch Alexandersson's chip out to Jon Newsome, though redeemed himself by blocking the shot. At the other end, Lee was given a sight of goal at the edge of the Wednesday penalty area but sent it high over the bar. Goalless at the interval was about accurate.

Watford restarted with the same enthusiasm but again their finishing was hopeful rather than expectant. Lee, working hard as leader of the forward line, turned a ball inside to Johnson but his shot was high and not very handsome. A better attempt came when Lee met Hyde's cross with a powerful diving header but the ball flew just wide of a post. It was the best effort on goal to date in a match of only sporadic chances. As Watford were enjoying a period in the ascendancy, Wednesday became frustrated, seen in Di Canio and Carbone throwing up hands at each other.

With two such talents, though, a goal is always a possibility even when the team is struggling and one duly arrived thanks to Carbone's skill. The little Italian sent a penetrating cross to the far post where Alexandersson, who had looked Wednesday's most determined player around the Watford penalty area, met the ball with a firm header that Chamberlain could not keep out.

Watford appeared to need some sort of setback to stimulate them and this one worked as, within a minute, they were level. There seemed little danger to Wednesday when Kennedy seized possession some 35 yards out, but instantly he dispatched a powerful left-footed drive past Pressman. Suddenly you understood why the left-sided midfield player was Watford's leading goalscorer, it being his 11th of the season.

Soon after, Chamberlain tipped Booth's diving header over the bar while Lowndes twice had the ball in the Wednesday net only for Lee to have committed a foul on both occasions. Now we had a full-blooded Cup tie, intriguingly poised.