STOKE CITY were stunned by a James Collins hat-trick as Paolo Di Canio’s in-form Swindon Town caused a major upset in the Capital One Cup at the Britannia Stadium.
Collins nipped in to complete his hat-trick in the final minute of extra-time as Swindon withstood a determined fightback from the Potters to take their place in Round Three.
The League One side were well worth their two-goal lead at the break as Collins produced two neat close-range finishes, but City drew level in the second half when Kenwyne Jones headed home a Michael Kightly cross and then substitute Jon Walters struck late on.
Swindon restored their lead right at the end of the first period of extra-time through Aden Flint, but despite the fact that City were reduced to ten men by an injury to Jamie Ness, they locked the Second Round tie up at 3-3 when Peter Crouch headed home from close range.
But it was the visitors who snatched the victory right at the death as Collins rounded off a glorious night with his third goal when it appeared that the tie would go to penalties.
Pulis rang the changes to offer a number of his fringe players a runout, although five members of the side that faced Arsenal 48 hours earlier remained in the starting line-up.
Swindon were roared on a following of about 1,200 fans and they made the brighter start to the game which eventually culminated in them creating the first opportunity.
When City were slow in closing down the threat from the visitors in the middle of the park, Miller seized upon the chance to fire a long range shot which Sorensen saved.
The Danish international ‘keeper had more difficulty in dealing with a backpass from Huth as his clearance was charged down by Collins, but fortunately fell harmlessly wide.
Although City had their moments going forward without really creating any serious threat to the Swindon goal, the visitors went close to breaking the deadlock in the 19th minute.
Pennant went down injured as he attempted to clear the ball from his own box, but with the referee allowing play to continue, De Vita pounced on the loose ball and weaved his way past two challenges before unleashing a 20-yard shot which flashed past Sorensen’s left hand post.
The pendulum then began to swing City’s way as Jerome chested down a Shotton pass and instinctively tried a volley at goal from long range which was straight at Foderingham.
Moments later, Pennant showed that he had shrugged off his knock when he delivered a right wing cross which was headed narrowly over the bar by Jones at the near post.
The same combination then conjured up another good opportunity as Pennant volleyed over a cross, but Jones and Jerome seemed to get in each other’s way as they challenged for the ball at the far post and the final header from City’s number nine failed to trouble Foderingham.
City were then made to pay for that wastefulness when Swindon went in front as Sorensen fumbled a left wing corner and Collins was on hand to sweep the ball into an empty net.
There were more alarming moments for the Potters when McEveley charged down the left on the overlap and drilled over a low cross which fortunately rebounded off Collins to safety, but then Miller made space for himself to fire an 18-yard shot straight at Sorensen.
Nevertheless, the Potters had the chance to draw level when they earned a corner on the left hand side and Pennant’s pinpoint delivery found Jones rising to head wide.
But Swindon tightened their grip on the tie in their next venture into City territory as they scored from another set-piece after Sorensen had initially earned them a reprieve by saving at the feet of De Vita after he had broken clear down the left hand side.
Collins peeled off his marker to send a glancing header in at the far post after he had been picked out by the left wing corner which was whipped into the box by De Vita.
The situation could have got a whole lot worse before the break as Collins saw his chance to complete a hat-trick denied by Shotton’s last-ditch clearance and then De Vita nipped in to take advantage of a defensive lapse before rattling the upright.
The second half brought no change in the pattern of play and it took a desperate lunge from Shotton to charge down a De Vita shot after he had cut inside the area.
With City looking hesitant at the back, Collins latched onto a quickly-taken throw-in and unleashed a fierce left foot shot which fizzed past the upright.
The hour mark brought a glimmer of hope for the City supporters when Pennant sent over a free kick which was only half cleared to the edge of the box, but although Kightly struck his left foot shot sweetly, it was fractionally too high.
Moments later and the Potters pulled a goal back when Cameron’s determined work down the left hand side paved the way for Kightly to send over a menacing cross for Jones to rise above his marker and send a powerful header past Foderingham.
Although City were lifted by that goal and pinned Swindon back in their own half for long periods, clearcut opportunities were few and far between.
Consequently, with time running out, Pulis made a triple substitution as Crouch, Walters and Ness were all sent on in place of Shotton, Jones and Jerome.
It was Swindon who went close to regaining their two-goal lead when Upson’s attempted clearance was charged down and almost fell into the path of Miller; Sorensen reacting smartly enough in coming off his line to clear the ball to safety.
It proved to be a decisive moment because City drew level with five minutes remaining when a long ball to the edge of the Swindon box caused havoc.
Crouch made his presence felt, but it eventually fell to Walters who swivelled and drilled a low shot past Foderingham to lock the tie up at two apiece.
With four minutes of injury-time signalled by the fourth official, City pushed to try and end it without the need for extra-time. A corner delivered from the right by Ness almost fell the way of Kightly on the edge of the area, but Swindon managed to clear.
Then with seconds remaining, Pennant was presented with an opportunity when drifting in from the left but his shot was a tame on straight at Foderingham.
Swindon began the first period of extra time by carving out an excellent chance as Miller once again showed neat control before dragging his shot wide of the post.
There was a long delay when McEveley received treatment after coming off the worst in a clash with Walters and it resulted in the full-back being taken off.
As Swindon reshuffled their defence, City made the most of this by creating two glorious chances Crouch’s neat lay-off found Cameron burst through on goal, but with only Foderingham to beat he miscued his left foot shot and it rolled wide of the post.
The Potters sustained the pressure and after some neat approach work, Crouch made room to fire a 20-yard shot goalbound but it flew over the bar.
With the officials adding three minutes on at the end of the first period of extra-time, Swindon pounced to go in front in the tie once again.
Furthermore, the goal came from a corner kick for the third time in the match as Ritchie’s ball into the box was flicked on at the near post by Williams for the incoming Flint to plant his firm header beyond the reach of Sorensen.
To make matters worse for the Potters, Ness had pulled up with a groin injury and had to be withdrawn, leaving them with ten men.
But the tie was all-square again five into the second period when Kightly burst down the right and hooked over an inviting cross which was tailor made for Crouch, who got above his marker to apply the finish touch with a firm header.
The momentum was once again with the Potters and when they won a free kick on the right hand side, Pennant provided the perfect delivery which found Upson inside the area, but he sent his glancing header flashing past the upright.
With City’s ten men visibly tiring, Swindon sensed the chance to snatch victory in the final few minutes and they went 4-3 with a breakaway goal.
Although Sorensen produced a fine one-handed save to deny Ritchie when he cut inside from the left hand side, the ball was volleyed back to the far post where Collins forced the ball home to complete his hat-trick.
There was still time for one final twist as City forced a corner and it took a frantic scramble to prevent them equalising once again.