Madness and mayhem as Sheffield Wednesday thump Cardiff City in FA Cup

Steve Ellis
Sheffield Wednesday thumped Cardiff City 4-0 at Hillsborough in the FA Cup, but the scoreline doesn't even begin to cover it.

We’ve seen some crazy nights at Hillsborough recently, but as first halves go there won’t be many that can beat the way things played out in the opening 45 against the Bluebirds in S6 on Saturday evening.

On the face of it this cup tie wasn’t one that whet the appetite. A 5.30pm kick off between two lower-end Championship clubs who played each other pretty recently and with the hosts likely to rest a number of key players given a gruelling recent schedule.

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But within two minutes some of those who opted not to make the trip, this writer’s dad included, it had started to become apparent that it may be worthwhile after all. By half time it had become abundantly clear that those people had made a grave error.

Minute two. Liam Palmer slides the ball to Josh Windass with the outside of his boot, the forward opens up his body and rockets the ball past Jak Alnwick. A year on from his heroics against Newcastle United he was on the scoresheet again.

Minute four. Andy Rinomhata ran what felt like the length of the pitch before a entanglement with Anthony Musaba saw him go down in the box, and the hosts had a penalty. 1-1, you might think, you’d think wrong.

Cameron Dawson’s penalty-saving record is exceptional, and not just by local standards. Before this game he’d saved five of the last 10 that he’d faced – not including shootouts – so when Ryan Wintle stepped up to the spot the lifelong Owl will have back himself to keep him out. And he did, diving to his right and getting a strong hand to it to make sure Wednesday weren’t pegged back immediately. Things should calm down now. Wrong again.

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Minute seven. A Cardiff player is down in the box again, this time it’s Kion Etete who goes down after a tackle from Pol Valentin, another penalty. Wintle’s off pens, former Sheffield United man Callum Robinson steps up. Different taker, shooting a different way, but the same result. ‘Daws’ at the double, and that’s seven saves from the last 12.

Cue half an hour of relative boredom. Ashley Fletcher had a shot saved, Palmer almost bent one into the top corner, Robinson’s effort was well-saved by Dawson – even though he was offside anyway – and some pinball in the box nearly resulted in a Cardiff equaliser. Comparatively dull, really.

But then things livened up again. With 37 minutes gone it looked like the visitors might get back into it, after 40 they were dead and buried. First it was Romaine Sawyers face that did the damage, a whipped corner from Windass being flicked on by Michael Ihiekwe and into the unsuspecting mush of the former West Bromwich Albion man and into the net. 2-0.

Minute 40. A Cardiff clearance was chested down by Palmer, he didn’t need a touch to set himself, and with power he arrowed it into the bottom corner and Wednesday had some breathing room. It’d been quite the half.

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Momo Diaby, on his first start since his long injury, nearly curled an audacious effort into the top corner, Dawson was called on twice more to make superb stops from Rubin Colwill and Etete, and then went the half time whistle. A breathless first half saw Wednesday cruising, but that didn’t tell the whole story.

How do you follow a half like that? The answer is, you don’t. Danny Röhl dipped into his bench immediately as Mallik Wilks replaced Musaba, and aside from Cardiff somehow conspiring to not score at all it was a pretty drab second half by comparison.

The Bluebirds should probably have scored, on numerous occasions. Colwill went close, Tanner did the same, Robinson missed from close range, and Cian Ashford fired wide. Meanwhile Reece James, Rio Shipston, Michael Smith and young debutant, Gui Siqueira, were all introduced as Röhl made sure his players got a rest, however there was some concern over the last change as Ihiekwe didn’t look particularly comfortable as he came off.

Cardiff had plenty of the ball, but still couldn’t make it count, and after all of their spurned chances it felt inevitable what was going to happen when Wilks picked up the ball and sped towards an empty Kop. He cut onto his favoured left and fizzed it past Alnwick, 4-0 and that was that. Wednesday are into the hat for the fourth round of the FA Cup, and the good mood at S6 continues. Owls beat Bluebirds, finally.

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