Ekoku brace puts Blades out of Cup

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The Independent Online

Efan Ekoku had failed to score since arriving at Hillsborough, despite playing in the three matches that marked Wednesday's resurgence after their worst-ever start to the season.

Efan Ekoku had failed to score since arriving at Hillsborough, despite playing in the three matches that marked Wednesday's resurgence after their worst-ever start to the season.

But he made up for it when it really mattered to the blue-and-white half of Sheffield, giving Wednesday an early lead and then settling a tight derby in the second period of extra time after Michael Brown had equalised.

It was bad luck for United, who came within a splinter of victory themselves in the dying moments of normal time when Wednesday's goalkeeper Kevin Pressman diverted a Wayne Quinn free-kick into the path of Marcus Bent, who blasted the loose ball against the bar when scoring looked easier.

The Blades should have confirmed their superiority after only six minutes when Paul Devlin's chip was diverted by Wednesday's captain Des Walker on to his own bar.

The ball was cleared off the line by Ashley Westwood but only as far as David Kelly, who planted the ball tamely into the arms of Pressman.

But it is Wednesday who have the pedigree in this competition, winning it in 1991 -- the last time a major trophy went to the city in which the game began.

Unbeaten in their last three outings, they have a new confidence about them and they went ahead after nine minutes. Ekoku was impeded wide on the left and the former Wimbledon striker got the faintest of touches to Owen Morrison's free-kick to divert it beyond Simon Tracey's dive and into the far corner.

United, 12 points better off than their neighbours in the First Division, swarmed back. Kelly skimmed the bar, Pressman clung onto Bent's chip and Nick Montgomery hit a post before they deservedly restored parity.

Montgomery crossed low from the right and, with the Wednesday back four dallying in the expectation of an offside flag, the unmarked Brown side-footed home after 32 minutes.

United had the best of a frenetic second half and wasted several opportunities but the pace could not be sustained. Adrenalin levels dipped significantly until Ekoku set Hillsborough pulses racing again with his late winner, meeting Morrison's cross at the far post with a strike the United goalkeeper could only parry into his own net.

Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2): Pressman; Haslam, Walker, Westwood (Crane, 44), Humphreys (Geary, h-t); Hamshaw (Di Piedi, 105), Lescott, A Quinn, Morrison; Sibon, Ekoku. Substitutes not used: Stringer (gk), Muller.

Sheffield United (4-4-2): Tracey; Uhlenbeek, Curle, Murphy, W Quinn; Devlin, Ribeiro, Montgomery (Santos, 115), Brown; Bent, Kelly. Substitutes not used: Talia, Woodhouse, D'Jaffo,Smith.

Referee: S Lodge (Barnsley).

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