Writer: Stef C
Date:Monday January 30 2006
Saints travelled to the Walkers Stadium with a depleted squad due to injury and George Burley's continued reconstruction.
Captain Nigel Quashie was the most noticeable absentee, he's apparently in talks with West Brom. Brett Ormerod was also missing, as he completed a move to Preston.
So the team had an unfamiliar and very youthful look about it, with new signings Jim Brennan and Darren Potter both making their debuts.
Liverpool loanee Potter looked a very assured player and was given even greater responsibility after 36 minutes when Prutton limped off to be replaced by another debutant, academy graduate Simon Gillett.
The game itself was a predictably turgid affair between the Championships two biggest underachievers. Both teams were clearly low on confidence and the first half lacked the intensity you associate with the FA cup. You'd have thought the chance to escape their league woes for a one off match would have inspired the players, but this looked more like a lowly Championship match.
Saints created the first real chance, Marian Pahars sprinted down the left channel to latch onto a through ball and was brought down by Richard Stearman. Oakley swung in the resulting free kick and Pahars headed inches wide of the post.
That was the closest either team came to scoring in the first half, Leicester had more territorially but lacked any cutting edge, the closest they came was a Patrick McCarthy header that sailed over the bar from the edge of the box.
The second half was better, as the game started to open up. Again the first chance fell to Pahars, an excellent deep cross from Nathan Dyer was well controlled by the unmarked Pahars, but he blasted his shot over from close range. The Latvian's looking fitter with every game now and is getting into all the right positions, he just needs games to get back his sharpness in front of goal.
The atmosphere and urgency you'd expect from a cup tie was finally sparked into life on the hour mark when Elvis Hammond had the home sides best chance. He was played in behind the Saints defence and only had Saints 18-year-old keeper Bartosz Biakowski to beat. Hammond tried to slot his shot under the young Pole but Biakowski pulled off a fine save low down to his left.
This chance lifted Leicester and, urged forward by the crowd, they soon created another opening. Defender Alan Maybury burst into the box and only had to cut the ball back to Iain Hume, unmarked on the penalty spot, but the Irishman chose to go it alone. It summed up his afternoon when he skewed his right-foot shot wide from an acute angle.
Saints continued to threaten on the break, Nathan Dyer was Saints best creative outlet. His pace and trickery allowed him to turn the City defence to get to the byline, he pulled the ball back for Blackstock who's shot went narrowly past the post.
Just as 90 minutes was passed and it seemed the game was heading for a replay substitute Kenwyne Jones pounced on a defensive lapse from Patrik Gerrbrand and rifled a low shot past Douglas from the edge of the box.
It was harsh on Leicester as neither team deserved to win the game, both only mustering 1 shot on target each. But Saints fans won't care about that as a good cup run is just what we need to lift the gloom at St Mary's.
Progression in the cup will also give Burley a perfect chance to get some confidence into the team and will provide much needed matches for the new look squad he's building.
Date:Monday January 30 2006
|4. Man City||25||14||5||6||21||47|
|5. Man Utd||26||11||8||7||9||41|
|7. West Ham||26||10||10||6||9||40|
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