Football: Warhurst makes difference

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Sheffield Wednesday. . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

Ipswich Town . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

PAUL WARHURST's versatility prevailed over Ipswich's obduracy at Hillsborough last night, the reluctant striker's smartly taken goal earning Sheffield Wednesday the two-leg Coca-Cola Cup semi-final with Blackburn Rovers that their greater enterprise merited.

Wednesday, who won the trophy in its Rumbelows incarnation two seasons ago by beating Manchester United at Wembley, felt that justice was served by Warhurst's 53rd-minute winner. They had been three minutes from victory at Portman Road before a dubious penalty earned Ipswich a replay, and went into the game without their two leading scorers.

The injured David Hirst and Mark Bright were replaced, as they had been in Saturday's win at Chelsea, by Warhurst, nominally a central defender, and midfielder Chris Bart-Williams. The early efforts of the stand-in duo seemed to betray their unease in the role, but Warhurst in particular warmed to his task as the match wore on.

And wearing it was in the first half with Ipswich often pulling all 10 outfield players behind the ball on the edge of their area and Wednesday bereft of ideas about how to break them down. John Sheridan and Roland Nilsson, both from long range, were the only players to test goalkeeper Clive Baker.

Ipswich, for their part, mustered only a tame header by Jason Dozzell before the interval, but the second half was altogether more cohesive and dramatic once Warhurst had made the breakthrough. Receiving a through pass from Danny Wilson in the inside-right channel, he clipped the ball high past the advancing Baker from the angle of the six-yard box in a manner curiously reminiscent of Hirst.

Four minutes later Bart-Williams almost emulated his partner after an exhilarating exchange of passes with Chris Waddle had taken him into the danger zone from deep in Wednesday's half. His low drive went barely a yard wide, with Baker beaten.

Only after Bontcho Guentchev, whose part in Ipswich's equaliser a fortnight ago prompted booing whenever he touched the ball, had given way to John Wark did Ipswich begin to threaten Chris Woods's goal. A Neil Thompson free-kick was deflected narrowly wide, while Woods had to save at Chris Kiwomya's feet after a cleverly worked set-piece four minutes from time.

Wednesday also had chances to put the issue beyond doubt, however, notably when Warhurst forced a sprawling save from the goalkeeper. Trevor Francis, for one, was not surprised by his marksmanship. 'Paul doesn't like playing up front,' the Wednesday manager said, 'but if Graham Taylor asked him to play there for England, I wonder what he'd say. His pace is a real problem for defenders, and seven goals this season says it all.'

Sheffield Wednesday: Woods; Nilsson, Worthington, Palmer, Harkes, Shirtliff, Wilson, Waddle, Warhurst, Bart-Williams (Pearson, 75), Sheridan. Substitute not used: Jemson.

Ipswich Town: Baker; Johnson, Thompson, Williams, Whelan, Linighan, Yallop, Guentchev (Wark, 66), Bozinoski (Stockwell, 57), Dozzell, Kiwomya.

Referee: V Callow (Solihull).