All the moaning & worrying was brought to an immediate halt on Saturday as Swindon brushed aside second place Stevenage in dominating style. Adam Johnson was there…
Transfer Embargo, Transfer Embargo, Transfer Embargo. The words that come up in every Swindon Town discussion at the moment but in Stevenage, football took centre stage with a bang.
The best league performance of the season was brilliantly timed in amongst an uncertain few weeks as Town took apart one of the top sides, according to the table pre match, in League One. Goals from Raffaele De Vita, Matt Ritchie, Miles Storey and Adam Rooney meant Tommy Miller’s penalty miss didn’t even matter, although I’m sure it does to him.
Before kick off several things had been confusing fans, mostly the maths involved with the 65% wage cap, but this time it was team selection and formation. Was it a 5-3-2, 4-4-2, 4-1-4-1? The answer was 4-4-2.
Miles Storey was given a start alongside Paul Benson and Troy Archibald Henville or Darren Ward would have been filling in at left back, pure guess, if not for Troy’s illness. He was replaced by Simon Ferry which meant a place in the starting 11 for Tommy Miller.
With this change McCormack moved to RB, previously in CM, Devera at LB and Miller in CM. John Bostock got a place in the starting 11 in a new deeper central midfield role and excelled with a man of the match performance.
Town came out of the blocks in traditional style, passing on the floor at pace with quick simple balls pulling Stevenage here, there and everywhere. For the opening 15 minutes I doubt Stevenage even reached Town’s area as The Robins forced their opponents to sit in their own half.
Chances flooded the Stevenage goal and it wasn’t to be a day of near chances as the pressure finally got its reward. De Vita’s half volley on the turn after a knock down from Ritchie put Swindon ahead.
With Town not feeling the slightest bit sorry for their opponents, they turned up the heat at a cold Lamex Stadium in a crazy seven minute period. Firstly, Matt Ritchie added to Stevenage’s woes as his speculative effort, with some help in the form of a spread pair of legs, smuggled through Arnold to double the lead.
2-0 up after 30 minutes would have most thinking ‘right, defend, don’t throw it away’ but Swindon knew Stevenage were there for the taking and well, they were.
McCormack went on one of his trademark runs and was tripped in the box to win a penalty. Tommy Miller stepped up, after his penalty miss v Hartlepool where the ball still hasn’t been found, and his low effort into the corner was well saved by Arnold. Was this going to be the moment that Stevenage needed to give them a lift? For about three minutes it was.
Wes Foderingham, who sadly will only get this mention in today’s report due to lack of activity, made a good low save from an effort into the bottom corner and that was as interesting as it got for him. Thanks for the 10/10 performance Wes.
The seven minutes of drama was ended as Swindon got a deserved third when Miles Storey scored on his full league debut. A great pass across the box from Bostock found Ritchie whose cross met the head of an unmarked Storey who intelligently guided the ball back across the keeper to make it three.
Half time came with a standing ovation from the Town faithful as we had probably seen the best half of football this season. The dominance though wasn’t about to stop at 45 minutes, there’s 45 more to go.
The pattern continued in the majority but Stevenage did have a bit of possession in our area at the start of the second half. A few corners had to be defended but it was soon back to normal business. How dare Stevenage try and score.
Miles Storey had the best effort in the early stages as his header was brilliantly saved by Arnold out of pure instinct. That would be the end of the day for Storey and on came Rooney probably with a message of ‘go and get me a goal’, which is what he did, mission accomplished.
After only being on the pitch for roughly a minute, he found himself in space from Bostock’s through ball to calmly trickle the ball across the line at Arnold’s front post to make it four. Nothing spectacular, it almost happened in slow motion.
I could ramble on about this and that chance but the possession stats tell you what happened for the last half an hour: Swindon 62%, Stevenage 38%.
It was as near to a perfect afternoon in Stevenage you can get with the only issue being the low temperatures. The whole team back to front did their jobs well and steam rolled over a side that, before the days play, were second in League One and unbeaten at home since January. Every player deserves credit in a 4-0 victory but individual mentions have to go to Bostock and Storey.
Bostock has been a tough puzzle this season but has Paolo found this young man a new role in football? He played in what Football Manager would like to describe as a deep lying playmaker, playing forward passes to those available. He played deeper than Miller as his midfield partner was there to try and win the ball higher up the pitch.
His link up play in midfield was crucial to every attack and his calm nature on the ball helped Town dissect the opposition. He found forward passes with ease and played a sensible game yet with style to keep Town ticking over. The only dampener was that he was brought off injured and may be out for a few weeks which is another blow to Paolo.
Miles Storey has now shown everyone what he’s about and let’s hope there’s more to come. It’s too early to tell but he could be a great squad player this season especially with the inconsistent striker performances. Storey was energetic and got himself about well, not being intimidated. His header was taken with great technique and you could tell the excitement amongst the players and bench, have we got someone on our hands here?
The performance didn’t come as a massive shock as we know this team have it in them; it’s just the 4-0 score that surprised Town fans as it has been the inconsistency in front of goal that’s cost us. We create a similar number of chances in most games but don’t take them. It’s quite simple really, keep playing the way we do, whoever starts, take the chances and we’ll do a Stevenage or a Bournemouth more often.
There isn’t a team in this league who we should fear if we play to our potential and that also could be a frustration of Di Canio. Knowing that he has the players there, when fit, to do the job but is limited by injuries and an embargo to replace when necessary to keep up the momentum.
It’s great to see how any matter can be happening off the pitch but win a game and everything is forgotten. I even had to try and remember how to spell embargo. The fans and club is in better spirits and we’re now a force again. Until the next defeat of course…
With our league form back on track, let’s hope this coming week of two cup games doesn’t hinder but helps to keep the Stevenage momentum going . Bring on the Villa!