RETRO: Carbone magic sets up Mark Pemrbidge as Owls hold the Toon
Sheffield Wednesday were bidding to become the first team to complete a Premier Division double over Newcastle United in the 1996-97 season when the two met on an April Sunday afternoon at Hillsborough.
The Owls had won 2-1 at St James’s Park in one of the highlights of the season.
In the end they failed to pull it off, but received all the plaudits after a 1-1 draw which saw The Star headline declare: “Pembridge goal rich reward for ravaged Owls.”
Wednesday were charged with subduing the prolific strike par of Alan Shearer (24 goals to date) and Les Ferdindand (18).
They were without their own top striker David Hirst, plus Jon Newsome and Gragham Hyde, and lost Andy Booth and Des Walker to early ankle injuries - both to fouls by David Batty.
And the odds were stacked further against them when they trailed to a 35th-minute fluke goal.
There was an almost carnival atmosphere before Hillsborough’s second largest crowd of the season, 33,798 as chants of “Chesterfield” rang round the ground at news that the Spireites were 2-0 up over Middlesbrough in the FA Cup semi-final at Old Trafford (see Pages 6&7).
Dejan Stefanovic helped Peter Atherton blunt the Shearer-Ferdinand threat but the visiting duo were involved in that fluke opener.
Ferdidand flicked a header to Shearer, who crossed to Elliott. Atherton had it covered but the opponent’s shot hit the Owls skipper, bounced back against Elliott and flew into the net.
It was cruel luck, and coming on top of the injuriesd it gave Wednesday a grim outlook. But they never gave up and nor did the crowd as they witnessed a myriad of changes and a more assured second half from their team.
Richie Humphreys came on for Booth, and Wayne Collins replaced Walker, moving into midfield with Atherton dropping back.
Surprise choice Scott Oakes started in central midfield but after the third substitution ended at right back with sub Regi Blinker arriving on the left.
Wednesday’s equaliser, in the 57th minute, was a stunner.
Benito Carbone darted past an opponent on the byline and delivered an enticing cross for Mark Pembridge to bury a left-foot volley for his seventh of the season as Hillsborough erupted.
That they earned a draw speaks volumes not only for the work rate and spirit of the established players such as Pembridge, Atherton and Ian Nolan - who came out on top in a real battle with right winger Gillespie - but also of those who gave everything when handed rare opportunities - Oakes, Collins, Humphreys and Blinker.
The result left Newcastle fifth in the Premiership on 54 points from 23 games and the Owls a point behind from a game extra.
Manager David Pleat said afterwards: “It was a good point and we did ever so well in the circumstances.
“We didn’t pass the ball well in the first half but we passed much more carefully in the second and used the width of the pitch well.
“We haven’t sold anybody short. We gave them a good second half.
“It was a great goal by us, a fantastic bit of skill by Carbone.
“It was a typically English game, very hard, very fast. Newcastle had a lot of threats.
“I though Batty was unlucky not to be booked for that first tackle on Des Walker.”