FA Cup: Late Leeds drama, Everton exit, holders through
The FA Cup Fourth Round failed to deliver a huge shock, with only Reading knocking out a top-tier club, yet Saturday's games were full of the twists and turns associated with the world's oldest club competition.
True drama was served up at White Hart Lane where Leeds United followed their Third Round giantkilling of Manchester United with an injury-time rescue job against Tottenham Hotspur. Jermaine Beckford first won, and then took, a 96th minute penalty that dashed Spurs' hopes of progress. Michael Dawson's challenge on the striker, the man who scored the goal to knock out United earlier this month, was seen by referee Alan Wiley as a foul, though not by the player himself.
Beckford had seemed to make the most of the incident and further profited by slotting the spot-kick himself, to follow the earlier equaliser he had struck at the beginning of the second half. Spurs had dominated the first half and Peter Crouch's strike gave them a deserved lead, Casper Ankergren also having saved a Jermain Defoe penalty early on in proceedings.
When lesser-spotted sub Roman Pavlyuchenko scored 15 minutes from time it seemed Spurs would go through but a concerted effort from the League One team drew reward in the disputed penalty. Back to Elland Road the two sides go.
Holders Chelsea took their place in the Fifth Round draw after a win at Preston North End, the Blues getting the better of Darren Ferguson's men by virtue of goals either side of half-time by Nicolas Anelka and Daniel Sturridge. A strong-looking Chelsea line-up escaped a shock when Darren Carter inexplicably shanked over with the goal gaping as the end of the first 45 approached.
Everton, last season's losing finalists, are out of the competition they impressed in last year after Birmingham City continued their superb league form with a 2-1 victory at Goodison Park. Goals from Christian Benitez and Barry Ferguson took Birmingham's Blues into a lead that their Merseyside counterparts could not match. Leon Osman grabbed a strike of scant consolation for David Moyes' men.
Portsmouth belied their status as the Premier League's rock bottom crisis club with a 2-1 defeat of Sunderland that may lift flagging spirits at Fratton Park. An on-pitch demonstration against the club's owner preceded a game in which John Utaka, this week reported to be on a cool £80,000 a week, sang for his supper with a double strike. Sunderland's sole goal was scored by Darren Bent.
Reading, heroes of the Third Round for their thrilling extra-time defeat of Liverpool claimed another Premier League scalp in Burnley with yet another late show. Gylfi Sigurdsson scored in the 87th minute to allow new Clarets boss Brian Laws to concentrate on Burnley's battle against relegation.
Notts County, with Sven Goran Eriksson at the helm in his capacity as director of football, looked likely to be the day's great giantkillers when they took a two-goal lead against Wigan Athletic. Goals from Lee Hughes and Ben Davies had hearts fluttering at Meadow Lane but strikes from Jason Scotland and Ben Watson brought a dose of reality. The two teams will return to the DW Stadium for a replay.
Another Premier League scalp nearly claimed was that of Wolverhampton Wanderers, who needed a late Ronald Zubar goal to make it 2-2 against Crystal Palace. Alan Lee and Darren Ambrose had put Palace ahead, with David Jones scoring Wolves' first equaliser, but the Frenchman scored from long range to ensure battle will be restarted at Selhurst Park.
Aston Villa kept alive their hopes of making a second Wembley visit of the season with a 3-2 defeat of Brighton and Hove Albion. A second-string Villa side took the lead through Nathan Delfouneso. The Seagulls equalised through Tommy Elphick but Villa began the second half strongly and goals from Ashley Young and Fabian Delph took Martin O'Neill's men through. Albion mounted a late surge with a Nicky Forster goal but it was not to be for Gus Poyet's men.
Roy Keane this week spoke of how the FA Cup has been devalued since, while he was captain of Manchester United, the then-holders' non-entrance in 2000. He will himself no longer have to concern himself with an FA Cup campaign after his Ipswich Town team's 2-1 exit to Southampton. Wayne Thomas and Michail Antonio scored for the Saints before Pablo Counago scored a 90th minute consolation which will have done little to curb the wrath of Keane.
Newcastle United's lack of domestic silverware stretches to 1955 and that drought will now reach 56 years at the least after a 4-2 demolition by West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns. The Baggies were two goals up through strikes from Jonas Olsson and a Graham Dorrans penalty before Newcastle were given hope by Andy Carroll. But another Dorrans penalty, again disputed by the Toon Army and a Jerome Thomas goal made sure West Brom were the Championship side going into the next round. Andy Carroll's solo goal gave the scoreline respectability for Newcastle but did little to change the outcome.
Owen Coyle's Bolton Wanderers revolution has its first win after a 2-0 defeat of Sheffield United, with goals from Gretar Rafn Steinsson and Johan Elmander, the latter a rarity in itself, enough for the Trotters to beat the Blades.
The romance of the cup fell on stony ground at Accrington Stanley where, having equalised against Fulham when Michael Symes cancelled out an Erik Nevland goal, the dismissal of Darren Kempton for two bookable offences meant Fulham possessed superiority in numbers as well as status. Goals from Damien Duff and Zoltan Gera meant the Cottagers escaped Lancashire with dreams of Wembley intact.
Comeback kings of the day were Cardiff City, losing 2-1 to Leicester City with twenty minutes to play before a Peter Whittingham equaliser and injury-time goals from Chris Burke and Ross McCormack meant the game ended up as 4-2. Jay Bothroyd had opened the scoring for the Bluebirds before Michael Morrison and Dany N'Guessan had given Palace the lead.
And the late show of the day came from Derby County, for whom an 88th minute James McEveley strike was enough to take them through at the expense of Doncaster Rovers.