Owls ko as derby Cup dream ends

Sheffield Wednesday v Charlton......GOAL...Leon Best equalises
Sheffield Wednesday v Charlton......GOAL...Leon Best equalises
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Johnnie Jackson, a former scourge of Wednesday and United, last night played a key role as the city clubs’ hopes of a derby in the FA Cup quarter-finals were dashed.

The Charlton captain hit brilliant free kicks to send both the Owls and the Blades to defeats in Wednesday’s promotion season.

His renowned left foot delivered the pinpoint set piece from which striker Simon Church headed the Hillsborough winner to keep his team on the Wembley path.

It was a night of agony for Wednesday and their fans.

The team looked nervous in the early stages while the Addicks played with the exhuberance of underdogs and snatched a deserved 22nd minute lead through winger Callum Harriott.

Leon Best’s equaliser was the reward for a more forceful second half from the Owls.

But just when they seemed be gathering the momentum towards a win, Jackson and Church conjured up the second goal against the run of play.

After that came nerve-shredding near misses, with Atdhe Nuhiu hitting the post, a goal-bound shot by Giles Coke hitting Best, and sub Caolan Lavery bringing a stunning save from Ben Hamer in injury time.

Both managers responded to the strain put on their squads by the demand of two games in a span of around 54 and a half hours.

Stuart Gray made six changes after the win at Huddersfield, Chris Powell five in the wake of the Addicks’ 1-0 beating of QPR.

None of the Wednesday alterations was a surprise.

There were recalls for Damian Martinez, Giles Coke, Chris Maguire, Benik Afobe, Glenn Loovens and Leon Best.

Chris Kirkland was rested, as in previous FA Cup ties; Michail Antonio was ruled out by his sprained ankle, and Oguchi Onyewu, Jeremy Helan, Atdhe Nuhiu and Sam Hutchinson were moved to the bench.

Attack was on Charlton boss’s mind just by the way the men in red poured forward toward the Kop end and supported strikers Astrit Ajdarevic and Simon Church in the early stages.

Wednesday had a double escape in the 12th minute.

Left winger Callum Harriott crossed low and Ajdarevic’s shot looked goalbound until Miguel Llera blocked it. The ball ran back to the striker and his follow-up was deflected past a post for a corner.

Coke had to make a terrific clearance at the near post, diving to head away a cross from Harriott, whose pace was a threat.

But it was only a reprieve. Another ball into the box soon afterwards was not cleared, it rolled out to the feet of Harriott and he lashed a left-foot drive into the roof of the net from 14 yards,

That was in the 22nd minute, and the Owls had yet to mount a proper attack, with Charlton hogging possession and forcing them back.

The Owls’ first real strike at goal came in the 39th minute: a sweetly hit 25-yarder from Gary Gardner, and Ben Hamer did well to catch it cleanly.

Best took a great ball from Llera and volleyed from similar distance. Again the keeper dealt with it.

Wednesday at least got themselves into the game in the latter stages of the half.

They tried to up the tempo and urgency at the start of the second period and Charlton’s early fluency was no more.

But when a breakthrough refused to come, Caolan Lavery and Atdhe Nuhiu were being prepared to come on.

While they were waiting, Maguire angled free kick into the box from the right, Llera headed it back and Best’s left foot found Hamer’s top right-hand corner via a deflection.

The two subs immediately joined the fray, and Nuhiu very nearly forced home a near-post ball from Maguire, who had dropped into midfield, with Lavery on the left flank.

The crowd were roused, Charlton were rattled, but from the visitors’ first real threat of the half they scored. Jackson curled a free kick from the right, and Church was running in behind the defence to put away a close-range header.

Wednesday and fans thought they had equalised in the 73rd minute.

Nuhiu powered in header from a Maguire cross, it seemed to be going in, but the ball hit the inside of the post, bounced across goal and was clawed off the line by the hand of Hamer.

Wednesday desperately piled on pressure and there was another agonising moment when a Coke shot hit Best on its way to the net.

Then in the third of five added minutes a deflected shot by Lavery was heading for the top but brought a fantastic save from Hamer.

Charlton were camped in their box but they hung on - and Wednesday were out.