Notts County 2-0 Swindon Town: Seeing Red…

Troy Archibald-Henville Sending Off vs Notts County 2

Adam Tanner went to Meadow Lane hoping for some joy against the Magpies…

Swindon Town went into the game looking for their seventh win in eight games; and aiming to keep faint hopes of a playoff place alive into the final day. Mark Cooper made only one change to the side that beat Bradford on Monday, with Nathan Byrne replacing Miles Storey as one of the forwards in what can most easily be described as a 3-4-3 formation.

Notts County started with a high tempo, and immediately gained the upper hand. After four minutes, James Spencer headed a very decent chance wide after getting the better of the Town defence. This set the tone for the afternoon; none of our centre backs could cope with Spencer’s use of his body, and they had their most difficult afternoon for some time.

Town’s astonishing knack of conceding to former players reared its head after just nine minutes, when the unmarked Alan Sheehan collected a simple pass and hit a firm, low effort into the far corner from 18 yards. Three former Town defenders (Sheehan, Aden Flint and Sean O’Hanlon) have now scored against Swindon this season, but somehow none of our six current regular centre backs have managed a goal for us. A lack of bodies in wide areas cost us the goal, and proved a major issue all afternoon.

Town responded quickly and Pritchard curled a first time shot narrowly wide after linking up with Nathan Thompson, but sadly missing the target became the theme of Swindon’s day. Michael Smith wasted a good chance from close range around 15 minutes later, before lashing a wild volley about 20 yards over the bar. Smith gave his all as usual, but nothing went right. He badly needs a break, and some more support by August, whether from Nile Ranger or, most likely, someone else. He has had too much on his shoulders for a lad of his age and experience. Whilst I understand Cooper’s frustration with Dany N’Guessan, I would question whether freezing him out altogether has really been fair on Smith.

The second half began with standing water on parts of the pitch, after extensive watering by County at half time. Presumably this was geared towards keeping Town subdued, and, if so, it worked a treat. County had several chances to double their lead, most notably in the 50th minute, when former Swindon loanee Ronan Murray should really have scored when put one-on-one with Foderingham; our star man closed him down and made the save with his feet. Town also endured a few close shaves from various set pieces.

Swindon were little more threatening than during the first half, although our best chance of the game came in the 63rd minute, when Luongo broke free in the County area but put his shot into the side netting. With five minutes to go Pritchard broke forward and hit a firm shot straight at County keeper Bialkowski, which he held at the second attempt. This was our first and only serious attempt on target.

Then came the main event. The scuffle appeared to start with Troy Archibald-Henville pushing over Spencer in the penalty area in the build-up to a throw in, but after that point I really didn’t see anything besides a huge pile of bodies. It went on for longer than any on-field brawl that I remember seeing, and after it finally died down, and the referee had spent a couple of minutes checking with his linesmen that he hadn’t imagined it all, a total of six cards were shown; three to each side. Town were reduced to nine men, with Archibald-Henville shown a straight red, and Nathan Thompson given a second yellow.

We then had the small matter of nine added minutes to handle. Wes Foderingham ended up coming forward for a Pritchard free kick, and when that was cleared he could only watch as County effectively walked the ball into the net to seal the points.

Here are my thoughts:

Player Discipline

We have now had eight red cards this season in all competitions, and three of our players (McEveley, Archibald-Henville and Nathan Byrne) have been sent off twice. Byrne has been quite unlucky, but the others have themselves to blame. Alex Pritchard, Yaser Kasim and Nathan Thompson also receive far too many cards. As the link below shows, our record is strikingly bad.

How have we managed this when, as we all know, we have a slow, patient style of play? Cooper must take a chunk of the blame. I can’t understand managers who seem convinced that referees, as a group, have some kind of vendetta against their team; it makes no sense on any level. Sadly, Cooper falls into this bracket, and perhaps this false sense of injustice rubs off onto some of our players, who must be confident that, however badly they behave on the pitch, their manager will let them off the hook.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think the fans help in this regard either. When, for the umpteenth time, Jay McEveley gets booked for slamming the ball into the ground like a spoiled brat after a minor decision has gone against him, the last thing we should be doing is chanting his name. Equally, I refuse to give Troy Archibald-Henville a standing ovation when he has just been sent off for violent conduct. I can’t buy into the British Bulldog theory that anyone who doesn’t go steaming around like a lunatic, filled with anger and rage, isn’t really trying. Fortunately, most of our young players rise above the poor example set by their experienced colleagues.

Lee Cox

I know I’m repeating what I said in the Carlisle report, but I still cannot understand what Cox is doing in the team. I have no real issue with him; I’ve seen worse central midfielders, and he scored a nice goal against Bradford. But he simply isn’t as good a holding player as Louis Thompson, and, as the stats show, we are a much better team away from home when Thompson starts. I can’t believe that Cooper hasn’t noticed this by now. With five central midfielders under contract for next season, surely we cannot entertain thoughts of keeping Cox, a player who three different managers avoided like the plague for more than two years until late March.

Summary

With one game to play, we have averaged more than two points per game at home, which represents the third best record in the division, behind the runaway top two. Meanwhile, we have averaged less than one point per game away, and have a record no better than that of Tranmere, Colchester or Crewe. We’ve managed to lose away to each of the bottom three, as well as the likes of Notts and Gillingham, without scoring a goal. Although our blip at home to some poor sides during February and early March was frustrating, it’s hard to look beyond the away form as the reason why we have fallen short.

Although Saturday was ultimately a bridge too far, an excellent run of form leading up to it had kept the season interesting for a few weeks longer than we had expected. We can now focus on giving Rotherham’s charming manager his usual warm reception, followed, more importantly, by giving the players and management the credit they deserve for a very decent nine months’ work.

Follow Adam Tanner on Twitter @adamtanner87

Swindon Town 0 Notts County 0: All Shook Up…

The King... 2

A goalless draw with Notts County ensured Swindon Town have gone five games as hosts without a win. Here’s Bitter Gillespie’s account of the game…

1957 was the year Elvis Pressley declared he was “All Shook Up,” a song that stayed for weeks at number one.  Equally it’s 1957, now that due diligence has taken place that Swindon Town’s debts  reign from.  It’s unfathomable how 57 years and two administrations later, no-one else has found this £30,000 misdemeanour before?  Yet 1957 is the year that haunts the club, the year Sam Burton, Walter Bingley, and Arnold Darcy graced the Town shirt.

It’s 1957 and still there is another 3 years before Kevin Duncan MacDonald even manages to take his first breath; alas Swindon Town never ceases to take your breathe away. Furthermore, Di Canio himself (who complained tirelessly about the embargo) holding his former employers to ransom it seems, along with the supporters he held so dear to his bosom beating heart.

“Well, please don’t ask me what’sa on my mind.  I’m a little mixed up, but I’m feelin’ fine,” Elvis declared.

The King would only have been 78 had he not been fated by barbiturates. It’s then I realise I have sat staring into the turf of the County Ground, far from the madding crowd and the 22 players, referee and two assistants that I am supposed to be focussing on.  I shudder to think what I have missed in terms of football.  I glance up nervously at the scoreboard, it’s 0-0.  That’s a relief nothing missed then?

My focus sets sharply on the football when I notice the opposition are waltzing around in pink.  Furthermore Swindon have seemingly come out of transfer embargo and signed a new player; anchoring the play effortlessly; the new loanee from Syco TV Dermot O’ Leary.  Kevin MacDonald had clearly earmarked O’Leary’s contribution to anchoring live TV, that he made him the new focus of all of Swindon’s best passing moves.  There was no more Ward or Flint’s raking boots up through the channels as directed by Paolo Di Canio, but everything went through O’Leary the trusted anchorman of this show at hand.

Dermot O'Leary

O’Leary – Midfield Anchorman

With O’Leary’s role clearly working, the likes of McCormack and Roberts looked confident and revitalised.  Time after time McCormack bulldozed, nut-megged, and wandered his way down the left flank as if no pink opposition existed.  Buoyed by these effortless attacks Roberts was equal to McCormack’s forays and joined in the fun.  The first thirty minutes had set the platform for Swindon to claim all three points, as there was nothing on show from the men in pink that Swindon had to worry about.

That was until the 30th minute when McCormack brought down Bishop needlessly to offer Notts County a free kick in a good position.  Up stepped Alan Sheehan and all too often in recent times  we have seen ex-Town players claim goals that ultimately take the three points away from the County Ground.  However what happened next only justified my belief that this game was Swindon’s for the taking.  Sheehan sliced his effort 40 yards wide of the goal, the County Ground smiled, and Sheehan raised a blush with more rose pink than his shirt.

The King...

The King…

It’s then I noticed Alan’s hair was jet black, it was never that dark when Danny was in charge, it was possibly an even darker tint than Gary Roberts. It’s then 1957 began haunting me again, as I hallucinate Roberts and Sheehan on each wing in Elvis white suits singing,

“What’s wrong with me? I’m itching like a man on a fuzzy tree. My friends say I’m actin wild as a bug. I’m in love. I’m all shook up. Mm mm oh, oh, yeah, yeah!”

It’s an image I couldn’t shake for the rest of the half.  Miller did try his hardest to shift this image by sending a solid and straight drive from a free kick in the 36th minute with Bialkowski palming it away with Leacock subsequently clearing.

However we’d see if any half time talks could stir a goal out of either side, but MacDonald’s talk would have been, “more of the same, and goals will come.”  Conversely Kiwomya would have asked if any of his pink battalion had turned up at all.  The spine of their pink team was spineless with a nervous Leacock, an ineffective Bishop (there’s been a few of those in our time), and Showunmi having a game he’d rather forget.  Equally Greg (Troy) Tempest the young trainee on the left wing with curly wig for disguise was having a mare.  Had I been Kiwomya I would have put him out of his misery and taken him off.  Tempest obviously had Marina on his mind, cue Elvis, “Maybe I didn’t treat you quite as good as I should have. Maybe I didn’t love you quite as often as I could have. Little things I should have said and done I just never took the time. You were always on my mind.”

It wasn’t until the 58th minute that Kiwomya did the kindest thing and replaced Tempest with Arquin.

In the 72nd minute my hallucinations truly took a hold, when the laboured Showunmi disappeared to the dugout only for the release of the most comical cameos I have ever seen at the County Ground; enter Bencherif.  While the Easterly wind was bitter, from another direction came Bencherif on his Mistral wind, dismounted his camel, tethered with Thomas Edward Lawrence, and entered the show.  In short, I have never seen a more obscure looking ‘athlete’ (please see Algerian Hammer thrower Hakim Toumi) who seemed to have left his compass with T.E. Lawrence as he ran in opposite directions to where a compos mentis footballer would ordinarily run.

The second half was more of the same, with Town dominating but even with O’Leary orchestrating, there was no X-Factor where it mattered.  I would have personally taken off Williams, as it was clearly not his day.  His frustration showed, as he tried to perform miracles rather than play the simple ball.  Ferry forced a brilliant save from Bialkowski with a header from 10 yards and Louis Thompson entred the scene for the wounded Miller had a good shot deflected for a corner in the 58th minute.

The trouble is without scoring even a Sunday League team can muster at least one chance in 90 minutes, hence Ward made a fantastic block to deny Bishop. Then on 69 minutes Foderingham made his obligatory amazing save per game to deny Judge.

On 76 mintues Rooney headed against the post and Collins took an age to react and get any kind of shot away from the rebound, with Sheehan blocking his effort.  The 81st minute saw Bialkowski make another superb save, this time with his foot that just minutes before was apparently falling off, and Ferry’s follow up was snuffed out.  The 88th minute Bialkowski makes another save with his legs to thwart Collins, and from the corner Bialkowski blocked Ward’s header from 5 yards.  You get the picture? Tomaszewski 40 years later!

So the game was going to be another Swindon performance without producing the cutting edge with home advantage.  Even so I have to refer back again to Bencherif and how he bundled over the diminutive Louis Thompson, not out of malice but by simply running the opposite way to what his thougths were telling him.  It appeared this oversized ‘action man’ had been pulled apart and put back together by the evil Sid Phillips, and his dog Scud.

If Swindon manage to keep O’Leary fit for the rest of the season and somehow escape the wrath of 1957 and Di Canio and lift this embargo, Swindon could find themselves in the top two automatic positions.  Without adding to this squad as injuries and suspension threaten, seven games may be too much to ask of this team, even with their obvious strength of character.  This was not a dull 0-0 this was an entertaining affair, and with the genius of signing O’Leary why would it be any different.

The last press conference words Elvis ever uttered was, “I hope I didn’t bore you.”  Something that neither Elvis or Swindon Town could ever be accused of.  So roll on Oldham, this is going to be an exciting end of season.

Notts County 1 Swindon Town 0: An increasingly familiar scoreline…

Meadow Lane Nottingham 2

A fine individual goal by Alan Judge was enough to hand Notts County a rare home victory and send Swindon’s beleaguered players and fans into an enforced two week break on a low, writes Daniel Hunt.

For the second time in an utterly frustrating week, Swindon found themselves cursing poor finishing, good opposition goalkeeping and an increasingly familiar 0-1 scoreline. This was the eighth blank Town have fired in 26 fixtures this season and the fourth failure to score in November alone. Perhaps more worrying is the inability of Di Canio’s men to respond positively to going a goal down this season, see below:

Venue Opposition Competition Final Score
Away Preston North End League One 1-4 L
Away Oxford United Johnstone’s Paint Trophy 0-1 L
Home Leyton Orient League One 0-1 L
Away Carlisle United League One 2-2 D
Home Colchester United League One 0-1 L
Home Coventry City League One 2-2 D
Home Aston Villa Capital One Cup 2-3 L
Home Macclesfield Town FA Cup 0-2 L
Home Brentford League One 0-1 L
Away Notts County League One 0-1 L

Above – Games where STFC have conceded first and result in 2012/13

As it was at the County Ground on Tuesday, the issue at Meadow Lane was not creating chances, it was taking them. If Swindon Town can acquire a genuine poacher in January, then I’ve got every faith that we could be celebrating consecutive promotions. I’m also adamant that Sam Parkin (2003/2004 vintage) would have scored 15 goals already amongst this same Town side.

Club captain Alan McCormack returned to the starting line up at right-back in place of Nathan Thompson, who paid a heavy price for his goal costing mistake against the Bees. New loan arrivals, Danny Hollands and Chris Martin, had to settle for places on the bench alongside the now suspension free Aden Flint. It was no surprise that Bostock took his place alongside Simon Ferry in the centre of midfield but Di Canio sprung a surprise by including Andy Williams, previously thought to be injured, from the start. The fourth change saw De Vita replace Gary Roberts at left midfield.

Three of the changes backfired however, as those promoted to the side (excluding De Vita) endured miserable afternoons in different ways. McCormack put in a frenetic performance highlighted by the fact that the majority of the Magpies’ early chances came down Macca’s side of the pitch. His afternoon was summarised by a petulant booking for a reckless foul late in the second half. Bostock found himself in trouble with the referee too and his substitution at the break was no surprise to those present because he was clearly on very thin ice with the officials. In the Tottenham loanee’s defence, he made a good impact on the game and the offence he got booked for in the 11th minute was very harsh.

This brings me finally on to Andy Williams. The likeable forward had a stinker quite frankly and it raised the question of whether he was fully fit? Aside from a low effort that was tipped wide by Bialkowski after 20 minutes, the former Yeovil man’s display was riddled with indecision. Almost immediately after Judge had given County a 1-0 lead, a long pass from McCormack put Williams in behind the opposition defence. What followed was neither a shot on goal nor an effective cross for his partner James Collins and the chance to equalise immediately was gone.

The first half was a good watch for the neutral as play swung from end to end on a truly wet and miserable day in Nottingham. Notts County definitely shaded the early stages though as Wes Foderingham had to earn his money in the Swindon goal. As early as the 2nd minute, Alan Judge fired a warning shot, cutting in from the left and shooting straight at Foderingham. Five minutes later, Neal Bishop nearly took advantage of good work down the left by Francois Zoko but his fierce effort was blocked by the rear of a fellow Notts County player. Following Bostock’s booking in the 11th minute, former Town man Alan Sheehan had his curling free kick palmed over by the Robins’ keeper.

The closest Swindon came to scoring in the opening exchanges was a James Collins toe-poke at a De Vita centre that drifted harmlessly wide with five minutes on the clock. Ex Bristol Rovers winger Jeff Hughes has impressed against Swindon before and he can consider himself very unlucky not to have put County in the lead with efforts in the 15th and 19th minutes. The first was a well struck shot from a left wing cut back which, luckily for Town, deflected into Foderingham’s hands. The second was a glancing near post header which went narrowly wide of the back post from a corner on the right. A combination of Foderingham and Devera had defended resolutely to block Bishop’s close range strike which led to the corner Hughes missed from. Di Canio’s men were on the rack and lucky to be level.

Backed by 815 reds, the Swindon response was a strong one. So much so that when Notts County eventually took the lead in the 28th minute, it was actually against the run of play. I’ve already mentioned Williams bringing a good save out of Bialkowski after 20 minutes and this was followed by the Polish keeper brilliantly diverting James Collins’ right foot effort onto the post two minutes later. The resulting corner was taken short and when it was crossed in, Joe Devera could only head onto the roof of the net.

The winning goal was remarkably simple in its creation and despite Judge striking the ball beautifully into the corner, Darren Ward will feel that he should have closed the ball down better. A long ball forward by Sheehan had been flicked on to Judge by debutant Chris Iwelumo, a man I best remember for having a terrible two games against Town for Brighton in the 2003/2004 Play-offs. The Scottish International was an awkward customer and will prove to be a shrewd piece of loan deadline day business by County manager Keith Curle I’m sure. How frustrating then that Swindon were scuppered in a last minute deal to bring giant centre forward Gary Madine to SN1.

I appreciate that I’ve had a moan about our strikers in this report but the current number 9 James Collins can hold his head high after a good showing at Meadow Lane. He thought he’d equalised just after the half hour mark with a clever back header from 6 yards out, only to be ruled out by the Linesman’s flag. I’ve since seen the incident again and unfortunately it’s impossible to tell if he was offside or not from the footage. What angered the majority of Town fans was how late the flag went up – the first thing I check when a goal goes in is the linesman and upon seeing he wasn’t flagging, the celebrations began. Two seconds later and we’re being ridiculed by the home support, gutting.

The second half brought fresh hope and after Wes Foderingham had brilliantly denied the aforementioned Iwelumo with a fantastic reflex save in the 51st minute, Town carved out two golden chances to level. Chris Martin, on for Collins, slipped the ball to Matt Ritchie on the edge of the box and after swivelling his marker, Ritchie could only strike tamely at Bialkowski who parried the ball to safety. If that was a regulation save, then the save to deny Darren Ward his second Swindon goal in the 63rd minute was anything but. Ritchie was involved once again, swinging in the corner aimed at Chris Martin. In the scramble, Ward bravely headed towards goal only to be denied by the flying Bialkowski – great save.

Disappointingly, the Swindon charge somewhat ended with that chance until the final five minutes of normal time. It was staggering how an entire 20-25 minute period could pass with so little incident. It was indicative of how well Notts County were managing their lead but also of Swindon’s problem when chasing a game. The play became long and desperate, suddenly the normally reliable McCormack was hoofing long balls straight out for goal kicks. What had been forgotten were the virtues of creating chances by playing patient football, like in the first half and at the start of the second.

The flurry of chances did come but Ritchie had two long range efforts, one a free kick, saved down low by Bialkowski and McEveley’s cross come shot was tipped over by the excellent goalkeeper. I guess I’d best summarise the second half showing as naive. This was best depicted by a ridiculous foul throw (by his own corner flag) from Matt Ritchie with two minutes of normal time left. It gave away possession in an awful part of the pitch and the Magpies went on to waste at least two minutes down in that corner.

Notts County, and Brentford before them, are functional, well organised teams who’ll finish in the top ten at least from what I’ve seen. Town have to start doing themselves some favours though, to arrest this ‘blip’ and turn a good season into a very good one. Di Canio’s assembled an expensive squad and looking towards this two week break, it’s high time for the manager to pass on his own goalscoring pearls of wisdom to the strikers already at the club.

With chances for rest and recuperation rare in an otherwise hectic League One schedule, the onus is now on Paolo to galvanise his troops and comeback stronger when they step out against Doncaster Rovers on December 8th. Two weeks is a long time without football…

Follow Daniel Hunt on Twitter – @dphunt88

A Season in Stats: Part 4 – A case for the defence…or not…

Given the delay in the new Swindon manager announcement you can feast your eyes on some more statistics I’ve gathered over the course of the season.

This time I’ll be having a look at the defensive phase of play and the contribution of all players with a defensive role, in particular, these stats reveal how many goals have been conceded whilst each player has been on the pitch, how many per game played and the frequency arising from total minutes per player.

Continue Reading

New deal…or no deal?

Following on from the release of Alan O’Brien and Thomas Dossevi, there are nine other Swindon Town players out of contract at the end of the season.

We all know about Alan Sheehan’s lack of commitment to the club after going without permission to play for Preston North End in a trial match, but what about the rest, do they deserve a new contract at Town?

Scott Cuthbert – So often lost in the centre of defence since the departure of Gordon Greer, Cuthbert has certainly made his fair share of mistakes this season, but of course he isn’t the only one in the team to suffer that fate. What can you put that down to? Well an unsettled back four throughout the season hasn’t helped. Cuthbert is certainly a player for the future and one to build the team around. Also given that we paid £100,000 for him, this is money the club need to recoup if he were to go, so can’t see the board not exercising their option for an additional year.  NEW DEAL

Jonathan Douglas – By his own admission hasn’t played his best this season. Douglas has been asked to play too deep, often the sole outlet for a pass from our panicking defenders and quickly closed down by the opposition, leading to possession being given away in our own half. Despite all this I couldn’t imagine the team without him and if he doesn’t stay at Swindon many Championship and League One teams will be tracking his progress. NEW DEAL

Lecsinel Jean-Francois – The Haitian is a very useful and versatile defender, who on the rare occasion, puts in a stella performance and shows his quality. I like Lecsinel, he’s professional, gets on with the job and never gives up. Aparently Swansea were interested in signing Lecsinel earlier this year, which shows he has ability to possibly play at a higher level. A good League Two player and a worthwhile squad player for the new season. NEW DEAL 

Jakub Jesionkowski –  With David Lucas and Phil Smith (why?) signing new contract extensions, I’d be surprised if the Polish keeper stays around for another season of reserve football and loans to Oxford City. He cam to Swindon with great promise having been called up for the Polish u21 squad. Deserves first team games, but isn’t going to get the opportunity here. NO DEAL

Vincent Pericard – Where do we start with Big Vince… immobile, can’t jump, can’t score, painful to watch  etc. to name only a few failings. I can’t really see Vinny making a mark on League Two and we really need a better option upfront to hold up the ball. Vincent’s wages can be better saved or spent elsewhere such as on a sack of spuds or a bag of cement. errrr… NO DEAL!

Mark Scott – Of the two out of contract keepers, Scott gets my vote for a new contract. Still to make his league debut for Town, I was very impressed with his superb performances for Swindon Supermarine in their FA Cup run earlier this season. Excellent shot stopper and a local lad who came through the youth team. NEW DEAL

Nathan Thompson – Nathan was finally given his chance against Torquay United in the FL Trophy after coming on as a substitute. An excellent attacking performance in the cup secured a start at home to Charlton a few weeks later, however whilst Nathan didn’t discredit himself, the match highlighted the need for Nathan to get more first team football under his belt. Various injuries held him back from being sent out on loan, so deserves the chance to impress and a season in League Two provides that. NEW DEAL

Michael Timlin – Our second longest serving player at the club (behind Phil Smith), who played an instrumental role in the second half of our last campaign in League Two. With opportunities limited earlier this season I expected him to be sold, however he’s forced his way back into the reckoning, but failed to impress with an inconsistent campaign. If Douglas signs up and Prutton stays, is there really a need for another defensive minded midfielder? With the two youth graduates (Matt Clark and Abdul Said) providing further midfield options next season, I’m afraid you’re surplus to requirements…NO DEAL

You can’t buy experience…

“We tried, but you can’t buy experience” was the cry from Andrew Fitton in the pre match comment, that was reiterated in Danny Wilson’s interview after our dreadful 3-0 defeat at Leyton Orient.

This was in relation to Town’s vain attempts throughout the transfer window to remedy our deficiencies in defence, and continued problems upfront, by bringing in seasoned pros. The problem was no-one was, or still is, available, so the youthful winter recruits are now presented to us as “building for next season”, a season likely to start at Northampton, not Southampton.

Considering expereince couldn’t be brought into bolster the squad, why leave out key experienced players already at the club from the starting eleven in the Rochdale and Leyton Orient games?

Isolated.... even the water bottle doesn't want to be near Wilson

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for youth and have previously questioned why bother to give contracts to Evans and Bodin if they don’t even feature in a bit-part role, but to leave out Cuthbert, Ferry, Sheehan, Prutton and McGovern, Wilson has gone mad.

Whilst all these five would probably agree they’ve underperformed at times this season, their experience is vital to our fight to avoid the drop.

Take Ferry, as part of a midfield pair with Douglas last season the balance worked perfectly. Yet he hasn’t had enough run of games to make an impact this year. So why bother spending all that cash on him back in the Summer?

Cuthbert will be another that will be off in the Summer if he doesn’t feature in the first team. The Scot should be given time to build a central partnership with Frampton, yet he’s been dropped in favour of the inexperienced Aden Flint.

Surely Wilson realises we need a settled, confident and balanced unit, soundly based on experience, so why all this chopping and changing, and omitting experienced players from the team when bemoaning insufficient experience to bring in?

Wilson, your actions are harming the team. How can they be expected to go out onto the pitch full of confidence to concentrate on the job and work together as a unit?

SORT IT OUT!

Has someone farted? - More guff from Wilson in his post match interview

Town v Yeovil: Wilson’s wrong call

Town fell further behind in their deluded race for a top six finish following Yeovil Town’s 1-0 victory at the County Ground, after Dean Bowditch reacted quickest to nod the loose ball home in the six yard box.

The game turned on one incident and Wilson’s tactical reactions.

With the score standing at 0-0, Town were reduced to ten men, with Michael Rose given his marching orders after 57 minutes. Rose had broken excellently, moving forward before tangling with Luke Ayling, who lay injured on the ground with the Glovers claiming a stamp. After consulting with his linesman, referee Swarbrick showed Rose the red card.

Whether or not the decision was right is debatable given the player’s reactions. As I didn’t get a clear view of the incident, I’ll keenly await the highlights later.

What was more telling of our plight was Wilson’s reaction to this incident.

Vincent Pericard had replaced Thomas Dossevi, to yet again another poor reaction, just a few minutes before Town went down to ten men.

A man down and a gap down the left side it was inevitable that Alan Sheehan would be brought on, but in place of JP McGovern??

If Pericard hadn’t been brought on a few minutes before I’m certain Dossevi off and Sheehan on would’ve been the logical substitution as I’m never in favour of playing 2 upfront when down a man.

I appreciate Pericard had only been on the field for 2 minutes, but why should this change anything? He should have retaken his place on the bench and given us better shape going into the final half hour as neither he nor Austin can drop back into midfield to cover.

With two upfront and man down in midfield we were awful. The midfield was too narrow, was easily dominated and yet again we resorted to aimless balls up to Pericard, who’s first touch is getting worse week after week.

The weakening of the midfield was further compounded with Timlin replacing Ritchie, further narrowing the space, leaving Caddis and Sheehan to try to control the flanks, leaving the inevitable gaps at the back.

To Wilson and the squad… we’re in a relegation battle and the sooner you realise this the better.

2010 STFC Review: October

After vastly improved performances in September, Town were brought back down to earth with defeat at League One new boys Dagenham & Redbridge. An early Dossevi goal couldn’t inspire Town to build on their advantage, falling to a 2-1 loss in the first ever League match between the two sides. The result was the biggest win the the history of D&R according to manager John Still.

A few days later Town progressed in the JP Trophy with an simple 2-0 victory against Torquay. Vincent Pericard score his first goal for Swindon at the County Ground and youngster Nathan Thompson made an impressive debut after replacing Scott Cuthbert after 27 minutes.

Sky TV had chosen the home match with Bristol Rovers perhaps in the hope of seeing the goalfests that shook Town a season ago. Thankfully Town secured revenge with a 2-1 defeat of Rovers. Sean Morrison headed Town ahead, then Pericard made it 2-0 to Town. A debatable penalty against Lucas in stoppage time allowed the Pirates to claw one back.

from swindontownfc.co.uk

In the 3 remaining games in October you needed an abacus to keep a tab of the score.

Town went to London Road, Peterborough and were 3-0 down after 22 minutes, only to restore parity at half time.  After the Posh retook the lead Town again drew level until a last gasp own goal from Kevin Amankwaah gave Peterborough an incredible 5-4 win. The defeat was only the second time in the club’s history that we’ve scored 4 or more goals in the Football League and finished the losing side. The  other game was a 7-4 defeat away at Watford in the Division Three South on December 14th 1934.

from theposh.com

Next up was Leyton Orient. Town really needed a 1-0 victory to restore some level of confidence to the defence, however after an abject first half the referee threw life into the game by dismissing Alan Sheehan, with the game ending 2-2.

A week later was yet another comeback as Town drew 3-3 at Yeovil.

Town were sitting 15th with 16 points, however this was only 3 points worse off than a year ago. Perhaps not a bad as it appears…

Town v Leyton Orient: Did Sheehan Deserve The Red Card?

A week after losing 5-4 at Peterborough we desperately needed a boring 1-0 victory over Leyton Orient just to steady the ship and gain some defensive confidence.

What we got was a game of the proverbial two halves, an awful first half that made watching paint dry seem like an exciting Olympic sport was followed by an eventful second 45 that brought goals and incidents.

The whole match was heavily influenced and eventually ruined by the referee Trevor Kettle. Kettle was whistle-happy and failed to allow the logical advantage throughout the game to the detriment of the fluidity of both sides with Town managing only 2 shots on goal.

Worse was to come after the break when Alan Sheehan was dismissed for violent conduct. My initial reaction, from my vantage point on the opposite side of the pitch, was the same as Kettle as I saw a poorly timed lunge. However, I’d say both I and the referee jumped to an early conclusion as there was no real contact and the challenge was clearly without any malice, and I’d agree with Wilson’s comment that this challenge was little different to many others in the game. Nonetheless, Alan Sheehan should fully take the blame for his dismissal as any footballer knows not to dive into a challenge. He gave Kettle the easy option to show the red card.

A ten man Town raised their game, showed magnificent spirit by coming back twice after going behind, dominated large periods and ultimately deserved to take away a draw after Michael Rose’s perfectly hit free kick into the top corner left Butcher in the Orient goal motionless. This was Rose’s second goal from a free kick of the season after a similarly pinpoint long range effort against Plymouth.

What this match proved yet again is the value of Charlie Austin. Town had started the game playing a 4-5-1 with Austin leading the attack. Shortly before the sending off Wilson was due to make a change to bring on Dossevi to partner Austin in attack, but swiftly shifted the pack to cover the defence. The lonely Austin upfront, who of course is slowly regaining match fitness, tirelessly chased every ball and never gave up. Towards the end of the 90 mins he was visibly exhausted but still continued to fight. A model professional and a perfect example of determination to all his young fans who idolise him. He couldn’t have done more and deserved his goal and man of the match.

So was this 2 points lost or a point won? Normally a Town draw at home against lower placed opposition is definitely not good enough. However, given the sending off and the fight showed by Town in equalising twice and coming back from the brink against a reasonable attacking team, I’m more relieved by the final result rather than delighted by the overall performance which was poor.

Substitutions: Making an Impact

On paper we appeared to have strength in depth. I also thought…perhaps we might even be blessed with the ‘strongest’ Town squad for some years. So why hasn’t this manifested itself into an onfield advantage, leaving us winless after 5 league games?

So far on the bench this season we’ve seen Amankwaah, Ball, Caddis, Dossevi, Ferry, Jean-Francois, Jesionkowski, Morrison, Prutton, Sheehan, Smith, Thompson and Timlin all keeping the seats warm at some point.

I’ve been taking an in-depth look at whether each substitution has had a neutral, negative or positive impact on the final result in the previous 5 league games.

Of Wilson’s 14 substitutions so far 50% have been neutral, 35.71% negative and only 14.29% having a positive impact on our performances.

Those positive subs were the introduction of Dossevi and Pericard in the 61th minute against Hartlepool to put 2 upfront and Dossevi on the right, when we came from 2 behind to draw. That is it!

So why aren’t Wilson’s substitutions having a greater positive impact?

Interestingly… all but 2 of the substitutions have occurred between half time and 75 minutes. Wilson notices changes are needed so at least we must give him some credit for trying to put it right, i.e. Rose against Brentford.

However, this could equally imply more serious failings in a choice of tactics from the off or by failing to take the opportunity to make a significant change at half time.

This is best demonstrated by the 57.14% of goals we’ve conceded in the opening 30 minutes and none scored so far from Town in that period.

Evidently we’ve been found out early on in games, so something isn’t right in how we’ve been lining up. Whether that is down to insufficient scouting of the opposition, failing to make early chances pay, or just because the opposition is better than us, I don’t know although most likely all three.

How will this all translate against Southampton on Saturday…