Swindon continued their encouraging start to the season with a deserved 1-0 win over Karl Robinson’s MK Dons. The winning goal came on the stroke of half time when Matt Ritchie’s inswinging cross eluded David Martin in the Dons’ goal, possibly via the foot of James Collins. As a result, Town remain undefeated and find themselves in 3rd place after three games, writes Iain Watkins.
The visitors were one of the bookies’ favourites for promotion this season having added to last season’s 5th place-finishing squad with the permanent signing of Alan Smith in addition to one-time Town target Antony Kay, experienced striker Ryan Lowe and buttock-shooting victim Jon Otsemobor. Fortunately for Town, the former two were missing (along with midfielder Stephen Gleeson) due to MK’s inability to finish games with eleven men. Despite this, they were still expected to provide the toughest league test for Paolo’s men thus far.
Swindon were unchanged from the Crawley mauling, with Nathan Thompson and Chris Smith replacing the injured Paul Benson and departed Alessandro Cibocchi on the Town bench. The 8,299 crowd were treated to a dominant first-half Town display accompanied by a lightning storm and torrential rain. Aden Flint, Raffa De Vita and Simon Ferry all went close in the opening stages, but a resolute Dons defence, and Martin in particular, was holding firm.
On 23 minutes, a stupendous save from Martin prevented Town from taking the lead. Ritchie’s corner from the right was cleared back to him by Luke Chadwick on the front post. Taking a touch to get a better angle, Ritchie’s whipped cross was met by the head of Collins only to be denied by a wonderful one-handed save from the Dons’ number one. Martin was keeping them in it at this stage.
Town continued to press, but to no avail. However, the turning point of the game came on 40 minutes. A foul on Tommy Miller saw the Reds awarded a free kick inside their own half. Dean Lewington picked up the ball to prevent Town from taking it quickly, which Ferry tried to rectify by taking the ball off the Dons skipper. Lewington’s response was to swing an arm at Ferry who, to his credit, chose to stay on his feet. Following discussion with his assistant, referee David Phillips brandished the red card, ensuring MK probably won’t be finishing top of any fair play leagues this season. Advantage Town.
As the end of the opening half approached, it seemed Town would have no reward for their dominant display. However, this changed in stoppage time. A Town throw came to Ritchie, whose cross may or may not have been touched by James Collins on the way past Martin. Town’s number nine laid claim to it after the game, but it appears to have been credited as Ritchie’s second of the season. Town fans cared not for their team had finally made the breakthrough.
As the second half began, the majority of the County Ground crowd would have expected the home team to put the game to bed with their man advantage, but Town found it harder to break down the ten-men Dons than they had in the first half. Miller, Flint and Collins all failed to test Martin while Williams shot tamely at him and, as time passed, yours truly became increasingly nervous that the visitors might ruin Wes’ clean sheet record and take something from this game.
Roughly ten minutes from time, Williams showed great pace and control to break from inside the Town half, only to see his powerful right-footed shot come back off the crossbar. The ex-Yeovil man has been unlucky not to net at the County Ground so far, but his first goal is surely not far away.
Town had a late penalty shout turned down, but it was hard to tell from where I was sat. Williams appeared to be caught in the Dons box, but the man in charge wasn’t interested.
As the game reached its end, MK pressed for an equaliser and Darren Potter’s shot from range bounced awkwardly off the damp surface in front of Foderingham but, having spilled the initial effort, he claimed at the second attempt. This proved to be their best chance, and Town saw the game out for a third home win in two weeks.
Ritchie was awarded the sponsor’s man of the match (who had chosen to let Twitter users pick it for them) despite, by his own admission, him not having a great game. For the second game running, I personally found it very hard to pick out just one player, which can only be a good thing. A big shout out goes to Wes (and his defence as well) for his 11th consecutive home league game without conceding. He’ll fancy extending that record against Leyton Orient in a fortnight.
Town deserved their win with MK offering very little going forward, even before the sending off. Karl Robinson had spoken out in the week about how unfair he felt two of their dismissals had been, and will no doubt say something similar about this one as well. He wasn’t given the chance to immediately after the game, as Dons chairman Pete Winkelman refused to let his players or management staff speak to the media. Instead Winkelman revealed his frustration at yet another injustice that had befallen his team. Although one can understand his disappointment, you cannot throw your arms around on the football pitch without the risk of dismissal. Someone with as much experience as Dean Lewington surely knows this, and that their captain showed such a lack of discipline is inexcusable.
Town now face three challenging away fixtures on the bounce. I expect Stoke to be taking the Capital One Cup game seriously on Tuesday, but we can go there with nothing to fear. This is then followed by our first trip to Deepdale in 26 years to face some of Graham Westley’s 473 new signings, before a trip to some lower league team with 75% of a ground to defend our title as JPT runners-up. Bring it on!
Are you interested in writing match reports for us this season? Then please contact Ron at thewashbag[at]gamil[dot]com