Derby Day Memories - 2000
The Sheffield derby is a time for heroes. Legends cement their reputation with influential performances, and the unlikeliest of players step up to make their mark in the history books with one vital contribution, then fade away.
Efan Ekoku played more than 50 games for Wednesday, more than half on loan. Not quite legend status, but his most notable achievement whilst wearing the famous blue and white stripes will always be remembered by the Owls faithful, on November 1st, 2000. Ekoku had failed to score since arriving at Hillsborough in October of that year but his pace and power had influenced the three matches that marked Wednesday's revival of fortunes after their worst-ever start to the season. Then came a third round League Cup tie with our cross-town rivals, the prize a fourth round meeting with West Ham.
Paul Jewell and Neil Warnock were the men on the sidelines.. not the best of friends, it must be said, which only added to the sense of occasion, and the tension in the stadium was palpable for this first derby clash in seven years. It was to be a classic cup tie.
The Blades were the first out of the blocks in a blood-and-thunder first half. Des Walker turned Devlin's chip onto the bar, Westwood cleared off the line but only as far as Kelly who, fortunately for the Owls, hit a tame shot straight at Kevin Pressman.
Wednesday were undeterred and came straight back full of confidence. Owen Morrison's ninth minute free kick was diverted past Tracey by Ekoku for the opener, sparking wild celebrations amongst the Owls faithful, but the goal only sparked a Blades onslaught.
Efforts from Devlin, Bent (twice) and Montgomery (hitting a post) rained in on Pressman's goal, Murphy too forcing a fine save from the Owls stalwart. Parity was finally restored in the 32nd minute. Montgomery crossed low from the right and an unmarked Michael Brown ignored Wednesday's offside plea to tap home.
The large travelling support went up in acclaim, the atmosphere in the stadium racked up a notch, and the action continued. A deflected Morrison shot came off Kelly's post, and the half ended with a chance for both teams, the in-form goalkeepers preventing further addition to the score.
A frenetic but scrappy second half followed, the drama coming right at the death. In injury time, Pressman could only parry a Wayne Quinn free kick and the ball fell to Marcus Bent - unchallenged, surely he'd score.. Bent blasted the ball against the bar from eight yards, and Wednesday were still in it as the whistle went.
Unsurprisingly, energy and adrenaline levels had dropped and extra time was a chore for tired legs.. but in the closing minutes, the Owls put their heads down and pressed on. Seven minutes to go. Another Owen Morrison delivery floated in, met by Ekoku, whose downward header bounced up and over the line, beating a despairing Simon Tracey to seal the victory for the ecstatic Owls and their fans.
At the recent AGM Paul Jewell had been told by Wednesday fans that if he did nothing else that season he must beat United.
This was the victory the blue and white half of Sheffield needed - thanks to 'The Chief', Efan Ekoku.
Sheffield Wednesday: Pressman, Haslam, Walker, Westwood (Crane 44), Humphreys (Geary 46), Hamshaw (Di Piedi 105), Lescott, A Quinn, Morrison, Sibon, Ekoku. Substitutes not used: Stringer, Muller.
Sheffield United: Tracey, Uhlenbeek, Curle, Murphy, W Quinn, Devlin, Ribeiro, Montgomery (Santos 115), Brown, Bent, Kelly. Substitutes not used: Talia, Woodhouse, D'Jaffo, Smith.
Referee: Steven Lodge (Barnsley).
Bookings: Ekoku, Sibon, Kelly, Ribeiro
Read more about classic Wednesday matches and memories in our Archive here