Fleetwood Town 0 Leicester City 0

6th January 2018  – Emirates FA Cup 3rd Round

Report by Colin Murrant

With one minute of injury time remaining, the head-line above could easily have meant The Cods Wallop Leicester. With the home side on the attack, Hunter took a shot from outside the penalty area, the ball took a deflection off Benalouane and past Jakupovic in the City goal. As the Cod Army behind the goal, the Fleetwood team, and the coaching staff erupted in anticipation, the ball hit the post and rebounded into the grateful arms of the grounded Jakupovic.

In truth the head-line sums up City’s performance, I am sure there have been equally as bad performances in the past, but none come to mind, as this was absolutely appalling. A team full of internationals, all eleven at various levels, away to a third-tier team, fail to register one single shot on target.

The day was not destined to be the romantic one the 3rd Round of the Cup draw had promised; Jamie Vardy was never going to play against his old club after missing the Premier League match on New Years’ Day with a groin injury. Claude Puel made several changes and rested most of the first team who had played 3 or 4 matches over the hectic holiday period.

Puel cannot be blamed for this debacle, the team he put out had sufficient experience and skills (on paper at least) to deal with this potentially tricky cup tie: the fact that they performed so badly is an indictment of their attitude to the game and their lack of application.

The BBC had chosen this tie as their Saturday lunch time match which meant an early start for the City fans attending the game in the small seaside town of Fleetwood, a population of less than 26,000. The day was bright and cold with clear skies. As we walked to the ground it was quite a surreal feeling walking through the Memorial Park to the Highbury ground of 5,000+ capacity when less than 12 months previously we had ventured to the cities and stadia at Seville and Atletico Madrid.

There are just two turnstiles that let the away supporters into the Percy Ronson terrace, a most unattractive entrance with spiked fencing. Along the wing, the most impressive of the stands, the Parkside stand that housed many of the home seated support and some 250 seated Leicester supporters.

A few groans accompanied the sight of the uninspiring Andy King leading the team out, why we pick a captain on the basis of how long he has been at the club is beyond comprehension of most. At this stage the travelling fans were generally in optimistic mood.

Fleetwood kicked off attacking the end where the city fans were congregated. Most thought that City might be the side under the cosh in the initial stages and that is how it worked out. In the eighth minute City nearly created their own misfortune as the two ‘vics were involved: Dragovic attempted a back pass without looking where the goalkeeper was positioned, Jakupovic, back tracking, made a last gasp save at the foot of the post.

City were at this stage not having any threatening possession as the players failed to find any cohesion in their play. Spirits were lifted in the 22nd minute when Gray, picking the ball up centre-field in his own half, went on a mazy run that resulted in a corner that was to come to nothing.

Silva went down hurt whilst making a tackle and initially it looked quite bad, more than one person was heard to suggest that after waiting 4 months, was he now going to be out injured. Fortunately, he recovered but he never reached the promising levels of his NYD cameo. City did have a bit more pressure as the half came to a close but this was to be as good as it got.

The second half was virtually all Fleetwood with a succession of corners, nobody would have been surprised if they had scored from one as several headers went virtually unchallenged. Against this City produced nothing other than a free kick from Albrighton that went into the keeper’s arms with no City player within 5 yards. In the second half City did not even register a corner.

It would be churlish to single out any City players for criticism as they were a poor group on the day. The pitch was soft and a little uneven but could not be offered as an excuse at all. The fact that Matty James got another 90 minutes of playing time will be beneficial to him.

So, at the final whistle we were spared an embarrassing defeat and the City supporters chanted just that ‘Embarrassing, Em-barrass-ing’. Neal in the Fleetwood goal won a years’ free pizzas from Papa Johns, shades of Ranieri! The Cod Army appeared pleased with the prospects of another pay day at the King Power.

Having been served up such dross it is difficult to come up with any positives, but here goes:

Two Good:

1.       The referee spared us with only 2 minutes added on time for which we must be thankful

2.       Fleetwood is another ground marked off the 92 to visit. However, I still have never seen City win at a ground called Highbury,

Too Bad: Just far too bad!

For all those who stayed at home, well done: for all those who stayed at home and watched the whole 90 minutes very well done. For all those who went today exceptionally well done. I trust the replay will not be the Beeb’s first choice.

Up the City!

Fleetwood Town:  1 Neal; 2 Coyle; 12 Bolger; 5 Eastham (Pond 15'); 3 Bell; 18 Glendon; 23 Schwabl 8 Dempsey; 9 Burns (McAlenyat 69'); 44 Cole; 22 Hunter. Subs: 6 Pond; 7 Hiwula-Mayifuila; 10 McAleny; 19 Jones; 21 Cairns; 27 Biggins; 28 Sowerby

Leicester City: 17 Jakupovic; 18 Amartey; 16 Dragovic; 29 Benalouane; 3 Chilwell; 14 Adrien Silva (Okazaki 57'minutes); 10 King; 22 James; 7 Gray; 19 Slimani (Iheanacho 80'minutes); 32 Barnes (Albrighton 57'minutes). Subs: 8 Iheanacho; 11 Albrighton; 12 Hamer; 15 Maguire; 20 Okazaki; 25 Ndidi; 38 Choudhury

Referee: Simon Hooper                                Attendance: 5,001