Ling the last-minute hero

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The Independent Online
Swindon Town 1 Oldham Athletic 0

Martin Ling last night swept Swindon into the fifth round of the FA Cup, where they will face Southampton or Crewe.

Ling, a 76th-minute replacement for his player-manager, Steve McMahon, made his mark a minute from the end - just as Oldham thought they had earned a replay.

It was a deserved win for the Second Division leaders, who had missed a penalty four minutes after the interval. The referee, Paul Danson, who booked six players in a competitive tie, had Oldham's players in an uproar when he penalised Steve Redmond after the defender had challenged Wayne Allison in the air. Danson waved away a posse of protesting Oldham players, who need not have worried. Paul Gerrard dived to his left to turn aside Kevin Horlock's half-hit spot kick.

Horlock had taken on the responsibility after Swindon's Welsh international defender, Paul Bodin, vowed never to take another penalty after early-season misses against Bristol City and Blackburn.

It began to look as though Swindon had missed their chance, especially when McMahon limped off with hamstring trouble, having dictated the midfield in a surprise comeback less than a month after keyhole surgery on a knee problem.

However, in a late assault, Bodin's cross from the left was headed back across goal by Peter Thorne for Ling to beat Gerrard with an eight-yard volley into the roof of the net.

On a dreadful rain-swept night, Danson made no concessions for the conditions and produced the first of his half dozen yellow cards within the first 60 seconds, when Oldham's Richard Graham slid in on Ty Gooden.

The players just got on with it and McMahon and another former Cup winner, Paul Allen, often had Oldham at full stretch. However, clear chances were a rarity and Oldham's best effort of the night came after half an hour, when Stuart Barlow whipped a shot just wide.

Swindon Town: Digby; Culverhouse, Bodin, Gooden, Allen, Taylor, Robinson, McMahon (Ling, 76), Thorne, Allison (Finney, 80), Horlock. Substitute not used: Smith.

Oldham Athletic: Gerrard; Snodin, Serrant, Hughes, Graham, Redmond, Halle, Orlygsson, McCarthy (Banger, 81), Barlow, Brennan. Substitutes not used: Rickers, Hallworth (gk).

Referee: P Danson (Leicester).