BODIN NERVE SEALS PREMIER PLACE
Town snatch it on a day of high drama

Leicester City 3  Swindon Town 4

SUPERCOOL Paul Bodin kept his nerve to score the late penalty which finally booked Swindon's 1 million ticket to the Premier League.

Town's date with destiny could and should have been a much more straight-forward affair.

At 3-0 up with barely 30 minutes to go, Swindon were already planning for the likes of Liverpool and Manchester United.

But a three goal blitz in just 13 minutes from battling Leicester left Town's dream hanging by the merest thread.

Even that seemed certain to snap under the pressure exerted by City's rejuvenated players, until a moment of genius from Glenn Hoddle paved Swindon's streets with gold.

A quick glance and a precision pass over the top sent substitute Steve White free.

City centreback Colin Hill and keeper Kevin Poole joined the race, but the Town striker was always favourite.

White just got the nod, but his attempt to round the keeper was met with a crude check.

White's tumble was exaggerated, but there was clear contact and 35,000 voices yelled in unison for a penalty.

Referee David Elleray appeared to take an eternity to deliver his verdict - but it was worth the wait.

Penalty-king Bodin was the calmest man in North London as a team and a town held its breath.

But a smart left foot drive sent Poole the wrong way and sent Hoddle's heroes marching on to the Premier League.

It was a pulsating finish to a classic Wembley encounter the like of which the famous old stadium had rarely witnessed before.

Yet there were few signs of what was to follow in a largely uninspiring first 45 minutes.

Swindon strung together several neat passing movements and Leicester occasionally bared their teeth, but without ever moving in for the kill.

Shaun Taylor came closest on that score with a tackle which left City midfielder David Oldfield looking like the victim of a head-on collision with a juggernaut.

Nicky Summerbee earned a yellow card for a late trip on winger Lee Philpott and Leicester's Mick Whitlow soon followed him into the book.

But thankfully this match never degenerated into the fisticuffs many feared following their previous incident-packed encounters.

Summerbee tested Poole with some early crosses from the right as Swindon made the opening gambit.

City replied with shots from distance by skipper Gary Mills and midfielder Steve Thompson, but neither keeper was really stretched.

TV man of the match Martin Ling, John Moncur and Ross MacLaren slowly stamped their authority on the midfield as the half drew to a close.

Swindon almost made the vital breakthrough after 35 minutes from a well-rehearsed set piece move which saw Hoddle flick on Bodin's left-wing corner at the near post.

Aussie international Dave Mitchell cocked the trigger, but defender Richard Smith got in a vital block for City.

Leicester's reply was a curling left-wing cross from defender-turned-striker Steve Walsh, which Fraser Digby clawed away from the predatory Julian Joachim.

And Digby was again in action in the 41st minute, plunging at the foot of a post to gather the ball as Oldfield cracked in the first worthwhile effort on goal.

That stop seemed to inspire his colleagues and 60 seconds later Swindon carried the ball the length of the field to score the vital opener - another beauty from the Hoddle collection.

Ling did the initial spadework before Moncur fed Summerbee on the right.

His centre caught Craig Maskell with his back to goal, but Town's top scorer showed fine control to hold up play until his manager arrived at speed.

Maskell's clever backheel then threw the entire City defence, allowing Hoddle to curl an exquisite goal beyond the helpless Poole from 18 yards.

A goal on the stroke of half time was just the ticket - two more inside nine second half minutes was real boys' own stuff.

Maskell set the tone with goal number 24 for the season two minutes after the interval.

The build-up featured a neat exchange with Moncur - the finish came courtesy of a crisp left foot drive from a narrow angle which screamed in off the far post.

Suddenly it was all red and white as Town went for the jugular.

And goal number three duly arrived from a disputed corner down the right.

Summerbee's persistence looked in vain as the linesman signalled a goal kick, but Mr Elleray quickly overruled to award the corner.

Summerbee took the kick himself and though City cleared, Moncur kept up the pressure by nodding the ball back into the danger area.

City's fatal hesistation allowed Taylor to close in and the big defender stooped to conquer with a brave diving header as Poole's challenge was too little, too late.

Swindon were strolling it, but their one weakness this season has been closing out a win and so it proved again.

The warning signs were flashing as Whitlow whipped in a left-wing cross and Walsh fired narrowly wide.

But they went ignored as City struck back in the 59th minute.

Philpott was allowed time and space to line up a left-wing cross, which Walsh met with a thumping header.

The ball crashed against an upright, but Swindon's let off was short-lived as Joachim smashed home the rebound.

City's fans found their voice and plain sailing for Swindon instantly turned into a choppy water.

Hoddle was booked for a trip and Smith headed inches wide as the nerves jangled.

City's only hope was all-out attack and they clung to it for dear life.

Mills led by example after 69 minutes with a forceful burst down the right.

His cross by-passed the frontmen and was hooked back by Philpott on the left.

Joachim appeared to block Digby, but there was no whistle and Walsh had the freedom of the borough to make it 3-2.

Worse was to follow as Leicester completed one of the most astonishing comebacks in recent years.

Whitlow galloped down the left before squaring the ball for Thompson to move in on goal and slide his shot past Digby.

For a moment Town were on course for ignominy - and only the fingertips of their busy keeper and a last-gasp challenge by Calderwood saved the day.

But City's great mistake was to think that at 3-3 their job was done.

Town threw on White for Maskell as experience rather than exuberance became the key and once again this topsy-turvy clash took another twist.

Ling forced a fingertip save from Poole from 20 yards and the resulting corner had Philpott on red alert to head clear another thunderbolt header from Shaun Taylor.

Bodin freed Mitchell as Swindon suddenly turned the screw and Poole again had to be at his best in the Leicester goal to keep his side alive.

But his efforts proved in vain as Bodin rammed home the all-important spot-kick five minutes from time.

Swindon had won it, lost it and won it again - but unlike three years ago, this time the prize is theirs for keeps.