Wednesday's unhappy Valley

FA Cup third round: Charlton take giant-killing honours l Whitehouse gatecrashes Highbury l City scrap to a draw
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The Independent Online
THE prospect of a rollover win played on many minds this week and for Charlton Athletic, Crewe Alexandra and Brentford it became a deliriously happy reality as they rolled over their betters in the FA Cup third round. And although Hereford United, Sheffield United, Sunderland, Stoke, Ipswich, Leicester, Watford, Oxford and Fulham didn't win the lottery, they had enough form and luck against "superior" opposition to earn money-spinning replays.

The draw had matched FA Carling Premiership sides against humbler Endsleigh First Division opposition 11 times. Nine of the matches were played yesterday and unlike last season, when Premiership and First Division sides met in nine ties and none of the "betters" lost, there was one prominent casualty this year.

There had been a big exodus south from Sheffield - both clubs were drawn in London - but only the Blades returned in good heart. Paul Mortimer and Kim Grant were both architects and scorers in Charlton's 2-0 defeat of Sheffield Wednesday at The Valley. The Londoners played the final 36 minutes with 10 men after captain John Humphrey was sent off for a second bookable offence, but even then the Owls couldn't take flight.

Howard Kendall's reshaped Sheffield United went to Highbury and confounded an Arsenal side lacking Dennis Bergkamp. The Gunners took a 70th-minute lead, the inevitable Ian Wright goal, but the Blades won a replay when Dane Whitehouse equalised 12 minutes from time.

Crewe, top of the Second, beat First Division strugglers West Brom 4- 3, a breathless game that Albion were always chasing, while Brentford of the Second beat Norwich of the First 2-1 at Carrow Road. The Canaries centre-back Jon Newsome scored for both sides; Marcus Bent got the winner.

Both Mancunian sides face replays. Manchester City hope Georgi Kinkladze is fit for their Maine Road rematch with Leicester. Alan Ball, City's manager, felt "It was wonderful to see us scrapping and fighting."

Abysmal away form - no wins in 11 Premiership matches - made Blackburn look vulnerable to upset at Portman Road. But Ipswich had conceded 20 league goals at home, statistics to perk up a striker like Alan Shearer. Naturally, it ended 0-0. Both managers blamed the surface. "The pitch was very difficult to play on because the surface seems to be lifting," Ipswich's George Burley said.

Stoke City, ninth in the First Division, entertained Nottingham Forest at the Victoria Ground in a game that looked like the round's banker draw. The Potters' Kevin Keen set up Simon Sturridge on the stroke of half-time. Come the moment, come the man and in Forest's case that usually means Stuart Pearce. He equalised eight minutes from time. Watford and Wimbledon also shared two goals in a tight game at Vicarage Road. "We should have wrapped the game up in the first 20 minutes," Joe Kinnear, the Dons' manager moaned.

Another Third Division side, Plymouth, gave Coventry a severe test. The Sky Blues had centre-back David Busst sent off after 18 minutes for a professional foul and Ian Baird fired in the free-kick. But three goals in five minutes kept Coventry's bubbly on ice. "We did a very professional job," Ron Atkinson said, not referring to Busst. "Apart from their shot in the first minute and their flurry at the end I did not think Plymouth gave us too many problems."

There was a real battle at the New Den where First Division Millwall and Oxford United of the Second drew 3-3. Intriguing to know what the watching Sergei Yuran and Vassili Kulkov, the Lions' purchases from Spartak Moscow, made of it all.

Another battle took place aat Elm Park, where tempers frayed after Reading had beaten Gillingham 3-1. The visitors had two men, Neil Smith and goalscorer Dave Martin sent off. Afterwards, Gills' assistant manager Lindsey Parsons had heated words with Reading midfielder Phil Parkinson, the man on the end of the challenge for which Smith was dismissed.

Parkinson responded by lifting his trouser leg to reveal a line of red stud marks, claiming: "He could have broken my leg. If you knew me, you would realise I am not a player who lies down."

The genuine minnows - Gravesend & Northfleet from the nether regions of the Beazer Homes League Premier Division - got little change out of Aston Villa on the pitch losing 3-0. Villa's Mark Draper got the day's fastest Cup goal, in two minutes. Off the pitch the non-leaguers got a handsome share of the Villa Park gate. Woking of the GM Vauxhall Conference went down nobly, 2-0 at Swindon.

Finally, Ian Rush MBE is the leading goalscorer in the FA Cup. His goal yesterday, Liverpool's fifth in a 7-0 crushing of Rochdale, took his total to 42, one more than Denis Law's previous record. "I want to go on and hit 50 and reach a level no-one will beat." Fourth-round opponents have been warned.

Cup reports, page 28