Daniel Hunt reflects on further progress for Swindon Town in the League Cup after a convincing 3-1 victory over Burnley.
Soak it all in, appreciate it, take pictures! Because this is a fantastic time to be a Town fan. A healthy crowd of over seven thousand witnessed an action packed cup tie at the County Ground as Burnley, a side from a higher division than Di Canio’s Swindon Town, went the same way as Bristol City, Exeter, Huddersfield, Colchester, Wigan, Brighton and Stoke before them.
The men from Turf Moor attacked with menace and the Robins had to be at their best to repel them following a bright start. However, Burnley’s vulnerable defence was exposed by the attacking foursome of Ritchie, Roberts, Benson and Williams as Swindon booked a place in the last sixteen of the League Cup – a feat last achieved in 1994/1995 under Steve McMahon. Let the dreaming commence, who would you like to take on in the next round? A Premier League team at home, under floodlights and on TV is all I’m asking for. The world shouldn’t be deprived from seeing Paolo’s giant-killers any longer.
This was supposed to be the Charlie Austin show and sure enough, the pantomime villain got his goal to threaten a Burnley comeback in the second half. Sections of the Town End were particularly damning in their assessment of the former Poole Town hot-shot from the first minute. From my seat in the Don Rogers Stand, I pleaded with those dishing out the abuse not to anger the Championship’s joint top scorer – captain McCormack and the returning Archibald-Henville had a tough enough night ahead of them without Austin wanting to rub it in. Charlie loved to wind up opposition fans when he scored, that much I do remember from his tenure at the County Ground, and the Town End were certainly giving him some ammunition.
Call me harsh but Austin’s inability to score in the opening ten minutes cost Burnley a place in the fourth round. The Clarets started the game at a fierce pace and had the home team on the rack. A dummied Wallace corner in the third minute presented Austin with a shot from 15 yards but it whistled just wide despite his sweet connection. From another Wallace corner three minutes later, Burnley’s number 23 had a header cleared off the line by Gary Roberts.
When midfielder Chris McCann finally put the ball in the net with ten minutes gone, he was flagged offside correctly by the linesman. Austin’s scuffed effort from the middle of the goal fed McCann but the truth is that Charlie should have put the chance away himself. Perhaps subconsciously, Charlie still has a soft spot for the club that gave him his chance in the Football League?
Following Burnley’s missed opportunities, the reds regrouped and the central midfield combination of Miller and Navarro started to see some of the ball. Crucially the score was still 0-0 because this meant a moment of Swindon quality could provide the precious first goal – see earlier Washbag article: http://thewashbag.com/2012/09/25/scoring/ – and it came from veteran Paul Benson.
The supporter to my left bemoaned the short corner taken to Jay McEveley in the 19th minute but after taking a moment to compose himself, the left back whipped in a low cross that Benson swept home expertly. Said supporter and I had a good laugh about his grumbling in the aftermath of the goal. Was it against the run of play? Probably yes but aside from a McCann header straight at Foderingham in the 22nd minute, Burnley offered little until Swindon doubled their advantage through the outstanding Andy Williams.
All the credit for the second goal has to go to Town’s unsung hero of the season, Tommy Miller. Pressing high up the pitch, Miller intercepted a pass and surged forward with pace and strength beyond his 33 years. He slotted a pass in for the onrushing Williams who deftly side footed the ball through Brian Jenson’s legs to send the County Ground crowd into delirium. Three goals in three games now for the summer recruit from Yeovil; I’m genuinely chuffed to bits for him. If only his finishing could match all the other aspects of his play, he would be playing for a much better team than Swindon. For now though, I’m more than happy for Andy to stay here and improve that attribute.
Andy Williams had so many chances to extend Swindon’s lead in the second half that I’ll have to bullet point them otherwise this report will never end;
- 52 minutes. Picks up ball on right hand side from a Benson flick on and curls wide on his left foot from 20 yards.
- 62 minutes. Shows electric pace in a driving run from the left wing but can only poke tamely at Jenson when bearing down on goal. Such a shame after doing all the hard work.
- 66 minutes. Diving header into the ground well saved by Jenson from a left-wing cross. You could feel the pressure building at the game.
- 80 minutes. Coming back from miles offside, Williams picks up the ball and curls wide on his right foot from left hand edge of the box. Jenson was diving at full stretch, poor linesman-ship though.
- 89 minutes. Played in over the top by substitute Collins as Burnley are visibly stretched late in the game. Williams has a fairly tame effort pushed wide by the busy Jenson.
While a two goal lead at the interval flattered Town, the anticipated second half Burnley charge never really came. In between the Andy Williams show above, the main threats for the Lancashire side came through dangerous set pieces. Eleven minutes into the second half, the lively McCann volleyed a left foot shot over the bar after Swindon failed to clear a long throw from the right wing. The most guilt-edged chance fell to substitute Sam Vokes on the hour mark following Kieran Trippiers whipped free kick. The former Bournemouth striker headed low towards goal only to be foiled by a reaction save by Wes Foderingham. I’m not sure how much Foderingham knew about it but credit where it’s due for getting the ball as far away from goal as he did.
Vokes’ performance from the bench raised the question why on earth he didn’t start the game? With 16 minutes to go, the Wales international dragged Alan McCormack out of position on the right wing, jinked this way and that, before laying the ball on a plate for Austin to nip in ahead of the despairing dives of Thompson and Foderingham to tap in from two yards. How Di Canio’s men handled this setback would determine whether or not extra time would be needed in this gripping cup tie.
The response from Swindon’s players was really impressive as they went in search of a third goal to kill the game off rather than sit on their narrow lead. Gary Roberts’ left wing trickery almost allowed Williams to tap in the 76th minute but a Claret leg intercepted and Jenson had to be aware to stop an own goal. A collective sigh of relief could finally be breathed with six minutes left in normal time though, thanks to Troy Archibald-Henville.
Benson cleverly won a free kick on the left hand touchline which Jay McEveley happily swung in to claim his second assist of the evening. The ball got through a crowd of bodies to be met by man mountain Troy and the header was so powerful that it squirmed through the desperate grasp of Brian Jenson. 3-1, job done thankfully.
All over the pitch there were great performances from the Robins; Williams has been featured heavily but on another day Nathan Thompson could easily be celebrating his second man of the match award on the trot. As team mate Wes Foderingham alluded to on Twitter on Tuesday night;
“@nathan_t23 is the new Vinnie Jones by the way! Nailing anyone and everyone in sight! #HardAsNails”
Joking aside, Thompson is ferocious in the tackle and in one passage of play after 65 minutes, he crunched two Burnley players in his own half before setting off on a marauding run down the right. Put those feat up Joe Devera, rest that shoulder Mr Caddis… the youth team graduate has waited long enough for his chance and he seems determined not to let go.
The fourth round draw follows the Manchester United v Newcastle match on Sky Sports tonight. Next up for Town is Shrewsbury Town away in League One on Saturday. As Di Canio alluded to in his post-match interview, this result will be pointless unless Town avoid a Preston-esque display in the game following. Hope to see you all there.