After claiming cup scalps of higher league opposition Bristol City and Wigan last season, the tradition seems to continue following Brighton & HA’s exit in round one. Yesterday’s turn was Premier League team Stoke City, who ended up on the wrong side of a seven goal thriller writes STFC007.
W h a t . A . G a m e.
And where to begin…..
There was one change to the Swindon Town team that defeated MK Dons at the County Ground 3 days earlier, with Simon Ferry in midfield making way for a more battle hardened Alan Navarro.
Swindon started the game very well, displaying some very nice passing moves and mixing it up with some longer more direct passing trying to find Williams upfront, who chased every ball the entire game.
Town made their intentions clear from the start, whereas Stoke seemed to struggle getting into the game and unable to contain Swindon’s wide players Ritchie and De Vita both causing havoc and creating chance after chance leaving Pulis with his arms stretched out wide on several occasions in disbelief.
The referee allowed play to flow as much as possible even allowing some of the more physical challenges for which play would be halted in recent League games. Swindon were matching their Premier League opposition in every department, outplaying them for long periods during the first half. When Town scored it was fully deserved based on the chances they had created. Sorensen hadn’t dealt well enough with a cross from McEverley which landed at the feet of Collins who calmly netted in the middle of the goal: 0-1.
Stoke were trying to move the ball around more quickly, but weren’t accurate enough with balls going astray or combinations between Jones and Jerome ending up off-target.
Swindon had another great spell of the game with some excellent combinations but the composure to accurately despatch the final ball was lacking. The pressure paid off and a corner from the right found Collins who was unmarked and able head in for 0-2. There were several other good chances with Collins’ shot blocked on the line and De Vita hitting a volley against the post after Whitehead’s mistimed and misplaced header. Town at this stage were rampant and should have settled the tie before the break and could have been at least 0-4 up. Instead it was a well deserved 0-2 lead.
The second half saw Stoke starting at a higher tempo pressing from the front with the game being very open at times moving end to end. Kenwyne Jones remained very dangerous and after some good combination play on the left hand side, Jones jumped highest to head in a cross well out of reach of the diving Foderingham: 1-2. This was the first time the Stoke supporters were cheering on their team following some earlier chants from the Swindon fans querying “Where’s your famous atmosphere?”
DeVita made way for fresh legs Ferry with approximately 15 minutes remaining; Di Canio’s almost desperate gestures on the touch line had me initially thinking that the wrong player might have been taken off; but Paolo’s gestures are difficult to decode most of the times. Ferry took to the battle in midfield immediately, getting stuck in when needed and providing some relief by retaining possession a bit longer and being at the start of a lot of the build up play.
Stoke made all their changes in one go, bringing on Crouch, Walters and Ness. Flint was having his work cut out trying to contain the tall Crouch who in turn tried to play in Walters several times. A high foot from a City player against Devera was left unpunished leaving Walters with an easy ball to make it 2-2 five minutes before full time, which it remained until the final whistle which meant an additional 30 minutes of extra time.
Di Canio’s gruelling pre-season fitness regime was paying dividends as most lower league teams would have faltered, but the Swindon players looked fit enough to do battle for a further 30 minutes. A forced change at the back after a seemingly clash of heads, leaving McEverley requiring medical attention and subsequently substituted. Devera moved to the left and Thompson took Devera’s position. Like Ferry, Thompson slotted in really well – aggressive in the tackle and showing composure and maturity on the ball.
As the end of the first period of extra time approached a Swindon corner found Flint unmarked at the back post able to head the ball into the net to restore the lead: 2-3.
The final 15 minutes saw the game move from one box to the other. Crouch continued to be a threat, especially with free kicks and long throw-ins. Some heroic last ditch defending by McCormack and Flint were required a few times to stop Stoke from scoring an equaliser.
With five minutes to go however they did; Stoke hit a long ball towards the corner flag where Devera could not prevent the long cross from reaching Crouch, who out-jumped Flint to equalise once more: 3-3. After that, both Williams and Miller had chances to put Swindon in front again if only they had picked out a team player instead of trying to force the goal themselves.
Just as it seemed that the tie was going to be decided by penalties, and initial shot on goal by Willams was parried by Sorenson allowing for Collins to bundle the ball into the net 3-4, sealing not only his hat-trick but also a memorable and well-deserved win at the Britannia Stadium with the travelling away support celebrating wildly and continuing to out-sing the home support as they had done all match. Collins’ hat-trick was the first by a Swindon player in 179 matches, since Simon Cox fired 3 against Northampton in March 2009 – also a 3-4 away victory.
Swindon started the match with conviction, belief and determination and did the damage in the first half and with it played some very good football. The team showed again today – like the Brighton game – what they are capable of. Let’s hope that the Town players are able to perform like this in the League each week and who knows….