Leicester lose the initiative

Leicester City 0 Wimbledon 0
Click to follow
Wimbledon's dream season moved a little closer to at least one Wembley final after a stubbornly defensive performance in the first leg of their Coca-Cola Cup semi-final at Filbert Street, which Leicester may look back on as an opportunity lost after wasteful finishing cost them the chance to go to Selhurst Park in three weeks' time with the upper hand.

Despite promises from their manager, Joe Kinnear, that they would approach the tie with a positive attitude, it was clear from an early stage that the Londoners would be content merely to finish on level terms in the expectation that home advantage will prove decisive in the second leg.

However, it was only through Leicester's failure to capitalise on their dominance of last night's match that they were able to fulfil their mission. The home side, weary but inspired after their successful fightback against Chelsea in the FA Cup on Sunday, subjected Wimbledon to sustained pressure but could convert none of half a dozen clear chances.

The Leicester manager, Martin O'Neill, his thin squad stretched to its limits by injuries and suspensions, had to field a side in which his captain, Steve Walsh, was still short of fitness in only his second match after a long lay-off and in which midfielder Garry Parker was playing despite learning shortly before kick-off that his wife had suffered a miscarriage. To make matters worse, Leicester lost their new signing, Robert Ullathorne, with a suspected broken ankle only 11 minutes into his debut, 24 hours after completing a pounds 600,000 move from the Spanish club, Osasuna.

Leicester at least could recall Emile Heskey, their powerful England Under-21 striker, who was suspended for the Chelsea match. His powerful running caused problems for Wimbledon from start to finish.

It was Heskey who signalled Leicester's positive intent in the first minutes with a powerful low shot from the left that goalkeeper Neil Sullivan was fortunate to deflect for a corner.

The injury to Ullathorne disrupted Leicester's shape and rhythm, allowing Wimbledon to have a greater say. Vinnie Jones flashed one header wide and Marcus Gayle might have done better with another.

Leicester emerged after the interval with the substitute, Jamie Lawrence, who had looked uncomfortable as Ullathorne's replacement at wing-back, redeployed in midfield and Scott Taylor taking the more defensive role and thereafter their control of the contest was almost unchallenged.

Although they were able repeatedly to find holes in Wimbledon's rearguard, they were unable to make any of them count. Claridge, who had set up Mustafa Izzet for a clear shot on goal just before half-time, missed an opening of his own before Taylor wasted another by dragging his shot wide of the target.

With 10 minutes remaining, Heskey looked to have done enough finally to break Wimbledon's resistance with another direct run at the heart of their defence but he was foiled by a fingertip save by Sullivan, who deflected his shot wide via the outside of a post.

Leicester City (5-3-2): Keller; Grayson, Watts, Walsh, Prior, Ullathorne (Lawrence, 13); Taylor, Izzet, Parker; Claridge, Heskey. Substitutes not used: Campbell, Poole (gk).

Wimbledon (4-3-3): Sullivan; Cunningham, Terry, Blackwell, Kimble; Jones, Earle, Leonhardsen; Ekoku, Gayle (Holdsworth, 89), Goodman. Substitutes not used: McAllister, Murphy (gk).

Referee: S Lodge (Barnsley).

Comments