MATCH REPORT: Sheffield Wednesday 4 Hereford 1

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EASY does it for Alan Irvine as he works towards securing his Hillsborough future.

In the end a badly-needed win was comfortable as Wednesday extended their unbeaten home run to eight games and reached the last 16 of the FA Cup.

The manager has told how he is bearing up under the pressure caused by a faltering League One campaign and speculation about his job.

He took it on his own shoulders and tried to keep the players in a relaxed frame of mind.

“I’ve tried to take all the pressure on me and take it off the players. I’ve had a less thorough approach to this game, not because it was ‘only’ Hereford - we knew they would give us a hard game - but because I felt that if the players were feeling the pressure ... there was a lot of tension around the place.

“From the players’ point of view, we didn’t do as much tactical work with them. We didn’t do our normal video presentation. It was

more relaxed - we provided them with the bare essentials.”

The bare neccesity for Irvine and the club was a win. They achieved it - with Clinton Morrison playing a vital role with his two penalties and celebrating his first by giving his manager an arm around the shoulder and a pat on the back.

Irvine said: “It was appreciated. It was good of him. It took me aback, to be quite honest.”

Morrison explained: “It was to show we’re together. I’m behind him. We’re all behind him. At times we have let him down.

“He’s one of the best managers I’ve had; the things he does on the training pitch help the lads a lot. He gives us confidence.”

But Morrison felt that the strain had been showing: “He’s been a bit quiet. He’s taken a lot of stick. Hopefully this will help him bounce back.”

Irvine admitted that despite his pre-match efforts: “In the first half, there was still a lot of tension. It didn’t help when we went a goal behind. In the second half we were a lot better.”

The ship was steadied by Darren Potter’s early equaliser and then sent steaming ahead in a 10-minute second-half spell by a correct penalty decision and sending-off, Morrison’s two spot-kicks and Jermaine Johnson’s great goal.

Irvine - never at any stage a target for the crowd - told how how he continues to be aided off the field by Howard Wilkinson, and by his coaching staff.

“Howard’s a big help. I’m fortunate to have him here; the staff are very good,” he said.

But Irvine accepts the possibility of pressure comes with the job.

He must have felt it had suddenly increased when the Owls, who have too often looked vulnerable in their own box in recent weeks, went behind to a horrendous goal in only the ninth minute.

Tommy Spurr knocked the ball out wide; it was crossed back in, and Spurr and Michael Morrison let the ball run between them before Stuart Fleetwood finished very well.

Nerves were eased by Potter’s goal, forcibly struck from the edge of the box after Daniel Jones pulled the ball back

Adam Bartlett made excellent saves from Paul Heffernan and Gary Teale, Michael Morrison should have scored with a header just before half-time, and Teale and Daniel Jones were a threat down the left, but Wednesday’s passing continually let them down in the first half.

They improved in the second half and stitched together more passes, probing against a side who as expected got men behind the ball and worked hard to try to close them down.

Irvine tried something different, with Teale and Jermaine Johnson swapping flanks, and Potter making way for James O’Connor.

Potter had been injured and was waiting to go back on after treatment when he realised the change was being made. Maybe he thought there was mix-up - he reacted with surprise and was obviously unhappy as he walked off. It was later claimed that the midfield player threw down his shirt after reaching the dugout.

Irvine explained that he was looking to turn things around anyway, and the injury just made his mind up: “He may have felt there was a mix-up; that wasn’t my feeling.” Irvine said he didn’t see the alleged shirt incident but would speak to the player if it was true.

The breakthrough for the Owls came via a run by Jermaine Johnson, a cross by Heffernan and a foul in front of goal by Joe Heath on Clinton Morrison, who would surely have scored had he not been brought down by the left-back, who was sent off.

Away the Owls went against the 10 men.

A throw by Nicky Weaver began the dashing run by Johnson that ended with a left-foot flourish.

Hereford were unfortunate with the second penalty: the handball by centre-half Michael Townsend from Heffernan’s cross looked unintentional.

It was all some relief for Irvine but he admitted that whether you win or lose a game you soon start thinking about the next one. A big league test looms at Peterborough tomorrow.

He will expect to have a full complement of subs, after an illness for Richard Hinds left him down to six on Saturday.

Gary Madine will be available again but the manager was also pleased with the Morrison-Heffernan combination: “Clinton was desperate to play. I felt he and Paul might be a good combination for this game; they linked up well in a number of instances.”

Manager’s View

It’s great to be in the fifth round.

We were starting to show some momentum leading up to the first penalty. It was good play to get us into the position to get the penalty.

Then they lost a man; there was more space and we made use of that.

Their goal came from poor defending.

I’d be naive if I thought I wasn’t in a precarious position at the moment. It was a big result for the club, which is the most important thing.

It was a good result for me.