Fergie's name still on the Cup

United manager watches son Darren make a killing in the competition his club spurned
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The Independent Online

Even with his own side controversially missing from the competition, Sir Alex Ferguson still tasted FA Cup glory at the Racecourse Ground yesterday, thanks to his son, Darren, who was the architect of another Cup fairytale for Wrexham's celebrated giant-killers.

Even with his own side controversially missing from the competition, Sir Alex Ferguson still tasted FA Cup glory at the Racecourse Ground yesterday, thanks to his son, Darren, who was the architect of another Cup fairytale for Wrexham's celebrated giant-killers.

The 27-year-old midfielder, who joined the Welsh club as a free agent last season after his career with Wolverhampton Wanderers had drifted to an anonymous close, struck a 69th-minute winning goal for Brian Flynn's side to send the 1997 finalists spinning out at their first hurdle. Sir Alex, with no Manchester United fixture to occupy him, was in the directors' box to witness his son's glorious moment.

Middlesbrough had been this way before and Wrexham, recalling their famous 1-0 triumph of 1974 did all they could to recreate the mood, even down to re-enacting a pre-match stunt in which they all dressed as undertakers, resplendent in top hats and long black coats.

That victory has been echoed in more recent deeds which have seen Arsenal and West Ham undone by Welsh passion but there was little more than memories from which Brian Flynn's side could draw inspiration yesterday. Without a League win for three months, they lie 18th in the Second Division and Flynn's position as the third longest-serving manager in the four divisions has been looking precarious for some time.

Then again, mid-table Middlesbrough are some way short of the side that led the old First Division by 12 points. Wrexham fancied their chances as an awkward, swirling wind that worried the Premiership side's defenders and went forward with gusto. A low, driven cross from the right had Pallister in momentary trouble and then Neil Roberts met Mark McGregor's lofted centre with a header that gave Mark Schwarzer his first test.

The biggest encouragement came after 35 minutes, when a slip by Pallister let in Neil Roberts. Phil Stamp made a fine tackle, but then Kevin Russell followed in fiercely and only Steve Vickers's block prevented a goal before Ferguson junior pulled the loose ball wide. Pallister, three times an FA Cup winner with this season's absentees, was substituted before half-time.

However, a Boro side boasting the craft of Juninho and Paul Gascoigne in midfield seemed always to have something with which to surprise their hosts. Kevin Dearden, in the Wrexham goal, made two saves in a minute to deny Hamilton Ricard and strike partner Brian Deane and full back Phil Hardy headed a Deane effort off his own line.

Three minutes before half-time they scored. Ricard, eager to add to his five goals in as many matches, had one attempt messily blocked. There were claims from the home side for hands against the Colombian but referee Steve Lodge dismissed them and Deane slid the loose ball into the Wrexham goal from close range.

The lead lasted 10 minutes, cancelled out splendidly by right-winger Robin Gibson five minutes into the second period. Controlling the ball with his right foot on the edge of the Boro box, the 20-year-old one-time Crewe schoolboy cut inside his marker before stroking the left-footed beyond Schwarzer's reach. The provider of the pass - watched by a father on a day off - was Fergie junior.

Now the Premiership side had a storm to weather as Wrexham, their spirits ignited, sought to strike again as their opponents wobbled. For 15 minutes, Middlesbrough were penned inside their own half. The play was not pretty but was enough to rattle Boro's composure and their defending became increasingly anxious.

Relief came when Gascoigne released Ricard with a super pass into the home side's penalty area, but Dearden was out in a flash to smother the danger. But Wrexham had the scent of a frightened quarry in their nostrils and 11 players intent on being heroes. They found one in Ferguson, who entered local folklore with the kind of goal for which Wrexham have been famous ever since Mickey Thomas stunned Arsenal in 1992.

Cutting inside from the right flank unchallenged, Ferguson looked up to see a gap to Schwarzer's left inviting him to let fly and did so with devastating effect, sparking joyous celebrations in a near 12,000-crowd.

But if Ferguson, the one-time Manchester United starlet whose career was in decline, was the headline maker, Wrexham had another hero in goalkeeper Dearden, who saved his side twice in the closing moments to thwart Deane and Ricard, watching with relief in between as Christian Ziege sent a fine chance sailing over the crossbar.

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