It says something for the way Sheffield Wednesday have progressed that Gary Megson's most uncomfortable moment yesterday came when he was asked for an interview with the radio station that had announced his death in a road accident. Eventually he told Talksport, who had mistaken him for the late boxer Gary Mason, that given the history of Sheffield Wednesday he did not consider himself a giant-killer.
"We are a League One side but Sheffield Wednesday will never be classed as being a David against a Goliath," said their manager. "There was a time when we would play West Ham twice a season. This place has had a nightmare over the last 15 years and we are trying to take the club back to where it was."
The reward for his players will be runs up the Grenoside Hills tomorrow morning as they prepare for Saturday's top-of-the-table encounter with Charlton, but the performance was commendable. It was a match decided by two goalkeepers.
Three minutes into the second half, Winston Reid was pulled back by Reda Johnson and Keith Stroud awarded a penalty that Megson considered soft. Nicky Weaver is a keeper who with a bit more discipline could have enjoyed a very successful career. However, though he may have lived a bit, the talent has endured and he saved Sam Baldock's kick two-handed. Later, Baldock sent another drive whistling goalwards and Weaver touched it on to the post.
In the West Ham goal, Ruud Boffin had less to do. But on 87 minutes the game was stopped for over six minutes when Julian Bennett and Clinton Morrison collided; the former left Hillsborough in a neck brace for Northern General Hospital. On the restart, Chris O'Grady drove down the West Ham left and on the run produced a shot that went through the Belgian keeper.
"We lost our concentration," said the West Ham manager, Sam Allardyce. "It was a nothing shot that the keeper should have dealt with comfortably. He didn't and there are no second chances in the FA Cup."
Sometimes, it is not how many you score but who you score them against. O'Grady's first goal after arriving at Hillsborough was against Sheffield United. This was his fourth, and the £350,000 fee Megson paid Rochdale for him has already been largely repaid.
The treatment to Bennett, given on an eerily silent ground, meant that when stoppage time was announced the fourth official held up a board indicating 11 minutes. It is the sort of thing that has managers waking up in a cold sweat the night before they go to Old Trafford.
West Ham failed to take advantage, though: they produced one header, a cross that finished up in the Leppings Lane End and one genuine chance from six yards that Frank Nouble slashed into the same general area.
The first half produced two glittering chances that neither side grabbed. An hour or so afterwards Allardyce was still trying to work out the geometry of how Freddie Sears could send a header into the Spion Kop when standing three yards from goal.
Likewise Jermaine Johnson who, put through by O'Grady, swept past left- back Daniel Potts, forced Boffin to commit himself and had the composure to pick his spot. Unfortunately for a striker who has yet to score this season, his spot was an advertising hoarding.
Sheffield Wednesday: WEAVER 8/10, OSTEMOBOR 7, R JONES 7, O'GRADY 7, BENNETT 7, BATTH 7, SEMEDO 6, TAVERNIER 6, LINES 6, R JOHNSON 6, J JOHNSON 6
West Ham: POTTS 6, McCARTNEY 7, REID 7, O'BRIEN 6, SEARS 5, COLLISON 5, LANSBURY 6, O'NEIL 6, CAREW 4, BALDOCK 6, BOFFIN 4
Goals: O'Grady 88
Substitutes: Sheffield Wednesday Morrison 5 (R Johnson, 59), D Jones (Tavernier, 72), Lowe (Bennett, 87). West Ham United Nouble 5 (Carew, 65), Hall (Sears, 72), Montenegro (O'Neil, 78).
Booked: Sheff Wed Morrison. West Ham O'Neil. McCartney, Potts,
Man of the match Weaver. Match rating 6/10. Possession: Sheff Wed 46% West Ham 54%.
Attempts on target: Sheff Wed 4 West Ham 3.
Referee K Stroud (Dorset). Attendance 17,916.
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