WHAT a shame Huddersfield Town couldn’t hold on for the FA Cup victory their dominance deserved.
There would have been no happier man in Huddersfield than Mark Lillis had Leicester been dispatched.
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His accent gives away his Mancunian roots, but likeable and hugely experienced Lillis is a Town man through and through.
It was clear how much he cared as a player under Mick Buxton, and now in caretaker charge after Simon Grayson’s departure, his attitude hasn’t changed one iota.
Saturday’s performance mirrored the man – positive, wholehearted and committed – and it very nearly clinched that much-craved win.
With Town refusing to put a timescale on their new managerial appointment, perhaps Lillis will get another chance to go for victory when Crystal Palace visit in the Championship on Wednesday.
And another display like this one will give Town a fighting chance of collecting a first three-point haul in 13 league games.
Leicester, who have put eight goals past Town in their two league games this season, were limited to just a handful of chances.
Alex Smithies made one good save from Chris Wood, but couldn’t prevent the in-form Kiwi pouncing to cancel out Lee Novak’s 74th-minue penalty.
There were eight minutes left on the clock when Ritchie De Laet crossed and Wood seized on a dummy by Lloyd Dyer, who had given away the spot kick by fouling Jack Hunt, to shoot home.
It was the former West Brom man’s fifth goal since switching to Leicester at the start of the month, and his fifth against Town this term (two for Millwall in the 4-0 win at The New Den and a double for Leicester in their 6-1 New Year’s Day romp).
Nigel Pearson’s promotion-chasers had won 2-0 in their league game at the John Smith’s, but were made to work far harder in the fourth round on Saturday, when Wood’s goal set up a replay at the King Power Stadium a fortnight tomorrow, February 12.
Academy manager Lillis, looking after the first team with the help of development chief Steve Eyre and academy coach Frankie Bunn, turned to the teenagers he knows so well by handing midfielder Jordan Sinnott a debut and naming striker Duane Holmes on the bench.
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Sinnott, just back from a loan spell at non-league Altrincham, where his dad and former Town skipper Lee is manager, was excellent on the right side of a midfield diamond which had Scott Arfield on the left, Oliver Norwood at the base and Adam Clayton at the tip.
It’s long been said Clayton should be given a run in his preferred central position, rather than on the right, and he certainly looked comfortable in his role against Leicester, pushing forward and pulling opponents out of position.
Eighteen-year-old Sinnott wasn’t scared to ask for the ball, or make a mistake, and he might have claimed an assist if Novak had produced a cleaner finish in the first half, and scored himself had Leicester skipper Wes Morgan not made a crucial challenge.
Hard-working Novak also brought a good save from Kasper Schmeichel with a header from Jack Hunt’s cross shortly before he tucked away the penalty.
Hunt, who played in midfield in the 4-0 defeat at Watford which proved to be Grayson’s last match at the helm, was back on the right side of defence and back to his old self.
And full marks to Sean Scannell, who came off the bench and really caught the eye with some sizzling runs.