Football: Rushden's bright sparks

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RUSHDEN AND DIAMONDS, one of the Conference's most ambitious teams, will be aiming to add to the worries of Sheffield United, strugglers in the First Division, after sealing their place in the third round of the FA Cup last night.

Rushden, currently fourth in the Conference, secured a visit to Bramall Lane after defeating Dr Martens Premier League side Ilkeston Town 3-0 at Nene Park in their second-round replay. Tim Wooding opened the scoring after only two minutes, with further goals from David Town and Darren Collins confirming their passage, while the visitors had John Knapper sent off to add to their misery.

Another non-League side, Enfield, were efficiently disposed of by Second Division Preston at the second attempt. The north London side forced a goalless draw at Deepdale in the first tie but they were soundly beaten 3-0 at home, with Preston securing a home tie against Lancashire rivals Oldham thanks to goals from David Eyres, Graham Alexander and Bjarki Gunnlaugsson.

Wigan set up a third-round meeting with Wolves after dispatching Wycombe at the JJB Stadium. Wanderers took the lead through Andrew Baird but the home side hit back with goals from Andy Liddell and Simon Haworth.

Plymouth will play Reading in the next round after they won 2-1 at Brighton. Darren Bastow gave Argyle the lead only for Danny Cullip to level for the Seagulls in the second half, with Chris Hargreaves striking the winner. Reading went through after their 1-0 victory at Halifax through a 64th- minute penalty from Darren Caskey, although they did have John Polston sent off in the dying moments at The Shay.

Hull ensured a glamorous third-round date against Chelsea at Boothferry Park, but not without a struggle after they needed extra-time to beat Hayes, another Conference club, at the second attempt. Having been held 2-2 in the first match 10 days ago, the Tigers took the lead shortly into the second half through David Brown but were stunned by Brendon Gallen's equaliser 12 minutes from time. Mike Edwards and Jamie Wood calmed the Third Division side's nerves in extra-time, although a late strike from Lee Charles saw them hanging on at the end.

In other games, Cardiff will travel to Bolton in the next round thanks to Mike Ford's goal in the 120th minute against Second Division Bury at Ninian Park; Luton will meet Fulham after Stuart Douglas secured a 1-0 replay win at Lincoln with a cool 85th-minute finish; and Oxford's striker Matt Murphy scored twice against Shrewsbury to give them a third-round date at Nottingham Forest.