Swindon 1 Preston 1: Time to let the football do the talking…

PNE Deepdale

A Swindon Town comeback secured a 1-1 draw against Preston, in the first match under Jed McCrory’s consortium and without Paolo Di Canio and his backroom staff. Writes Matt Davies.

What a week we have had, top of League One, no management staff and we have new owners. This weekend’s fixture was a great chance for Town to stay at the top of the table and let the football do the talking, unfortunately they did neither of these, but what did we expect?

It was always going to be a tough game, Preston are tricky opponents their recent appointment of Simon Grayson meant that they were full of fresh enthusiasm and ideas going into the game. Add to that the situation that we were in, two player managers, neither have any experience at management and they have a promotion challenge to keep on track. Hardly ideal circumstances.

Ward and Miller selected an unchanged XI to the triumphant team at Tranmere, the only changes that were made was the introduction of Louis Thompson and Luke Rooney to the bench. The latter being back in the first team set up for the first time since Preston away earlier in the season and we all remember how that ended.

The game was underway and Swindon started brightly, Gary Roberts was particularly active and full of confidence after his antics in the last game. It wasn’t long until Swindon had their first real chance to get ahead when Tommy Miller leapt like a salmon to a cross from the right hand side only to be denied by Rudd in the Preston goal who got a strong hand to the ball, the visitors managed to get the ball away. The crowd were getting behind the team with “Ward and Miller’s red and white army” ringing round the team continued to push for the all-important first goal that would settle the nerves.

The half continued and Preston began to grow into the game, former Town man Lee Holmes playing his part, much to the annoyance of the Town End; in the 15th minute Holmes hung up a ball into Wes’ box, only for him to confidently claim the ball. A few minutes later the home side had won a free kick in a dangerous position with Tommy Miller and Gary Roberts standing over the ball, it was Roberts who was to take the kick but caused no problems for the Preston goalkeeper who watched it all the way.

By this time the game was open, Swindon were pushing hard for a goal and Preston tried to play on the counter, which almost paid off if it wasn’t for some quite awful efforts on the home goal, one was hit so badly that it found its way to Holmes on the far side of the pitch and the other after a cut back was hit widely wide.

The half was nearing a close and reinstated captain Alan McCormack lost his head after he was booked for a tackle despite being certain that won the ball, to illustrate his point to the referee he picked up the ball and violently pointed towards it. The resulting free kick was another that didn’t amount to anything as Wes came to collect once again. McCormack wasn’t the only player who was letting his frustration show, Aden Flint was also angered by Swindon’s first half performance after yet another misplaced pass. An agitated crowd then claimed handball on the halfway line near the Don Rodgers which was waved away by the ref, Mr Deadman, but did award a throw despite the ball not going out of play, much to the confusion of players and fans alike.

Town had started brightly but their dominance faded through the duration of the half, they lacked creativity and fluidity in the final third and often tried to pump a long ball up to the front line but they were unable to hold on to possession, resulting to a sloppy end to the half.

Swindon went out in the second half much like they did the first, the first goal was going to play a huge part in the course of this game and the Robins were pushing to make sure it was them that got in front. Skipper McCormack went on a great driving run that saw him beat two players and lash a fierce shot towards to near post, his effort was matched yet again by Rudd who managed to palm the ball out of the stadium, quite impressive.

Five minutes of the second half had gone and the home team have a corner, Roberts found Flint at the back post who headed the ball across the face of goal where it was met by Darren Ward who headed towards goal, but it was scrambled away. Roberts then had a half chance, he made a good connection with a loose ball on the half volley but his shot was narrowly over. Then like the first Preston began to drag their way back into contention, then with a counter attack they managed to get themselves a goal. Swindon were in disarray defensively as a floated ball found an unmarked Beavon who took the ball and then laid it off to an incoming winger Hayhurst who smashed  the ball into the roof of the net for his first professional goal.

The Robins needed a reaction and the team tried to step it up a gear but were sloppy in possession, Simon Ferry picked up a knock and hadn’t been at his best due to him picking up an injury in last Tuesday’s fixture which led to him missing training in the build-up to the game. 67th minutes with Ferry clearly struggling Tommy Miller signalled to the bench to make a change, a few moments later Ferry was replaced by Alan Navarro. Swindon continued to try and get back into the game, but whatever they tried didn’t come off so another change was needed. With 75 minutes on the clock Adam Rooney was introduced to devastating effect, merely 30 seconds after coming on he was given the best chance when a defensive error by David Buchanan  presented him the ball in the penalty area, Rooney made no mistake an slotted the ball into the back of the net with his first touch.

15 minutes remained and the players were energised by the goal and began to feed off of the crowd, the best chance to win the game fell to Flint who did everything right, he planted a firm header down towards goal, only to be matched yet again by Rudd who’s crucial saves surely ensured they travel home with a point.

It was a hard fought game, with a physicality that took a while to adjust to but when they did Swindon looked like the team that would score, if they were more clinical. Collins and Williams didn’t really have a chance between them as they couldn’t keep hold of the ball. Swindon’s three best chances fell to a midfielder, defender and a substitute, I think this illustrates how the front two struggled for the majority of the game, Swindon had the chances to win this game but they couldn’t take them.

But is it a bad result? It could’ve been worse and it could’ve been better, but given the circumstances that surrounded the game a draw isn’t the end of the world. We are still in a great position and now that we have the new owners hopefully we can look forward to a much more positive week. Roll on Tuesday.

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