Wednesday rely on Palmer karma

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The Independent Online
Sheffield Wednesday. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

Middlesbrough. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

(aet; score at 90 min 1-1)

CARLTON PALMER, whose last- ditch goal earned Wednesday this replay, finally settled the tie in their favour five minutes from the end of extra time.

A perfectly struck volley - his fourth goal in five games - carried last year's beaten finalists into the fourth round of the Coca-Cola Cup after First Division Middlesbrough looked to be hanging on for a penalty shoot-out. Then Andy Sinton crossed from the left and Palmer turned the ball firmly past Steve Pears to justify his manager's gamble of converting him into a striker for the extra half-hour. 'It was a great goal, reminiscent of some Paul Warhurst scored for us last season,' Trevor Francis said afterwards.

The teams had drawn 1-1 at Ayresome Park and the score was the same after 90 minutes of a frantic Hillsborough night of Wednesday domination and Boro indomitability.

Tight and disciplined in defence, with the experienced Andy Peake playing in front of the back four, Boro repelled almost constant pressure and hoped the pace of their stand-in strikers, Graham Kavanagh and Alan Moore, would earn them something on the break.

Against a Wednesday defence that has done an imitation of a colander all season even with Roland Nilsson, who was on international duty yesterday, that hope was always likely to be justified. His replacement, Michael Williams, had some sticky moments and it was through the hole which he left that Boro came up for air after Wednesday had threatened to swamp them.

Gordon Watson, one of four reserve strikers on view, gave Wednesday the lead after only 15 minutes, a rare example of a player getting behind the Boro rearguard. Nigel Worthington's free-kick was flicked on by Nigel Jemson and Watson beat Pears to the ball to score his first goal since April.

But seven minutes later Boro restored parity. Craig Fleming progressed down the right from deep and his cross found Kavanagh in space with only Kevin Pressman to beat. The keeper parried but Robbie Mustoe tapped into the empty net.

It was just reward for a Boro side who kept their shape, while Wednesday, for all their pressure, failed to capitalise. Extra time brought more of the same, although Nicky Mohan involuntarily added spice with a wayward back-header that brought Pears' best save in a busy night.

The Middlesbrough manager, Lennie Lawrence, said: 'We defended superbly but Palmer's goal was unstoppable.'

Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2): Pressman; Williams (Poric, 112), Pearce, Walker, Worthington; Waddle, Palmer, Jones, Sinton; Jemson, Watson. Substitutes not used: Hyde, Key (gk).

Middlesbrough (4-4-2): Pears; Fleming, Mohan, Barron, Liburd; Hignett, Stamp, Mustoe, Peake; Kavanagh (Illman, 82), Moore. Substitutes not used: Oliver, Collett (gk).

Referee: K Barratt (Coventry).