This was a very ‘Wednesday’ progression into the third round of the FA Cup – sensational in parts but with just enough nervy moments to ensure it wasn’t comfortable. League Two Northampton Town had famously dumped Liverpool out of the Carling Cup not so long ago, but they showed precious little cup spirit at a snowy Hillsborough and should have been blown away by a free-scoring Wednesday. The key word is ‘should.’
I wasn’t exactly in the right frame of mind for this one. Leaving our newsroom workshop at five on Friday night, I’d not moved from my comfy seat in Wetherspoons for the best part of six hours and was fucked enough to go Latin American dancing. Thankfully, it didn’t take long to confirm that my stupid uncoordinated lanky body isn’t the right shape for salsa and to compound matters I had to use my beer-addled brain to negotiate a route home through Sheffield’s first blizzard of the season.
Saturday morning broke uncomfortably and I was probably one of the few students who didn’t like looking at the snowy scenes outside. The light, it burns. In the absence of Anadin, I tried tea, coffee, bacon, ice cold water and, God help me, herbal remedies to shift the pain in order to look remotely professional in the Wednesday press box. The herbal brew, I swear, just made me look stoned. Don’t worry, I’ve stocked up.
Hillsborough was a sorry sight once I’d bumbled my way out of the bowels of the stadium and into the chilly air to the overspill bit of the press box (student media, you see). Only the south stand and the away end were open and while the piled up snow looked quaint, the endless empty seats were a bit of an indictment on the world’s greatest cup competition™. You also had the scenario where boisterous Kop regulars were forced to sit alongside old moaners, which made for a surreal atmosphere of belted-out staples and a chorus of tuts and groans.
Mark Beevers scored his second goal in two matches to set Wednesday’s course to the third round after six minutes. He’s getting quite prolific. A fair number of chances went begging before Tommy Miller dispatched a penalty towards the end of the first-half, awarded when Neil Mellor was tugged down. It’s almost a given that supporters are on their best form for the Cup but the few hundred from Northampton were either freezing to death or treating the game as an inconvenience against their plight in League Two. The first-half gave them absolutely no reason to change their minds.
Everyone of an Owls persuasion was already dreaming of a plum tie in early January (they got Bristol City away, which is a very mouldy piece of fruit) and the defence certainly switched off when Billy McKay, who had a good game, halved the deficit ten minutes after the break. The row of supporters behind the hack zone sighed – a win without a hiccup of some kind is not familiar round here. And on the day Milan Mandaric’s takeover finally resolved the off-field troubles, wouldn’t it be typical if some bloody cobblers ruined everything.
Thankfully, they didn’t. Their second-half was more enterprising but, for all the extra possession and the odd half-chance, an equalising goal and a ball in the velvet bag wasn’t forthcoming. In the second minute of stoppage time, Mellor’s wizardry caused more problems and, after Paul Rodgers chopped him down, Miller slotted home his second penalty of the afternoon. The majority could now go and de-ice their cars.
Northampton’s second goal was baffling – Nicky Weaver, I think, came out and handled the ball outside the box, gifting a free-kick which was allowed to be taken quickly and Kevin Thornton curled it in. Frankly, I didn’t see the incident, just the ball flying in. Nobody in the press box saw it, or had any idea who had scored. Total confusion. Quite funny really.
Next Match: Worcester City vs. Boston United on Saturday