Leicester City 2 Swindon 0 – Loud & Proud: Even in Defeat
Swindon Town’s first venture into the Fourth Round of the FA Cup since 1995/1996 ended in defeat in chilly Leicestershire writes Daniel Hunt.
Swindon’s players can be proud that they more than matched their Championship opponents for 53 minutes and 3,830 Robins can take pride in out-singing just over 16,000 Foxes. Leeds old-boy Jermaine Beckford exacted personal revenge for being on the end of two 3-0 hammerings in 2009/2010 by clinically finishing his two chances; on a day when Swindon failed to take theirs.
It could have been so different if Kasper Schmeichel had not eaten his Weetabix (other wheat based breakfast cereals are available!) or if referee Darren Drysdale had taken a harsher view on a truly horrific Paul Konchesky tackle on wee Si Ferry…
An hour before the game had even started and as I was sipping on pint number three in the ‘Polar Bear’, Paolo Di Canio set Swindon hearts racing by naming a starting eleven missing the influential Aden Flint through ‘injury’. Cue (hopefully) silly talk of which club Flint was joining for £750k from my fellow travelling supporters.
Alan McCormack made a timely return from suspension to deputise for the former Alfreton man, it was he and Devera who both coped well against a speedy front two of Beckford and one-time England international David Nugent. On this occasion, I don’t think Flint’s presence would have altered the result because very little of Leicester’s attacking play went through the air – where Flint is so capable above a League Two level.
The opening goal came as early as the 5th minute and it was a disappointing goal to concede from a defensive point of view. Matt Mills’ header across goal from a diagonal ball was intercepted by Devera, but the former Barnet man could only manage to clear the ball back to Mills. In nose-bleed territory for a centre-half, Mills calmly chipped the ball to Beckford who swivelled on the spot to score past a grey shirted Wes Foderingham.
The goal didn’t deter Swindon and once they settled into the match, Town created more and better chances than their Championship opponents in the first half.
Say what you like about Oliver Risser but for me this was his most effective game for Swindon Town. He drew the best save out of Kasper Schmeichel with a near post flicked header, reminiscent of the one that set up Flint to power home against Huddersfield in the First Round back in November. The Namibian was also heavily involved in setting up two of Swindon’s other great chances in the first half.
Firstly, his well-timed tackle on Beckford on the half way line allowed De Vita to break clear and feed Connell in the left channel. Unfortunately for Connell, a mixture of ‘keeper and woodwork deflected the ball over the frame of the goal. Secondly, Risser’s measured pass fed Cibocchi on the left wing and his dangerous cross wasn’t turned in by Connell or Benson before a last ditch tackle from Konchesky denied Matt Ritchie a certain goal which would have brought the scores level.
First half stoppage time brought the major talking point of the game with Simon Ferry breaking from the centre of midfield. Paolo Di Canio was unequivocal in his assertion that Paul Konchesky should have been given a straight red for a scything, reckless ‘tackle’ on Town’s Scottish midfielder. A yellow card sufficed for referee Drysdale and Alessandro Cibocchi tested Schmeichel with a stinging drive from over 30 yards with the resulting free kick. Having seen the tackle again on TV, it was a potentially career ending challenge and Konchesky should have walked… no doubt about it. The “ooohh” let out from Foxes supporters in the ground when the tackle went in was telling.
Thankfully Ferry got up and carried on until the 81st minute, but Swindon never got up a head of steam in the second period.
Despite it seemingly being only Leicester’s third or fourth meaningful attack of the whole game, Gallagher’s cross struck Caddis and Beckford volleyed the loose ball into the roof of the net. Therein lies the difference between the two sides; Beckford is a proven finisher and clinically put Swindon to the sword whilst Risser, Connell, Ritchie and Cibocchi went to sleep dreaming of what could have been in front of goal.
Leicester went close to increasing their lead as Swindon searched in vain for a goal but St Ledger could only nod wide; and then a Nugent header was brilliantly parried by a diving Wes Foderingham. This was a landmark game for Wes but for the wrong reasons – Leicester are the first side to put two goals past him in twenty games of professional football. Nonetheless this has been a great start to his career by anyone’s standards.
Make no mistakes, this was a very capable Leicester City side containing a £5 million defender in Swindon-raised Matt Mills, Scotland and Republic of Ireland internationals in Paul Gallagher and Sean St Ledger as well as ex-England left back Paul Konchesky. It says something about the quality of the Championship that the Foxes are languishing in 13thplace, but the gulf in class was not visible until Beckford slammed home goal number two in the 53rd minute. Hereafter, Leicester kept the ball fantastically well and Swindon ran out of ideas despite the inevitable huffing and puffing from the side now 6th in League Two.
Despite barely mentioning him throughout this report, my man of the match was Alan McCormack by a distance, which is good as 72% of TheWashbag.com readers agreed. His first touch, composure and use of the ball from centre-half is fantastic, he gives the side a real extra dimension and his surging runs from deep are now a feature of our play. The most notable improvement I can see in McCormack’s play though is his timing in the tackle. This from a man who so quickly racked up ten yellow cards this season!
On Di Canio, I don’t think he covered himself in glory as manager against Leicester. I say this because the introductions of Lander Gabilondo and Ronan Murray added nothing to the team. Also giving Louis Thompson his debut with nine minutes of normal time left smacked of admitting defeat at a time when Town were one goal away from making the tie interesting. Perhaps I’ve been spoilt by this FA Cup run and the excellence of Swindon’s football recently, but it shows you how far Town have come that I came away from the King Power Stadium feeling so flat in defeat.
The game was screaming out for the cup tied Luke Rooney to come on and wreak havoc down the left flank – hopefully Southend will bear the brunt of Rooney’s frustration at not being able to take part against Leicester on Tuesday night.
The final thought is reserved for our magnificent supporters who continue to fill up away ends up and down the country. The noise was incredible and it made me so proud to stand there with my old man, my uncle and my friends – united as reds! Really enjoyed being part of the Swindon invasion on the East Midlands and look forward to seeing as many of you as I can on Tuesday night at Roots Hall. Surely Southend is arguably the biggest game of Swindon’s League Two season so far…?