Football: Warhurst gets his angles right

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The Independent Online
Sheffield Wednesday. . .2

Southend United. . . . .0

NO giant-killing here, unless you count Southend's contingent of seven six-footers getting a slow roasting from the Premier League's hottest side. Wednesday's 12-match unbeaten run never looked like ending at unlucky 13, but it took them some time to put the First Division stragglers in their place.

The Shrimpers dipped their toes into Hillsborough's big pond more in hope than in expectation of reaching the quarter-finals of the FA Cup for the first time, but their bustling, direct approach briefly threatened to knock Wednesday out of their sophisticated stride. They pumped the ball up to their big striking partnership of Stan Collymore and Brett Angell with some effect, and Chris Woods saved at the feet of both before Collymore's finish was disallowed for a foul on the England goalkeeper.

That, in the fifth minute, was Southend's finest moment but they never allowed Wednesday the sort of midfield space they exploited so effectively at Blackburn in mid-week. John Harkes hit the bar with a cross deflected off Andy Edwards and Pat Scully hooked Paul Warhurst's header off the line.

But Wednesday stuck to their neat triangles and the prize for geometry was finally awarded to Warhurst two minutes before half-time. Harkes crossed, and, challenged by Chris Powell, the ball ran kindly for the stand-in striker, who side-footed home from eight yards.

Collymore should have put Southend back in it straight after the break when John Cornwell released him, but poor finishing negated that and the few other opportunities their persistence created, and all the 4,000 who made the journey from Essex had to applaud in the end was undiminished effort.

Poor finishing, however, is not a failing which has afflicted Warhurst since his conversion from centre-back to centre-forward, as he demonstrated in the 54th minute. Spencer Prior should have intercepted Chris Bart-Williams' through ball but Warhurst skipped round the goalkeeper Paul Sansome to score nonchalantly. It was his seventh in five matches and his 12th in 13 appearances at the head of the attack.

The only problem facing Trevor Francis as Wednesday's advance on Wembley continues is who to leave out when his regular strikers David Hirst and Mark Bright recover from injury. His big day over, the Southend manager Colin Murphy must contemplate the more pressing problem of keeping his side in the First Division.

Sheffield Wednesday: C Woods; R Nilsson, N Worthington, C Palmer, J Harkes, P Shirtliff, D Wilson, C Waddle, P Warhurst (V Anderson, 89 min), C Bart-Williams (N Jemson, 83 min), J Sheridan. Player-manager: T Francis.

Southend United: P Sansome; A Edwards, C Powell, J Cornwell, P Scully, S Prior, A Ansah, D Martin, K Jones, S Collymore, B Angell. Subs not used: S Tilson, A Locke. Manager: C Murphy.

Referee: P Don (Middlesex).

Goals: Warhurst (1-0, 43 min); Warhurst (2-0, 54 min).