Third time lucky for Crewe as Owls flounder

Crewe Alexandra 2 Sheffield Wednesday 1
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The Independent Football

On a night for brass monkeys and brass bands, Crewe booked a fourth-round FA Cup date away to the winners of tonight's meeting of Rotherham and Southampton by overcoming a spirited challenge from Sheffield Wednesday in their delayed third-round tie.

Ben Rix, the latest teenager off the Gresty Road production line, marked his full debut for Crewe with an early goal. The promptings of the travelling trumpets and trombones soon drew a riposte from Matthew Hamshaw, but Steve Foster sealed the home victory with a second-half header.

Wednesday, for whom Paul McLaren later hit a post and Efan Ekoku missed an open goal in stoppage time, were left to concentrate on avoiding relegation and overturning their Worthington Cup semi-final deficit against Blackburn.

League results between the sides offered encouragement for Wednesday going into the tie. Although they lie third from bottom in the First Division, two places behind their opponents, they had completed a double over Crewe last Saturday. Dario Gradi's team wasted little time in reminding them that Cup football is a different matter.

With 13 minutes played, Kenny Lunt and Rodney Jack combined cleverly to release Rix to run at Kevin Pressman. The 18-year-old Midlander, who had previously appeared only as a substitute, had the former Crewe defender Ashley Westwood snapping at his heels yet stayed calm to drill his first senior goal past the keeper.

If Wednesday were stunned by Crewe's first goal against them this season, it did not show. The equaliser arrived in the 22nd minute after a fine long pass by Gerald Sibon sent Hamshaw clear. As Ademole Bankole charged to the edge of his area, the midfielder deftly lobbed him for an excellent goal.

Pressman had a lucky escape on the half-hour when he sliced a clearance straight to Lunt, who was so surprised that he volleyed hastily wide. A minute later, however, the burly keeper redeemed himself by being perfectly positioned, 12 yards off his line, to block Jack's drive with his legs.

Terry Yorath's team produced occasional passing moves which matched Crewe's purist values. One sequence of first-time touches gave Alan Quinn a glimpse of goal, but the angle was difficult and the shot weak. Crewe had an easier opportunity shortly after the hour when Rob Hulse headed over Pressman, only for Leigh Bromby to get back to hook the ball off the line.

The winner Crewe deserved came in the 69th minute. From a corner won by Dave Brammer and flighted beyond the far post by Lunt, Foster's downward header reared up into the roof of the net as Wednesday attempted in vain to hack it to safety.

Crewe Alexandra (4-4-2): Bankole; Wright, Sodje, Foster, Smith; Lunt, Brammer (Thomas, 77), Sorvel, Rix (Ashton, 81); Jack, Hulse. Substitutes not used: Little, Walker, Tomlinson (gk).

Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2): Pressman; Geary (Crane, 90), Westwood, Bromby, Broomes; Hamshaw, Haslam, McLaren, Quinn (Bonvin, 73); Ekoku, Sibon. Substitutes not used: O'Donnell, Maddix, Stringer (gk).

Referee: G Laws (Whitley Bay).