Football Round-up: Beesley saves Blades' blushes

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The Independent Online
Although yesterday's FA Cup Third Round matches were largely bereft of Premier League clubs with egg on their faces, at least two of them playing against 'lesser' sides were taken to the brink of defeat in home ties. Perilously late surges saved both.

Fingernails will have been pared to the bone at Bramall Lane where Sheffield United found themselves 2-0 down to Second Division Burnley before half-time, sparky striker Adrian Heath claiming both goals. But Dave Bassett's teams are nothing if not fighters, and with nine minutes remaining United's Glyn Hodges pulled a goal back. Four minutes from time, with Burnley clinging on, Heath and Blades' striker Adrian Littlejohn were sent off for an over-exuberant exchange. This calmed no-one which suited Sheffield and with a minute to go defender Paul Beesley's goal won them a replay.

A goalscorer was also sent off at Boundary Park, where Oldham Athletic were given a tremendous shock when, after dominating the early exchanges, they fell behind to two goals by First Division Tranmere Rovers' experienced forwards. John Aldridge converted a penalty and Pat Nevin added a sceond shortly after.

Ian Olney, who had missed chances in the first half, pulled one back 10 minutes into the second half, and Paul Bernard equalised with a little over 20 minutes remaining. Three minutes after the equaliser, a vigilant linesman spotted Aldridge's foul on Oldham defender Craig Fleming and the Tranmere striker was sent off.

The latest decider came at the Baseball Ground where First Division Derby led Stockport of the Second through a 27th minute Craig Short header. Six minutes from the end Brian McCord, a former Ram, equalised and Stockport's David Miller scored the winning goal in the 90th minute, an own goal unfortunately giving Derby a rare home win.

In fact, most of the First Division pacemakers acquitted themselves well in the Cup. An own goal, when Watford's David Holdsworth deflected an Andy Mutch header, got Wolves off to a flying start after 13 minutes at Vicarage Road, and although Lee Nogan's header gave Watford parity at half-time, Wanderers took full command in the second half. Keith Downing restored their lead, and the double act of Mutch and Steve Bull, who at a conservative estimate might have had a hat-trick, made it 4-1.

First Division leaders Newcastle also scored four, without reply, in their comfortable win against Second Division Port Vale. Gavin Peacock took his season's tally to 17 with the first two. The rout was completed by Robert Lee and Kevin Sheedy.

Two matches were as icy and chilling as the conditions which had caused the postponement of nine ties. At Selhurst Park, almost 8,000 intrepid souls endured a dull 0-0 draw between Wimbledon and Everton, two struggling Premier League sides. If we are talking struggle, however, the word was defined at Priestfield yesterday where Huddersfield, bottom of the Second Division, were entertained by Gillingham, bottom of the entire League. Not suprisingly, it ended 0-0.

Grimsby reached the fourth round with a worthy and unexpected win at Griffin Park. After early Brentford pressure, during which the visitors' goalkeeper, Rhys Wilmot, excelled, Clive Mendonca, signed from Sheffield United earlier in the season, gave Grimsby the lead. Jim Dobbin sealed the 2-0 win with 16 minutes remaining.

Perhaps the biggest prize of all among yesterday's winners goes to Bury of the lower Third. They won their postponed second-round replay at Gigg Lane against Wigan of the lower Second when Ronnie Mauge headed in Danny Sonner's cross. As their delighted bank manager is undoubtedly aware, their third-round tie, on Tuesday, is against Manchester United.