Football: Osborn's dismissal highlights Wolves' midfield dilemma

Ipswich Town 3 Wolverhampton Wanderers 0
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The Independent Online
By Clive White

Ipswich Town 3 Wolverhampton Wanderers 0

AS THE match winner against the Gunners in the 1978 final, the name of Osborne is synonymous with FA Cup glory among the people of Ipswich. The likelihood is, though, that it will be rather less revered by those of Wolves when their time comes to do battle with the Arsenal in the semi- final at Villa Park on April 5.

The dismissal of Wolves' midfielder Simon Osborn for two bookable offences at Portman Road on Saturday was doubly daft in that (a) he repeated his reckless offence on the same player - Bobby Petta - not two minutes after the first booking and (b) because he will now sit out the semi-final through suspension.

After all, it is not as though Wolves are blessed with midfield strength. Without the injured Steve Sedgley, that particular battleground was tamely surrendered against Ipswich, even while Osborn honoured us with his presence, and it does not bear thinking about what the likes of Messrs Vieira, Petit, Overmars and Parlour will do to them there.

Fortunately for Wolves, the FA Cup pays little heed to league form, as Wolves themselves have reminded us this season. But if Wolves have been rolling back the years in terms of FA Cup endeavour, Ipswich have done no less in the First Division. There is much of Bobby Robson's old Ipswich about the present XI, even if manager George Burley, as an old boy, would no doubt blanche at any comparison.

Like Robson's teams, it has a healthy proportion of home grown produce in the likes of the promising Kieron Dyer and Richard Wright, the odd inspired signing such as David Johnson - whose very name is enough to turn back the clock - and, of course, the obligatory Dutchmen in midfield in Gus Uhlenbeek and Petta, but not, though, Matt Holland, who in fact heralds from Bury.

Muhren and Thijssen would have been so lucky to have had Petta's pace and, as one might gather from Osborn's crude attempts to stop him, he was the real thorn in Wolves' side.

Infuriatingly, automatic promotion might well have been within Ipswich's compass had they started their unbeaten run a touch earlier; as it is 37 points out of 45 is surely guaranteed to secure them a place in the play-offs.

As for Wolves, they must hope that striker Don Goodman recovers from tendinitis in time for the semi-final. But if midfield turns out to be their real Achilles heel, woe betide Osborn.

Goals: Johnson (2) 1-0; Holland (56) 2-0; Scowcroft (73) 3-0.

Ipswich Town (4-4-2): Wright; Stockwell, Mowbray, Cundy, Clapham; Uhlenbeek, Dyer (Sonner, 78), Holland, Petta (Tanner, 88); Johnson, Mathie (Scowcroft, 59).

Wolverhampton Wanderers (3-5-2): Segers; Williams, Richards (Keane, 57), Curle; Wright, Robinson, Osborn, Naylor (Atkins, 62), Froggatt; Bull, Paatelainen (Freedman, 67).

Referee: B Knight (Orpington).

Sending-off: Wolves: Osborn. Bookings: Wolves: Robinson, Williams.

Man of the match: Petta.

Attendance: 21,510.