Sheffield Wednesday 4 Hereford 1: Irvine delight at Owls progression in FA Cup

CLINTON MORRISON'S goals took the heat off manager Alan Irvine but the Sheffield Wednesday striker could not care less about the FA Cup.

Irvine's neck was on the line until Morrison broke Hereford's brave hearts with two penalties and his celebrations were a crystal clear show of solidarity for the under pressure Owls manager.

Morrison's touchline hug with Irvine will also have sent a message to chairman Milan Mandaric just in case he was thinking about changes at Hillsborough.

However, speaking after the game, the veteran Owls striker admitted that the only way to keep pressure off Irvine and the Wednesday dressing room is to start winning again in the league.

The Owls are five league games without a win ahead of tomorrow night's trip to Peterborough United and need to start closing the five-point gap on the play-off pack before it is too late.

"I hope this win takes pressure off the gaffer a bit – but, let's be honest, the league is still the most important thing," he said. "Tonight, the gaffer can go home, have a few drinks, and watch the highlights with a smile on his face – but it's back to work on Tuesday and a big game which we need to win.

"Draws are not good enough as games are running out. If we win our next two games, we will be in a good position, and we can kick on."

Morrison, 31, joined the Owls last summer after being snubbed by a number of Championship clubs following his release by Coventry City.

With 10 goals under his belt, including five in this season's

FA Cup, the former Republic of Ireland international has started to repay Irvine's faith.

"Some people say I'm a bad egg to work with and maybe that's why some people won't touch me. But I am not hard to work with, I am just passionate and I want to win things.

"I patted him on the back when I scored to show we are together. I am with him. He is one of the best managers I have worked under and I have worked with some good ones, Steve Bruce, Steve Coppell, Peter Taylor, Neil Warnock.

"He helps us on the training pitch and gives us confidence. It has been a bit quiet this week because he has been down and has taken a bit of stick but hopefully that win will make him bounce back and kick on. I hope the rest of players share my view. I think the majority do.

"The FA Cup is an added bonus, the league is the bread and butter, and that's where we have to be successful," he stressed. "There are still big teams like Manchester United and Manchester City in the Cup so I think most Sheffield Wednesday supporters would just settle for a day out. We would rather get a league medal this season and get back up to the Championship."

Irvine's afternoon could hardly have got off to a worse start when the League Two side took the lead after just nine minutes.

The goal typified Wednesday's recent woes with confusion and hesitancy in the penalty area allowing Stuart Fleetwood to score at the far post.

Relief had replaced growing tension within six minutes, however, as Darren Potter restored parity.

Hereford's lowly league status masked an impressive run of form and the Bulls were high on confidence after notching five wins in a row.

Backed by around 3,000 supporters in the Leppings Lane stand, the visitors displayed a willingness to attack at every opportunity and the first half swung from end to end.

Jermaine Johnson might have scored for the Owls after being put through by Paul Heffernan and a header from Hereford's Jonas Kovacs dipped over the bar.

It took a good save from Adam Bartlett to deny Gary Teale but the Owls had a lucky escape when Fleetwood got goalside of his marker only to miss the target.

The Owls, three times winners of the FA Cup, had not reached the fourth round of the competition for a decade and victories over Southport, Northampton Town and Bristol City had set up this tie.

Hereford, who would be one of football's millionaires if they received royalties every time Ronnie Radford's 1972 goal against Newcastle United is replayed on TV, reached the fourth round three years ago but have never progressed beyond the fifth.

Only three sides of the Owls' stadium were open and, despite reduced ticket prices, the attendance of 16,578 was still the second lowest for a fourth round tie at Hillsborough (of which there have been 25 during the last 65 years).

Wednesday started the second half looking to impose some authority on the game but there were soon worrying signs.

Jermaine Johnson's mistake in midfield so nearly let in the visitors and Potter was far from happy to be substituted after a breakdown in communication between physio and manager.

The midfielder went down

injured after making a routine pass but was preparing to come back on the field after treatment when the fourth official indicated that his number was up.

Potter snubbed his manager's offer of a handshake and kicked out in frustration before throwing his Owls shirt on the floor in a huff.

His attitude contrasted sharply with that of Morrison, who led by example in the final third.

Morrison was unlucky not to score when Townsend deflected a close-range shot wide on the hour mark but soon got the rewards his efforts deserved.

Bundled over by Joe Heath, Morrison got up off the floor to convert the subsequent penalty.

It was third time lucky for the Owls who had missed spot-kicks in their previous two home games. Heath was also shown a red card, leaving Hereford to play the final 21 minutes of the game with 10 men.

With Hereford at a numerical disadvantage, the Owls took full control. Johnson doubled the lead with a superb solo goal before Hereford conceded a second penalty as Fleetwood handled Heffernan's cross.

Morrison stepped up to the spot again and duly slammed home his 10th goal of the season.

In the final five minutes, the Owls could easily have run riot as Spurr, Heffernan and Johnson laid siege to the Hereford goal.

Irvine looked a relieved man in his press conference after the game but will not be resting on his laurels.


Hero: Clinton Morrison

The Owls striker led by example and scored two penalties that killed off brave Hereford's resistance. His celebrations for the first goal were a clear show of solidarity for under pressure manager Alan Irvine.

Villain: Darren Potter

Threw his dummy out of the pram when substituted and ignored the offer of a handshake from Irvine. The Owls midfielder might need to take a look in the mirror.

Key moment

69th minute: Hereford defender Joe Heath is red carded for a foul on Morrison that results in the Owls taking the lead from the penalty spot.

Ref Watch

Steve Tanner: Took advice from his linesman before awarding both Owls penalties and the decisions were fully justified.


Everything changed once Hereford had been reduced to 10 men. The result flatters the Owls, who are still far from flying this season.

Quote of the day

It has been a bit quiet this week because he has been down and has taken a bit of stick.

– Owls striker Clinton Morrison on manager Alan Irvine.

Next game

Peterborough v Sheff Weds; tomorrow, League One; 7.45.

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