Morrison on spot to sink 10-man Bulls

Sheffield Wednesday 4 Hereford 1
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The Independent Football

Alan Irvine has been trying not to worry about Milan Mandaric's habit of firing managers but one can imagine that he might not have wanted to catch the chairman's eye after Hereford punished a dithering Wednesday defence to take an eighth-minute lead.

The Bulls might reside in the division below Irvine's team but they arrived on a run of five straight wins while Irvine had spent the week batting away questions about his future with Wednesday's target of automatic promotion looking somewhat unlikely.

When Stuart Fleetwood scored from six yards despite the close attendance of three men in blue and white stripes Irvine may have seen his brief Hillsborough career flash before his eyes but, fortunately for him, it was a short-lived discomfort.

Much better was to come, particularly when Clint Morrison concluded his celebration of the penalty that put Wednesday ahead after 22 minutes of the second half by running to the home technical area to embrace Irvine.

"It was a nice moment and I appreciated him doing that," Irvine said, acknowledging a public show of support from a senior player. "It was very encouraging for me.

"I'd be naïve if I thought I was not in a precarious position so this was a good result for me personally as well as for the club."

A powerful strike by Darren Potter from the edge of the penalty area had Wednesday level within seven minutes and, save for one moment when Fleetwood pushed the ball wide with only Nicky Weaver to beat, there were no more scares on what ultimately became a comfortable passage to the fifth round.

Hereford would argue that the game turned against them only when referee Steve Tanner awarded Wednesday the first of their two penalties and sent off defender Joe Heath for hauling down Clint Morrison but the balance of the contest by then was tipping towards with the home side.

"Obviously when they lost a player it enabled us to have a bit more space to play in but I felt we were starting to gain some momentum in the lead-up to the penalty," Irvine said.

Jermaine Johnson's goal, a blistering finish after a run from the half-way line had left two Hereford defenders in his wake, stretched Wednesday's lead to a position of comfort after Clint Morrison had scored emphatically from the spot, although a second penalty, awarded when Hereford captain Michael Townsend used a hand to block a cross and again converted by Morrison, created a final score that was a little harsh on the visitors.

Hereford's victory over Newcastle in the third round in 1972 has given them a reputation as giant-killers, although they have never reached the fifth round, despite having been in the last 32 eight times.

Not that Wednesday, who were in the top flight when they beat a Southern League Hereford side at Edgar Street when they had last met in the Cup - in 1958 - have done much better lately. They are in round five for the first time this century.