SWINDON Town’s adventure in the FA Youth Cup is over after a Jordon Ibe-inspired Liverpool countered to a 5-0 third round win at the County Ground last night.
Ibe, the former Wycombe Wanderers winger who made the switch to the Reds’ academy having already made his Chairboys debut at the ripe old age of 15, tormented Town’s defence throughout and had a major role in three of the visitors’ four first-half goals.
Josh Helm’s unfortunate own goal put Liverpool in front inside 10 minutes before Ibe rifled home the second and teed up Jack Dunn for the third.
Dunn then netted the fourth just before half-time to end the game as a contest inside 45 minutes, while Jerome Sinclair added a fifth in the 52nd minute.
Dunn hit the post late in the game as Town learnt to deal with their big-hitting guests, but Helm still had to be on top form to make a string of good saves and keep a respectable air to the scoreline.
Nonetheless, against a club boasting a multi-million pound academy and facilities beyond Town’s wildest dreams, this was not a performance to be ashamed of.
Despite making a good start to the game, during which they held their own against their high-ranking guests, Town fell behind in unfortunate circumstances in the ninth minute.
Ibe showed neat footwork to dance past Luke Murden wide on the Liverpool left, cut inside onto the edge of the Swindon penalty area and let fly with a shot which struck Helm’s right-hand post and rebounded off his back and into the net.
Showing good strength of character, Town instantly rallied and twice came within a killer pass of a golden opportunity in front of goal.
Connor Waldon was involved heavily in both but the Robins couldn’t find the smidgen of class at the death necessary to open up the Liverpool defence.
Having found themselves trailing so early on, and through such unlucky means, Swindon’s young players could have been forgiven for letting their heads drop.
But immediately the Robins were on the counter in search of an equaliser. Had the hosts’ composure in the final third been that might much better they might have been celebrating an equaliser when Murden burst into the penalty area only to pass the ball into space.
As it was, Liverpool were soon celebrating their second. And what a second it was.
Ibe, recruited by the Reds after making his breakthrough in league football with Wycombe at a tender age, was quite evidently a class above everything else on show and he lit up the County Ground with a breathtaking strike after 24 minutes.
Stealing possession in midfield, Ibe stormed through three tackles while retaining an impressive grace before firing an exocet of a shot into the top right-hand corner.
Helm had no chance, and Swindon went flat.
Three minutes later Ibe was at the heart of the move which saw Jack Dunn put the visitors out of sight.
The winger taunted several markers before producing a sensational reverse pass to find Dun alone inside the 18-yard box. With Swindon defenders scrambling desperately to get in a tackle, Dunn took his time to slide the ball beyond Helm.
Game over. But Liverpool weren’t about to give their hosts an easy ride.
Kris Peterson, practically redundant on the right until the half-hour mark, beat Matty Jones and Jake Johns with absurd ease before lashing a horrid effort over from close range, while Dunn’s 30-yard strike was spilled by Helm before the Town keeper landed safely on the ball at the second attempt.
Swindon had a brief sighter of goal two minutes before half-time, when the ball fell to Mark Francis’ feet four yards from goal following a cross from the right.
However, the chance took the striker by surprise and his toe-poke didn’t have enough on it to beat Ryan Fulton in the Liverpool goal.
And once again Liverpool made the most of their good fortune to go down the other end and score a fourth.
This time it came from the right, where Peterson eased away from Jones to the byeline and pulled the ball back neatly for Dunn to tuck home his second of the evening. It was a classic goal ended by a classy finish, and it summed up the first 45 minutes of football succinctly.
It was already a tough team talk for Bodin at half-time, as he tried to get his boys to fight hard in the second period, but the task was made doubly more difficult seven minutes after the break when Liverpool scored again.
Jordan Lussey split the Swindon defence with a clever through-ball, finding Sinclair in acres of space, and the striker had little trouble chipping Helm.
Liverpool still didn’t relent. Helm had to be alert to save from Dunn, Lussey and Peterson as the Merseysiders pressed harder and harder in search of a sixth.
When eventually Town did break they still lacked the composure, perhaps even the self-belief, to find a killer finish. Waldon’s ambitious and ultimately wayward volley just before the hour was an apt summary of their game in general.
Bodin’s men evidently had the talent to test their guests, and their application was unquestionable, but maybe they offered Liverpool too much respect.
Gaps opened up between midfield and defence allowing Dunn, Ibe, Lussey and Petersen to form a dangerous axis that had Swindon squirming.
The regular flow of chances eased up as the game ran its course, with only Dunn’s low drive which rebounded to safety off an upright providing any spice to the latter moments.