MATCH REPORT: Fleetwood 0 Leicester 0

They say that football is a cruel game but for once the God's shone down on Highbury to reward Town's skipper Nathan Pond as fate handed him his big game against Premier League opposition.

Saturday, 6th January 2018, 12:31 pm
Updated Sunday, 7th January 2018, 8:00 pm
Nathan Pond applauds the fans at the final whistle

While the whole build-up to the game was focused on Jamie Vardy and his return to the club he helped fire to League Two, the game finished with Pond leading his men to a draw and a replay.Vardy could not shake off a groin injury but watched on from the stands as his old team mate Pond took to the field in the 15th minute to celebrate his 33rd birthday.It was another box ticked for a man who has clinched six promotions with the club.Pond might have helped his team-mates to a replay at the King Power Stadium though he will not be the one who bagged a year’s supply of pizza – that went to Chris Neal.Pizza chain Papa John’s rewarded Town’s 32-year-old shot-stopper for keeping a blank with a pizza a week for the rest of 2018.All that was missing for Uwe Rosler’s side was a goal but it was not through lack of trying as Cian Bolger headed over several times and Ashley Hunter hit the post with a last-gasp effort.Vardy could not shake off a groin injury to play but was out on the pitch at Highbury to reminisce about a place that kickstarted his career.What he did witness was a solid and skilful performance from Rosler’s League One side.He did manage to contact Town chairman Andy Pilley, who is on holiday in the Caribbean, and also took time out to call club president Ted Lowry and wish him the best as he watched from his hospital bed.Rosler had made two changes to the side that lost 2-1 to Bradford on New Year’s Day with Wes Burns and Markus Schwabl in for Jordy Hiwula and Jack Sowerby.All the build up was about Vardy and the possible clash against Pond, who initially had to settle for a spot on the bench.Town more than held their own in the first half with Devante Cole nodding over the visitors’ goal and Hunter also firing straight at Leicester keeper Eldin Jakupovic.Fleetwood were able to play their fast flowing counter-attacking football and picked up where they left off against Bradford.They nearly took the lead in comical fashion as a mix up in Leicster’s back line saw Yohan Benalouane send the ball fizzing towards his own goal.It would have been a calamitous own goal but the luck was not shining on Town as Jakupovic just did enough to stop it; though replays suggest Town should have had an indirect free-kick given it looked like a back pass.Town played their visitors off the park in the first half and managed to keep the pacy Demari Gray quiet with Kyle Dempsey running the show in the middle.Leicester boss Claude Puel blamed the pitch for his lack of quality, Rosler rubbing salt in the wounds by strolling onto the pitch to cheekily rectify a divert in the first half.Bolger was rock solid at the back but Town were hit by an injury blow just 15 minutes in.Centre-half Ash Eastham was floored holding his ankle but despite his misfortune, it paved the way for Pond’s entrance. Bolger got an early sight of goal, nodding over from a George Glendon corner over, one of many times he got the run on his marker but without able to send his effort on target.Gray was always a threat but Bolger managed to just clear a fierce effort at the near post to stop Leicester from taking an undeserved lead.Barnes’ deflected effort fizzed wide but the half belonged to Town and you just thought something special could be on the cards.The Cod Army roared the players off at the break but most expected a rejuvenated Leicester to show their Premier pedigree.But the onslaught never arrived; in fact it was Rosler’s men who looked the only side capable of winning the tie, though the ball just would not drop for them.Burns had made several mazy runs on the right flank and when he was withdrawn, against the Cod Army’s wishes, Hunter took up the baton as Town targeted Leicester’s left flank.Bolger again nodded over a Glendon corner and Hunter nearly found Burns with an inch-perfect cross - though it looked as though the Foxes might have used a hand to outfox the strike duo.Yet again Bolger nodded a Glendon corner over before Schwabl nearly stole the show with a first-time rocket after another Town corner was cleared right into his path at the top of the box.Conor McAleny came off the bench for Burns with Hunter switching over to the right of the front three and the forward took the game by the scruff of the neck.Andy King had nodded the ball over for Leicester in the first half and then got in again, only to blast the ball wide of the upright again.Bolger had two more headers from Glendon corners in the dying stages but he could not make them count and McAleny’s deflected effort flew to the keeper as Town tried to find a winner.The game looked destined to be heading to a replay but Hunter nearly grabbed a last-gasp winner.His effort cannoned into the post and onto the keeper before eventually rolling to safety.The crowd leapt up in celebration but it was not to be though Town can not be disappointed as they secured another shot at a historic spot in the fourth round and won a lot of admirers in front of a 5,000-strong crowd.

Neal, Coyle, Eastham (Pond, 15), Bolger, Bell, Dempsey, Schwabl, Glendon, Hunter, Cole, Burns (McAleny, 69). Subs: Cairns, Hiwula, Jones, Biggins, Sowerby.

Leicester: Jakupovic, Chillwell, Gray, King, Silva (Albrighton, 57), Dragovic, Amartey, Slimani (Iheanacho, 80) James, Benalouane, Barnes (Okazaki, 57). Subs: Hamer, Iheanacho, Maguire, Ndidi, Choudhury.

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Wes Burns in action for Fleetwood against Leicester

Referee: S Hooper

Fleetwood midfielder Markus Schwabl goes up for a header
Wes Burns in action for Fleetwood against Leicester
Fleetwood midfielder Markus Schwabl goes up for a header