Clinical Swindon opened up a five point gap at the top of League Two with their third win over Barnet this season. Sporting four changes and backed by more than 800 vociferous reds, Town quickly put their goal scoring blanks against Chesterfield and Bristol Rovers behind them at a chilly Underhill, writes Daniel Hunt.
The Bees showed that they are a capable footballing side in patches but they were ultimately let down by frailties at each end of the pitch. Wes Foderingham was a busy man and the game could have taken on a very different dynamic had he not saved well from 18 league-goal Izale McLeod in first half stoppage time.
Paolo Di Canio was forced into making changes on both wings with Matt Ritchie and Lee Holmes suffering knocks against Rovers on Saturday; Luke Rooney lined up on the left with Rafa De Vita slotting in on the right. The other two changes were unenforced with Risser replacing the ‘rested’ Simon Ferry and Paul Benson returning in place of Alan Connell.
The back five who kept a clean sheet on Saturday were all magnificent once again and deserved their second clean sheet on the trot. If club captain Paul Caddis is close to fitness, as reported, then Di Canio will have a tough decision about who makes way to accommodate the former Scotland Under 21’s captain.
My gut-feeling is that it will be Devera who makes way despite his terrific recent form – best exemplified by the job he did on one of Barnet’s most threatening players, left winger Ricky Holmes.
The game started at a frantic pace and Jonathan Smith found himself harshly cautioned by referee, Mr Adcock, within 15 seconds. It was nothing more than over enthusiasm from the ex-York City man who continues to impress with his tireless performances in midfield. Smith’s playing style is like that of a hyperactive child at childrens party who’s drunk too much fizzy pop and eaten too many party rings. Would love to know where he gets his energy from…
Foderingham had to get his bearings right as early as the 5th minute, smothering at the feet of McLeod who threatened to break the deadlock cutting in from the left. The only other chance of note before Town took the lead was a wayward Benson header from a Devera cross from the right in the 11th minute.
I may have been in the minority when thinking Ronan Murray had a good game against Rovers but the on-loan Irishman justified his retention in the side after 13 minutes. Murray is different to our other striking options in that he has a yard of pace, plays on the shoulder of the last defender and can get in behind opposition defences.
Ronan displayed all three of these qualities when he scored past Dean Brill after being fed by a measured pass from Luke Rooney. It was a calm finish, belying his tender years, and the early goal settled any nerves present on the away terrace.
Barnet should have drawn level in the 23rd minute through Andrew Yiadom but the young winger blazed over from ten yards under pressure from a Town defender. A goal kick was signalled but the attempted tackle did enough to put Yiadom off without a doubt.
The Bees would live to regret this miss just after the half-hour mark when Rafa De Vita was upended on the right wing. This gave Jay McEveley the opportunity to swing a free-kick into the six yard box where a melee of bodies converged and the ball ended up in the back of the net to put Swindon two goals to the good.
It is telling of my view from the covered terrace that I thought Jonathan Smith was the goal scorer but I was swiftly corrected by all around me at half time that it was Risser who got the final touch for his fourth goal of the season. The goal marks a personal turn-around for the big Namibian, whose last action in Swindon Town red saw him score in the wrong net at Wembley.
Izale McLeod, a one-time Town target if you believe Lawrie Sanchez, dragged a shot wide from distance in the 39th minute and he wouldn’t have to wait long to waste another chance. Despite screams for offside from the Swindon faithful, McLeod tip-toed his way through to collect a through ball in the penalty area. Wes Foderingham came off his goal-line in a flash though and McLeod’s low effort was parried to safety by the former Palace keeper making his 35th appearance for his new employers. It was a vital save from Wesley, one which preserved Town’s two goal cushion going into half time.
Barnet carried on where they left off early in the second half. Two efforts in three minutes acted as a reminder that Swindon would have to be at their defensive best to maintain the two goal lead. In the 50th minute, Ricky Holmes shot straight at Foderingham before Wigan loanee Jordan Mustoe struck a fierce drive just over the bar three minutes later. Poor Mustoe must be sick of the sight of Swindon Town this season…
Town’s first substitution, Ferry for Smith in the 55th minute, nearly paid dividends immediately, but Ferry’s left foot curler went over the cross-bar and not onto the cross-bar like the Scot managed at Crewe.
The two sides continued to exchange punches as the half continued. A Barnet snap-shot flashed wide in the 66th minute with Foderingham rooted to the spot and Rafa De Vita should have fared better when slipped into the right hand channel after 70 minutes. The Italian opted to cross tamely into the first defender rather than take on the shot. This is certainly a less confident De Vita than we saw in late 2011.
On loan target man Ben May was largely well shackled by the towering Flint but May managed to test Foderingham with a shot on the turn from 18 yards with twenty minutes left on the clock. Foderingham gathered at the second attempt and the danger was gone.
Two more Town substitutions followed in the match with Rooney making way for the returning Nathan Thompson and cramp victim De Vita making way for Alan Connell, who deputised on the left wing for the final ten minutes.
The longer the match went on, the less likely Barnet looked like scoring. In fact it was Swindon and Thompson who had the best chance to trouble the scorers again. Town’s forgotten right-back played the final quarter of an hour with bundles of enthusiasm and his over eagerness shone through when he cruelly dragged a shot wide after playing a one-two with Murray. A great chance missed to make your mark after so long in Caddis’ shadow.
A hard earned three points have moved Town five points clear of Torquay in second and no less than eight points clear of fourth. Factor in our superior goal difference being worth an extra point and Di Canio’s men are looking comfortable at the top of the League Two tree again.
Finally, a special mention to the two ‘Super Macs’ at the back; Jay McEveley was my man of the match just ahead of Alan McCormack but they both displayed composure on the ball and strength in the tackle. McEveley has a good cross on him and a real willingness to get beyond his left midfielder. McEveley’s whipped centre across the face of goal was screaming out for someone to knock it in just before the break and then Jay might have been celebrating two assists instead of one.
Excellent signs for our footballing future in League One I hope. What football league ground do you fancy celebrating promotion at? Could be a barmy night in Aldershot for sure…