Football: Stockport are sunk by the class divide

Sheffield Wednesday 2 Stockport County 0
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The Independent Online
"NOT AT all," was the Stockport manager Gary Megson's brief response when asked if this had been an emotional return to the ground both he and his father Don had graced for so long as players.

"The place for emotion is out on the pitch and we didn't show enough emotion, passion or desire. It didn't look like an FA Cup tie." It was an honest assessment of a match his side were lucky to come out of only two goals adrift.

This was an end-to-end cup tie, but the traffic was all from one end to the other, and it was Wednesday who were in the driving seat. Megson's tactics were those many a struggling First Division manager would have adopted if drawn away to an in-form Premiership club - pack your penalty area with defenders and limit the damage in the hope of snatching something on the break.

That the strategy had a modicum of success in the first half was due less to the five man defensive cordon than to the lucky charm Carlo Nash seemed to have suspended over his goal. But the game plan had started to unravel as early as the seventh minute when Tony Dinning, who had been tasked to do a man-marking job on Benito Carbone - whom Megson had correctly identified as Wednesday's main threat - limped off. His replacement, Jim Gannon, did well enough, but few defenders would have tamed the Italian striker in his current form.

"We let him go twice and Wednesday scored twice," said Megson. Carbone set up the first goal with a swivel and cross from the by-line for Wednesday's Brazilian defender Emerson Thome to score his first goal in English football after 16 minutes, and wrapped it up with a spectacular individual strike from 35 yards early in the second half that left Nash flat-footed as the ball flew over his head and dipped into the net.

But Carbone's influence stretched much further. He and Niclas Alexandersson unpicked the Stockport defence at will down the right, and both missed a couple of chances in the first half that would have put Stockport out of the Cup and their misery much earlier.

All County provided to cheer their supporters was a header from Gannon that flew wide and a burst through the middle by Brett Angell which was halted by Wednesday's captain, Peter Atherton, before the striker could get in his shot. But for the most part the difference in class was infinite, with County's hopeful long balls an inadequate response to Wednesday's quick and incisive passing game.

"We didn't play as fluidly as we have recently," said Wednesday's manager, Danny Wilson, "but I was pleased that we kept a third clean sheet in a row. A good cup run is very important to us after the problems we've had over the Di Canio incident, and a win at any level breeds confidence." The only cloud on his horizon is that victory over another County - Derby - on Saturday could bring the curse of manager of the month down on his head.

Goals: Thome (16) 1-0; Carbone (57) 2-0.

Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2): Srnicek; Atherton, Thome, Walker (Newsome, 76), Hinchcliffe; Alexandersson, Rudi, Jonk, Sonner; Humphreys (Booth, 62), Carbone. Substitutes not used: Pressman (gk), Briscoe, Stefanovic.

Stockport County (5-3-2):Nash; Connolly, Woodthorpe, Flynn, McIntosh, Dinning (Gannon, 7), Cook, McIness, Phillips (Matthews, 59); Angell, Moore. Substitutes not used: Gray, Cooper, Wilbraham.

Referee: N Barry (Scunthorpe).

Bookings: Stockport: Woodthorpe, McIness. Sending off: Stockport: Cook.

Man of the match: Carbone.

Attendance: 20,984.