It was an opening day defeat for Swindon as they lost 1-0 to Peterborough at London Road. Britt Assombalonga’s goal was the difference between the sides and Adam Johnson was there to see how the newly assembled side faired…
Well, that wasn’t as bad as we all thought it might be. Swindon’s record this season will read played one lost one but on the pitch there are positive signs for the coming nine months.
There’s been an air of uncertainty coming into the 2013/14 season, which I feel is a fair statement, but those who were in Peterborough have hopefully had some early jitters calmed after a strong opening day performance.
Football is a results business but at this very early stage, Swindon fans should be content with the showing they saw against a side that have been tipped for promotion from League One. It’s hard to judge anything from the first 90 minutes of the season but there is promise.
Mark Cooper’s side weren’t outplayed and deserved a point after matching their opponents for the majority but were let down by the one defensive mistake which allowed Britt Assombalonga to score what would be the winner in the 9th minute.
Only five of the starting eleven featured towards the end of last season with debuts for Grant Hall, Alex Smith, Ryan Harley, Ryan Mason, Alex Pritchard and Tijane Reis with Yaser Kasim coming on to be Swindon’s 902nd ever League player (thanks to http://www.swindon-town-fc.co.uk for that one.)
Town started in a 4-5-1/4-2-3-1 formation with Tijane Reis and Alex Pritchard on the wings and Andy Williams playing as the lone striker. Massimo Luongo would sit in front of the back four with Mason trying to support Williams when possible but also sitting in centre midfield alongside Ryan Harley.
Swindon started the brighter asserting early pressure with several corners and being able to push forward into the Peterborough half. Reis and Pritchard were causing problems on the flanks but it would be the start of an afternoon of frustration in front of goal with no real opportunities being created.
Peterborough wouldn’t be fazed as in less than 10 minutes after kick off persistence of trying to exploit Town’s centre back pairing would pay off. A long ball put the Town defence on the back foot but new £1 million plus signing Britt Assombalonga was able to hold off any challenge and lift the ball over the on rushing Foderingham to give The Posh a 1-0 lead.
Tyrone Barnett would be a source of frustration for Town, and especially Nathan Thompson, as he was able to float in from the left side to support Assombalonga. The latter would continue to torment Town as he again found a way through the centre defence but could only lob wide from 6 yards.
Swindon wouldn’t create any chances of note for the rest of the half but the style of play was clear to see. Goal kicks from Foderingham were only allowed to be taken short and the amount of long ball football on show was almost non-existent. When Town got flowing in this style, it did get the heart racing but as always it can get you into trouble if passes are missed in crucial areas.
The intent was there though and over the season you can see this becoming a trait of the side with the likes of Mason, Luongo and Harley in centre midfield, if we stick with three in midfield at The County Ground. Mason looked lively and wanting to join attacks, Luongo sitting in front of the back four and Ryan Harley just moving the ball to its next destination with ease.
Swindon weren’t able to get the same free flowing football started in the second half and found themselves camped in their own half. The passing football wasn’t able to get Swindon out of trouble and they were nearly two behind when Tommy Rowe crashed an effort against the post.
Swindon’s best chance of the half, and the game, would come with around 10 minutes left on the clock. Alex Pritchard would control the ball to lay off to Tottenham counterpart Mason who hit an effort first time against the crossbar.
Swindon though would have one other chance when substitute Miles Storey cut in from the left side and his deflected shot was just too high for Andy Williams at the backpost to reach with his head.
The full time whistle would go and the big round of applause from the travelling supporters showed the general consensus of what had been witnessed.
We shouldn’t big up the performance into something it wasn’t though. We did play nice football and look solid when defending and in possession looking to keep the ball down and play ‘proper’ football.
However, as Swindon rarely threatened the goal, the build-up play in midfield was often wasted when Town approached the edge of the Peterborough area. Andy Williams as a lone striker didn’t work and he needed more support from either the wingers or one of the centre midfielders.
If Town are to stick with the one up front we’re going to need to change either our style slightly, if we are to keep Williams as the lone striker. The ball at Williams’s feet wasn’t working due to him having little outlets to go forward meaning every attempted counter or build up would slowly come to a halt and go backwards rather than the start of a forward attack.
He had little to run on to due to the team playing short balls so wasn’t utilising his pace. The answer could be trying to get the wingers to cut in more from the flanks, example being a Matt Ritchie like tactic, sorry if me saying that name is still too early for some.
Pritchard and Reis did very well on their debuts on the wing, Especially Reis who I knew very little of. The Portuguese winger had his tricks but was able to run at defenders with good close control, unlike some tricky wingers who look like their feet and head are separate rather than connected.
Whenever Town did have the ball in those dangerous wide areas, the option was Williams surrounded by Peterborough defenders. I would expect to see Pritchard and Reis cut in from the flanks more but also offer width when required. It’s a tricky dilemma trying to fulfil both which we want in an ideal world.
For man of the match, it would be either Ryan Mason or Tijane Reis. Mason because he was very calm on the ball, did his job with minimal fuss and showed signs of his attacking intent which will hopefully grow as the season progresses. Tijane Reis because of his hidden element before kick-off and how he took to the game, wanting to be positive.
Other notable performances included Nathan Thompson, who after a tough start up against Tyrone Barnett, was able to control the former Macclesfield Town man and limit the threat from the left as the game progressed.
Swindon can be happy with their opening day performance, knowing that there is a good base on which to build, a good philosophy and the team is in place to fulfil that philosophy. It’s now seeing who the manager will be to take us forward.
Its baby steps at this stage for Swindon and a win on Tuesday night in the Cup would be the perfect next step ahead of this long season.