It was an afternoon to forget at Deepdale but it’s firmly placed in the mind of Adam Johnson who witnessed Town’s first defeat of the 2012/2013 season…
He can be a genius, he can be a hard one to figure out, but what’s certain is that Paolo Di Canio’s afternoon in sunny Preston was his most entertaining and forgettable as Swindon Town manager.
The first league goals we’ve conceded this season would have easily been enough to bring us down to earth with a bang. Then, the performance was bordering on embarrassing in the first half and the situation with Wes Foderingham definitely turned it into a memorable day.
The afternoon started with bright optimistic hopes in the sunshine as the players emerged into what would be an exciting 90 minutes of football. With the new deadline day signings, the squad looked stronger and after Stoke, why can’t we win at Deepdale if we play to our potential? Sadly we were about to find out if we didn’t.
Town started slow and on the back foot, which isn’t the first time as we seem to start games slow but this was very different. Preston controlled the tempo and wouldn’t let Town even move the ball around as they closed down every ball. Swindon by contrast looked lethargic and almost lost in a rare situation.
Only five minutes was on the clock when Town’s hesitancy in possession was going to cost them dearly. Aden Flint gives the ball to Foderingham who looks for the short option which isn’t available. All Foderingham can do is kick it straight at the closing down Preston player whose deflection lands at the feet of Akpo Sodje who calmly drills low to give Preston the lead. The tone is set for the days events.
Swindon don’t react well, continuing to be second best and aren’t able to find their feet. Preston pick up the ball with Swindon on the defensive but sadly that defence isn’t the tight one we all remember. A great move leads to a low cross which finds Nicky Wroe who taps in past the stretching Foderingham. Great goal, poor defending and the drama starts to unfold.
Town continue to struggle and can’t deal with the Preston pressure. Murmurs begin in the away end as Leigh Bedwell is sent out to warm up. Nothing exactly strange about that but with the start we’ve had, could he really sub Wes? Maybe it’s the old manager ploy, send them out to warm up and show you will do it if necessary but normally, it’s not.
Time goes on and the defence gets worse, not just from a performance view but also the team spirit is broken. The arguing is rife and Swindon is in disarray. Captain McCormack has a word but it all seems like random shouting than planning. For everything that was going well in the first month of the season, it seemed to disappear in only 10 minutes.
Then out steps youth goalkeeper Leigh Bedwell in his kit and gloves, the moment has arrived. Deepdale breaks into uncontrollable cheering as Wes walks off slowly and refuses to sit on the bench. He walks towards the tunnel which is in the opposite corner but not before disfiguring a water bottle by whacking it with the power of a goal kick.
Chants of Foderingham show who the majority support but Di Canio has made strange decisions, by our standards, before and has been proved right. Let’s see what happens…
Not a lot is the answer as Town only manage a few corners and a James Collins header which goes over from about 8 yards. Preston continue to terrorise, especially down the left as Jay McEveley and Luke Rooney, in place of the injured Matt Ritchie, struggle with the pace and movement of Jefrrey Monakana waltzing his way past every attempted challenge.
Without little surprise, it turns into three. A corner isn’t dealt with properly at the back post and deadline day signing Stuart Beavon taps in from a knock down which Bedwell can’t stop from crossing the line.
The half time whistle goes with a mixture of boos and timid claps of uncertainty as fans aren’t sure how to react to the 45 minutes of football that’s unfolded. It was a performance that nearly bordered on embarrassing as Preston dominated every area of the pitch. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a Swindon side play like that.
The players emerged early and instantly get in a huddle, showing unity, which is all we ask for the second half. Town start bright with sub John Bostock in place of Luke Rooney going close as his deflected shot bounces off the top of the crossbar for a corner, Town fans get into full voice after finally seeing some sort of football. Then the drama continues some more.
Wes Foderingham emerges from the tunnel with Luke Rooney, both heading towards the Swindon fans to sit in the stand. A move we’ve seen Paolo do before and one I think makes sense. Rooney at first has to sit on the steps before a stewards finds him a seat and instantly Swindon find their place as Raffaele De Vita slots home across the keeper to pull one back. The great recovery is on, albeit unlikely, but at least we’re seeing effort.
Swindon continue to improve and at least show a glimpse of what we’re capable of without any noticeable chances but then Preston definitely seal the points. John Welsh’s shot seems to evade everyone plus Bedwell whose left standing still as the ball rolls into the net. 4-1, a fair reflection of the afternoon’s work.
The full time whistle blows and the eyes instantly go to Paolo, who wanders over slowly to the away end with his head almost hanging in shame. Fans sing to which he tells them not too as he says ‘it’s my fault, not the players, blame me’. He gets a nice applause and walks away with his arm around Leigh Bedwell, the one who was unfortunately placed in the middle of a difficult situation and afternoon.
So, first defeat of the season, it’s never going to be greeted well but it was placed at the laps of Swindon fans with more drama than was necessary. It wasn’t just the Wes situation that obviously overshadowed the whole 90 minutes but also the sheer drop in performance that we had got used to from August.
The morning after I was hoping the Keane lyrics of ‘I wake up, it’s a bad dream’ was going to be true but as soon as I hit Twitter, it was worse. Everyone around the country now had an opinion, as if the thoughts of Swindon fans weren’t enough to clog up Twitter.
However, after this short article from the Official Website, all is forgotten as PDC said: ‘‘Wes has said sorry. Now we must move on and work together. He is a strong character and a genuine guy.’’ We can all rest as he’s also available for Oxford. The usual juggernaut of attention towards Paolo will disappear and we can get back to playing football.
Paolo may have been rash in his reaction at Deepdale, Wes may have over reacted etc…but we can claim it as a bad day and move on. Every club has them and we should be happy that both manager and player have been man enough to sort out the situation in the best interests of the football club.
We all know what Di Canio is like and what he demands. It often brings out the best in players as we’ve seen numerous times but with certain types of character it may clash. It’s what could have happened with Wes who, and these are the words of Di Canio, had become arrogant. We all want Foderingham in goal and I’m sure Paolo does to.
Trust still has to lie with Di Canio, he’s rarely been proved wrong and one substitution shouldn’t change that. We may have done things differently but if you respond in the right way to a moment like that, you can come out stronger the other side.
What was more frustrating was that a month’s worth of effort on the pitch had been forgotten by players and fans. The performance was bad but what’s also important to remember is that it was one game. We all know what this team is capable of, let alone what we could still achieve in the many months ahead with the strength in depth now available.
The most crucial thing now is how we respond and that has been a strong characteristic of Paolo Di Canio. In football everything is fixed with a win, especially if you go and beat your local rivals in the very next game…