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Four taste of life at the top

Four taste of life at the top

City Reserves were given the ultimate lesson in chance taking at the Marston's Stadium in Hinckley last night, losing 4-1 to Arsenal but having perhaps three times the number of shots.

Goals by Arturo Lupoli (2), Quincy Owusu-Abeyie and Anthony Stokes against a solitary reply from Lee Morris told the facts but did not begin to tell the story.

For 70-odd minutes until they ran out of strength and conviction, Leicester were brilliant.

Indeed the first half was as good as I've ever seen a City reserve side play. Fast, furious, entertaining and laced with endless City chances.

The trouble was, while Morris equalised a 16th minute opener by Lupoli after 35 minutes, Leicester also squandered a string of other excellent opportunities.

One flowing move led to a Morris shot which was touched onto the bar by Arsenal keeper Matt Poom, Alan Sheehan bounced a long range effort onto the roof of the net, Chris O'Grady beat the keeper to a Sheehan cross but his header drifted wide of an empty goal. Louis Dodds also struck woodwork while other half chances went wide or high.

Arsenal were completely outfought and outmanouvred in the first half with barely a weakness in City's ranks.

Morris played close to one half, his first appearance of the season, and his sweetly hit equaliser topped a display which showed him to be a fast, tricky and persistent threat, far more so than ever Hamill was in a whole game at Sheffield.

And for folk who wondered if Wesolowski is really as good as his reputation, there was rock-solid evidence.

In the first half he was like a pocket battleship, winning every skirmish and using every ball. Completely dominant. He faded in patches second half but oozed class in everything he did, including contributing to Morris's goal.

Arsenal had no answer to the movement of Iain Hume and Chris O'Grady up front and, with Levi Porter, Wesolowski, Louis Dodds and Alan Sheehan supplementing numerous attacks it was thrill-a-minute stuff.

Even in the slower second half, Hume had a simple chance from a defensive calamity, simply to beat the stranded keeper but rolled his shot wide.

Earlier Dion Dublin won successive free headers from Sheehan crosses but put both wide from close range and O'Grady smashed an angled drive at Poom from a few yards but saw it rebound to safety.

All those chances and more, which could have secured a memorable, even sizeable win over the Premier Reserve League leaders, were squandered and how Arsenal made City pay.

In the closing quarter first Lupoli grabbed his second goal from a rebound after Alex Cisak had brilliantly parried his first piledriver.

Then a mix-up between Levi Porter and Alan Sheehan let Owusu-Abeyie through to blast a deflected shot past the wrong-footed City keeper.

Finally a corner was only lamely cleared to the edge of City's box and Anthony Stokes rifled in Arsenal's fourth.

The visitors might have had six or seven notable chances all told, Leicester probably three times as many.

But in the end an opening 70 minutes that promised so much turned into bitter disappointment.

There was still, however, much to enthuse over.

Wesolowski showed he has clearly recovered from his broken leg with no suggestion that he has lost or compromised his all-action and combative style in any way.

Morris, much mocked by fans for his everlasting injuries, demonstrated that we do have another winger at the club besides Ryan Smith, and a good one.

Sheehan had an excellent first hour, making several chances that could have won the game, but he disappointed later. Levi Porter was as good in midfield first half as he was dreadful last time he played there in Hinckley but he too lost momentum.

Joe Magunda caught the eye at right back producing perhaps his most attacking home performance to date with his simple but effective style. Chris O'Grady was non-stop trouble for Arsenal up front and substitute Andy King also showed promise.

Such a pity the team finally faded. They knew they'd had Arsenal at their mercy. But when punished for not taking their chances, their spirits sank at the same time as their energy tanks ran empty.

For the 1,127 spectators though it was football to savour and far better to watch than anything at Sheffield.

City: Cisak, Magunda, Sheehan, Wesolowski, Dublin, Norval, Dodds, Hume, O'Grady, Porter, Morris. Subs used: Gradel, King, Chambers.

Arsenal: Poom, Rodgers, Murphy, Larsson, Kelly, Muamba, Simpson, Stokes, Lupoli, Owusu-Abeyie, Tracy. Subs: Hoyte, Steer, Elston.









Writer:
Date:Tuesday January 17 2006
Time: 11:42PM

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