Swindon Town 2 Wigan Athletic 1

Swindon Town's Alan McCormack and Wigan's Hendry Thomas get stuck in
Swindon Town's Alan McCormack and Wigan's Hendry Thomas get stuck in
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LACKLUSTRE Latics crashed out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle to League Two opposition for the second time in three seasons - and can have no complaints whatsoever.

Having made nine changes to his last Premier League line-up, Roberto Martinez watched his side outfought, outbattled and outgunned by a Swindon team who simply wanted it more than their opponents on the day.

The fact that Wigan’s stand-out performers were youngsters Callum McManaman and left-back Jordan Mustoe, on his full debut, spoke volumes about the performance - and those responsible for it.

McManaman it was who bagged Wigan’s goal towards the end of the first half, reacting quickest after Ben Watson’s penalty had hit the post.

But Town equalised almost immediately through Alan Connell, and Paul Benson’s deflected effort inside the final quarter secured a famous victory.

Swindon goalkeeper Wes Foderingham did not make a save worthy of the name throughout the 90 minutes, while opposite number Ali Al Habsi made a couple of superb stops to keep his side in it.

Al Habsi was one of only two players retained by Martinez from the midweek defeat to Sunderland, with Watson also keeping his spot.

Gary Caldwell returned from suspension to skipper the side alongside Adrian Lopez at the heart of the defence, with Emmerson Boyce making his first appearance for two months at right-back.

Forgotten man Hendry Thomas was in for only his second start of the campaign in an engine room that also contained Watson and James McArthur, with Shaun Maloney and McManaman - back from a successful loan spell at Blackpool - supporting lone frontman Franco di Santo.

Spurred on by a bumper home crowd, the Robins flew out of the blocks and put Latics under pressure from the off.

Ronan Murray forced Al Habsi into the first save of the game on 10 minutes, with the offside flagging preventing Connell from doing anything from the rebound.

Paul Caddis then saw a cross deflected just past the far post with Al Habsi scrambling to get across, before Latics got the ball down, passed it around and started to stamp their authority on proceedings.

Thomas saw a couple of speculative shots from well outside the box threaten the spectators in the back row of the stand more than the Swindon goal, while Di Santo went closer with a shot from 15 yards thaat missed by a couple of yards.

The Hoinduran picked up the game’s first yellow card midway through the first period when he slid in late on Connell, and he was pushing his luck moments later when he did exactly the same thing and, fortunately for him, was so late he made no contact.

McManaman was looking sharp every time he got the ball, and it was no surprise when he created and scored the opening goal of the game just after the half-hour mark.

The England Under-20 international turned Aden Flint inside out down the Wigan left and, as he shaped to shoot, the defender tripped him for as blatant penalty as you will see.

With Jordi Gomez on the bench, Watson retained the spot-kick duties - and would have been boosted by his match-equalising effort at Stoke on New Year’s Eve.

Watson’s connection was good, but the ball came back off the left-hand post for his third miss of the season from 12 yards.

However, just as the home crowd began to cheer a reprieve, McManaman showed fleet of foot to nip in and stab the ball past Foderingham from close range.

It was McManaman’s second goal for Latics, his first coming at the corresponding stage of last season when he notched at Hull in the third round of the FA Cup.

The goal should have seen Latics take a stranglehold on the game, but it succeeded only in provoking a spirited response from the home side.

And the Robins were rewarded for this when they got back on level terms five minutes before the break.

Al Habsi, who had just been booked by Peter Walton for time-wasting, had done well to keep out a goalbound shot from Matt Ritchie.

But he could do nothing moments later when Ritchie’s cross was headed home by Connell for his third goal in as many games.

Connell had got to the ball a split-second before Caldwell, who had already been forced to head away three dangerous crosses on the bounce to keep his side ahead.

The goal ensured the home side went into the break on a high, and they started the second half in the ascendency as well.

Latics, however, were able to break up one attack and set about a counter, which saw Maloney release McManaman down the left.

For once his touch was poor, and Simon Ferry was able to toe the ball away for a corner.

Maloney took over the set-piece respnsibilities from Watson, whose delivery had been disappointing up to that point, and the ball broke out to Di Santo, but the volley was blocked by a home defender.

Watson became the third Wigan man to have his name taken just before the hour mark, and Thomas gave way for Gomez at the next break in play as the visitors tried to avoid another unnecessary fixture.

And thoughts of a replay were nearly put on hold on the hour mark, as Swindon almost fashioned a second goal.

Clever play resulted in substitute Benson finding himself in acres of space 15 yards from goal, but his finish was woeful and Al Habsi watched it soar over the bar.

Some more twinkletoes from McManaman won the youngster a yard in a promising position, and his shot had to be helped round the post by Foderingham at the expense of a corner.

At the other end, Boyce did ever so well to get his head to an inswinging cross from Caddis with attackers lining up behind him.

A sublime touch from Gomez then released Maloney down the left channel, but Flint got across well to get in a timely block.

As Wigan pressed again, Maloney gave play away needlessly in the midfield, immediately feeling his right calf and falling to the turf in agony.

And that pain was magnified as Swindon took the lead within seconds.

Ritchie wasn’t closed down quickly enough, and his shot was deflected past a wrong-footed Al Habsi by Benson - with more than a suspicion of offside about it.

To compound matters, Maloney limped off to be replaced by Victor Moses, who had 13 minutes to try to rescue his side.

In fairness, though, Swindon didn’t sit back on their advantage, Paolo di Canio on the touchline imploring his men to push up and put pressure on the visitors at all times.

Di Santo was nearly in with five minutes left only for Alan McCormack to get his toe to the ball to the relief of almost all inside the County Ground.

And Latics were barely able to get a kick in the three added minutes as Swindon ran down the clock to seal a deserved victory.

Latics: Al Habsi 7; Boyce 6, Caldwell 7, Lopez 6, Mustoe 8; Maloney 5, McArthur 5, Watson 6, Thomas 4, McManaman 8; Di Santo 5.

Subs: Pollitt, Gohouri, Redmond, Dicko, Gomez (for Thomas, 57) 6, Moses (for Maloney, 77), Sammon (for McManaman, 89).

Swindon: Foderingham; Caddis, Flint, McCormack, Kennedy; Ritchie, Ferry, Smith, De Vita; Connell, Murray.

Subs: Smith, Devera, Benson (for Murray, 46), Cibocchi (for De Vita, 88), Magera (for Connell, 66), Thompson, Gabilondo.