Sheffield Wednesday were hoping that young stars Dalian Atkinson and Carlton Palmer would carry their fine performances for the England B side into the home tie against fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday March 31, 1990.
The pair had made their England B debuts against the Republic of Ireland four days earlier and were the standout players for England, who lost the tie 4-1 at Tuner”s Cross stadium, Cork.
Alan McLoughlin, David Kelly and Niall Quinn (2) registered for the Republic but it was an Atkinson volley on the turn which had put England in front early in the game. Palmer was workman-like in midfield and often burst forward from that position, but was let down by a lack of service.
Talking to The Star, Owls manager Ron Atkinson singled out Atkinson and his strike partner David Hurst as being “two of the most promising frontmen in the game.” He added: “In terms of potential and quality they are as good as any pair around and they have the chance of going right to the top.”
Atkinson also argued the duo should be aiming to emulate veteran Trevor Francis, who had arrived at the club mid-season, and visiting striker Gary Lineker. “Lineker is the best around at the moment and, with Francis, represents the best two we have had in this country in the last 20 years,” voiced Atkinson.
Spurs arrived at Hillsborough with an impressive recent record against the Owls, winning four of their previous visits and four of the six ties at White Hart Lane.
Lining up for Sheffield Wednesday: Turner, Nilsson, King, Palmer, Shirtliff, Pearson, Francis, Sheridan, Hirst, Atkinson, Barrick. Subs: Bennett, Madden.
The Spurs side: Thorstvedt, Bergsson, Van den Hauwe, Sedgley, Howells, Mabbutt, Walsh, Gascoigne, Nayim, Lineker, Allen. Subs: Stewart, Thomas.
Tottenham were quick off the mark as Nayim gained some space from Pearson to cross to Lineker, who had made a smart run on the left side of the box, and heading the ball across goal, he found the diving Paul Allen. Spurs were 1-0 in front.
In response, Sheridan and Barrick combined to release a pass for Hirst and he hit a shot from the edge of the box forcing Thorstvedt into action.
Sheridan also tested the keeper with a low shot from 20 yards but the attentions of Walsh stopped it being a threat. A half-chance was created when Palmer passed to Francis whose cross found Barrick at the far post and in plenty of space but the header was cleared from in front of goal.
In the meantime, Gascoigne had made a burst along the left-hand touchline, beating Nilsson and Sheridan before a tackle from Palmer halted his progress just inside the penalty area.
Atkinson controlled the ball well to Nilsson, who found Francis with a clever ball to him on the right-hand side.
Offside appeals were waved away, allowing Francis to run towards the Kop and, after surveying his options, he found Hirst eight yards out.
His shot was well placed in the left-hand corner of Tottenham’s goal and brought the tie level at 1-1.
Lineker almost made an immediate reply as Shirtliff failed to divert a long ball all the way to Turner, allowing the Spurs striker to get a foot to it, forcing a fine save from the Owls keeper.
Both sides had a number of good opportunities before the end of the half but the final ball was lacking.
Following the break Wednesday were awarded a free kick after Francis was felled by Mabbutt. Sheridan took it and found Barrick unmarked on the left but he could not produce a shot or a cross and the ball went high and wide of the goal.
Tottenham soon conceded another free kick and Sheridan clipped the ball to Palmer.
He headed it to Atkinson, who hit a hard shot into the left-hand corner to move the Owls into a 2-1 lead.
A free kick awarded to Spurs allowed three substitutions to be made. Walsh and Nayim left the field for Stewart and Thomas, while Francis, who had produced a man of the match performance, was replaced by Bennett.
Van den Hauwe took the kick and found Stewart whose first touch took the ball to Lineker. His low diving header beat Turner and brought Tottenham level at 2-2.
Only two minutes elapsed before Lineker beat Shirtliff 20 yards out and chipped his shot into the top corner. This was goal number 22 in his season and Spurs were 3-2 up.
A poor ten-minute spell from Wednesday was made worse when a floated free kick from Gascoigne reached Stewart after he had broken free from Pearson, allowing him to head the ball into the left corner of the goal.
With this 4-2 victory Tottenham Hotspur extended their unbeaten run at Hillsborough to five matches and ended Sheffield Wednesday’s sequence of six games unbeaten.