Tonight United won their first game in the League Cup since 10th September 2002, when they defeated Reading 3-1 at the Abbey before collapsing 7-0 at home to Sunderland in the second round. Of course they did not play in the cup between 2005-06 and 2013-14.
United’s epic win over Wednesday was their sixth League Cup match to go to extra time since they first entered it in 1970. In October 1986 they shocked Wimbledon, three divisions above them, by drawing 2-2 at Plough Lane after a 1-1 first-leg draw at the Abbey to go through on away goals. Eleven years later they lost 2-1 at West Bromwich Albion after drawing 1-1 in the first leg, while in 1998 came that unforgettable night at Nottingham Forest when they drew 3-3 before succumbing 4-3 on penalties.
West Brom eliminated the U’s from the cup again in 2001, drawing 1-1 at the Abbey then winning 4-3 on penalties, while two years ago United held Birmingham City to a 1-1 draw after 90 minutes at St Andrews only to concede two more goals in extra time.
United and Sheffield Wednesday first met at the Abbey on 7th August 1976 in the Shipp Cup, a pre-season tournament played in a group format which also involved Peterborough and Lincoln; at the time the U’s were in Division Four and Wednesday were in Division Three, and the Owls ran out comfortable winners, 5-2.
A year later United had joined Wednesday in the Third Division but competed in the Shipp Cup again, with Huddersfield replacing Lincoln. This time the U’s won 3-2 with goals from Brendon Batson, Floyd Streete and Tom Finney.
United repeated the dose in the League that season, dismissing the Owls 3-0 at the Abbey with another goal from Finney and a brace from Alan Biley, then drew 0-0 at Hillsborough on their way to a second successive promotion, leaving the Yorkshiremen behind.
The clubs were reunited in Division Two for the 1980-81 season and remained rivals for four consecutive seasons. Wednesday became something of a bogey side for the U’s and in eight League meetings, United managed just one draw and seven defeats, and were also eliminated from the FA Cup by them in the fifth round of 1982-83 via a 2-1 defeat at the Abbey.
Since United’s relegation in 1984 the clubs have never again been in the same division, but there have been some unforgettable cup meetings. The most famous was on 16th February 1991 when John Beck’s all-conquering side were once again on the way to a second consecutive promotion from Division Three, one level below Wednesday. Ron Atkinson’s side visited the Abbey in the fifth round of the FA Cup and were taken apart, 4-0, thanks to goals from Dion Dublin (2), Lee Philpott and John Taylor, and United were unlucky to lose 2-1 at Arsenal in the quarter-final.
The United team was: Vaughan; Fensome, Chapple, O’Shea, Kimble; Cheetham, Wilkins, Leadbitter, Philpott (Dennis); Dublin, Taylor.
Wednesday: Turner, Anderson, King (Harkes), Palmer, Shirtliff, Pearson, Wilson, Sheridan, Hirst, Williams (Francis), Worthington
By the time the clubs met again, two years later, they were both one level higher in the renamed First Division and Premier League respectively. This time their FA Cup third round meeting went the visitors’ way as Wednesday won 2-1 with goals from John Harkes and Mark Bright after having fallen behind to a Mick Heathcote strike.
The last time the clubs met was in September 1998, by which time they were three divisions apart. United travelled to Hillsborough for the second round, first leg of the Worthington Cup and shocked their illustrious hosts by taking an early lead via Trevor Benjamin then holding out for a notable giant-killing scalp to give Owls manager Danny Wilson déjà vu; he had played for Wednesday in that 4-0 defeat in 1991. “We’ll have to match Cambridge’s commitment and team spirit,” he said, looking forward to the second leg. “We can’t afford the fancy dan rubbish.”
Wednesday brought out all the big guns for the second leg at the Abbey: Paolo di Canio, Benito Carbone, Andy Booth, Wim Jonk, Des Walker. In a classic cup tie United absorbed early pressure than began to ask their own questions with their three-pronged forward line of Benjamin, John Taylor and Martin Butler. Jamie Campbell’s unfortunate own goal put Wednesday ahead in the 69th minute, but Benjamin levelled the score on the night five minutes later with a header from Alex Russell’s free-kick and Roy McFarland’s side saw the game through for another notable shock. They went on to come back from 3-0 down at Nottingham Forest in the next round to draw 3-3 after extra time and lose 4-3 on penalties.
United team: Van Heusden; Chenery, Duncan, Joseph, Campbell; Mustoe, Wanless, Russell; Taylor, Benjamin, Butler
Wednesday: Pressman, Briscoe, Hinchcliffe, Newsome (Barrett), Emerson, Walker, Atherton, Carbone (Sanetti), Booth, Jonk (Alexandersson), Di Canio
The largest attendance at the Abbey for a match against Wednesday is 10,834 for their FA Cup meeting in February 1983, followed by 9,624 in February 1991 and 9,231 for their League meeting in January 1981. The biggest crowds at Hillsborough to see the U’s are all for League matches: 18,314 in April 1982, 14,947 in September 1983 and 14,315 in April 1981.
Andy McCulloch has scored the most goals for Wednesday against the U’s over the years, six in total, followed by Gary Bannister on four and Ian Nimmo with three. For United, Floyd Streete has scored four times and Alan Biley thrice.
Gregory 8. Faultless display of confident handling. Will Norris has real competition.
Long 7. Decent display, gradually settling into the team. Only black mark was his feeble defending against Joao in the build-up to Wednesday’s goal.
Coulson 8. Superb marking job on the hulking Nuhiu, dominating in the air and restricting him to one goalscoring chance.
Dallison 8. Much improved from Saturday.
Adams 7. Still finding his feet in the side, but the talent appears to be there.
Mingoia 9. Simply magnificent.
Dunne 7. Solid job until withdrawn.
Berry 9. Captain Fantastic.
Elito 6. A puzzling player, who can look confident on the ball one minute and look as if he has never seen a ball before a minute later. Not convinced so far.
Williamson 7. Slow start but made a dynamic contribution as the match wore on, although he still really needs a goal.
Pigott 7. Led the line bravely against Wednesday’s giants, albeit he could still learn a lot about centre-forward play from Barry Corr.
Maris 8. Superb, game-changing display from the bench, full of aggression, pace and skill, and must surely start ahead of Elito on Saturday.
Newton 8. Classy and perceptive, now he is knocking on the first team door as well.
Taylor 7. Settled in comfortably, good to have him back.
United battled back from the ropes to shock their lofty visitors thanks to two brilliantly taken and well-timed goals with a stunning extra time performance of pace, passion and penetration. One of the great cup nights at the Abbey.
Man of the Match
Piero Mingoia. What a signing this boy looks already, not just for his spectacular goalscoring but for his top-quality crossing and overall play, full of positivity and trickery. A future Abbey legend in the making.
Stroud 7. Barely noticed him, praise indeed for a referee.
Soundtrack of the Day
C Duncan “Wanted To Want It Too”
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