Swindon 1 Torquay 0: Capital One Cup First Round

Plainmoor-Stadium-Torquay 3

After Saturday’s defeat to Peterborough on the opening day of the League 1 season, all eyes turned back to the County Ground for what was the first competitive home game of the new season. New TheWashbag writer Dan Brown picks through the game, where Andy Williams’ goal was the difference in a hard fought encounter…

There is something different about cup football. The atmosphere in any given stadium during a cup tie is just that little bit more on edge, everyone knowing that just one mistake could blow the chances of cup glory for another whole agonising year. Not least when it is the first round, against lower league opposition – and with a squad with a lot to prove.

After cup runs in the last 2 seasons, the hunger for more cup success is evident amongst supporters (not least in the Don Rogers stand), which meant that Torquay were ideal opponents for the opening round tie in this seasons league cup, on paper at least.

There were yet more encouraging signs for Mark Cooper’s fledgling squad, and the overall performance, although not yet looking like the finished article looked like the better team throughout.

The starting XI for town comprised of most new recruits, with only Foderingham, Ward, Thompson and Williams having any experience of playing in a cup competition for Swindon before. That being said, Swindon’s young side never looked out of their depth, with Ryan Mason and Alex Pritchard looking especially at home in town colours.  Tijane Reis occupied the right flank, with Pritchard starting on the left. As he did at the weekend, Andy Williams was the lone man up front. The only other out and out striker town could call upon was Miles Storey, who was on the bench.

Town came out of the blocks quickest, with a smooth passing game being established from the outset. The ball was being kept down, with aesthetically pleasing football being played by the reds in the opening 25 minutes. Some early-season sloppiness was evident in some of the touches, but reassuringly the Tottenham contingent especially looked very settled in possession.

Pritchard looked lively and went the closest for the reds in the first half with a number of close efforts, but it was Jordan Chapell who went even closer for the visitors stinging the palms of Foderingham with a low shot and, former Robin, Billy Bodin whipping a cross into the Swindon box which Foderingham claimed excellently.

Notable in the first half in particular though was the contrasting playing styles of the two sides. Torquay, in a style commonly attributed to that of League 2, were quite happy to pump forward the long ball, whereas Swindon were much happier to pass the ball up the pitch. This is far more encouraging and inventive than last season, and it has to be said that the squad looked to be more than up to the task, despite a period where the game became flat. Swindon looked a lot calmer than they did at times last season. Yaser Kasim was a shining example of this. He got better as the game went on, keeping a cool head and playing some visionary through balls.

At half time, Mark Cooper opted for a double change, with Massimo Luongo coming on for Ryan Mason and Miles Storey coming on for the largely ineffective Reis on the right. Mason had been clutching his left quad as the first 45 drew to a close, prompting the change. Storey, as he is getting a reputation for doing, made a nearly immediate impact, a snap-shot fizzing goal-ward was turned away by an alert Martin Rice in the Yellows’ goal. By this point the pressure was really building, and it felt like anything but a first Town goal of the campaign would be unjust.

Minutes later, Pritchard had his best scoring chance of the night. Picking up the ball from the left, a dinking run led him into the box where he was felled, and referee Andy D’Urso immediately pointed to the spot. Pritchard dusted himself down and took the spot kick himself, but his rather tame effort was easily saved.

Desperate to make amends, soon after he found himself within shooting range, and unleashed a fierce effort that Rice could only parry into the path of Williams, who with the entire goal to aim at saw his effort bundled off the line (much to the dismay of the fans at the far end of the Don Rogers).

The game then experienced a lengthy pause as Torquay replacement (and former Robin) Elliot Benyon was involved in a totally innocuous challenge with Thompson, meaning that sadly Benyon’s night was abruptly ended and he was stretchered off after lengthy treatment. This galvanised the Yellows, allowing them back in the game.

Just as it looked like the game would go on another half an hour, Town struck the killer blow. Storey raced through on the left, and after drawing the keeper out he had the presence of mind to square the ball into the path of the oncoming Williams, who duly tapped the ball home. From that moment on, the tie looked to be in the hands of the reds, who even threw on Alex Smith at the end to see out the game. That they did, and it’s the second round of the league cup again for the Robins.

All In all it was a pleasing performance, and one that when looked at alongside the Peterborough game last weekend looks very positive. Its seems like Cooper, however long he is in charge, will look to instil this calm and collected way of playing, and I for one am a fan. It may work better due the fact that the majority of the team have been coached in a premier league environment, but while that is the case, I along with many other Swindon fans am happy.

The one area which definitely needs sorting is up front. We lack depth and it is clear to see. Playing with a lone striker can work, but against Torquay Williams was getting dragged out to the left far too often leaving no one far enough forward in the middle. There are goals in the team, with Pritchard especially looking like he can chip in with a few, however we can’t rely on just goals from the midfield in this league. Maybe it’s a Tottenham thing.

My man of the match would either be Pritchard or Kasim. Pritchard played well up until the penalty, but then lost his way in trying to make amends. Kasim looked like a calming influence as the game went on, an heir of Dimitar Berbatov about him. Albeit a less lazy one.

In all the side looked good for the most part. Like I said at the start, a cup tie has a certain edge to it, and I’m sure that we have the potential for many more nights like it this season. It will galvanise and give confidence for the league too. Let’s just hope for no penalties given our record of late…

Five versus seven substitutes

Subs Board

After the Football League announced they would revert to seven substitutions for the 2012/13 campaign, Christopher Panks asks how this could affect Di Canio’s approach…

Much is spoken of how substitutions have won or lost games for managers. Many have pointed to Harry Redknapp’s tactical decisions which saw his team surrender a 2-0 lead away to bitter rivals Arsenal, eventually conceding five without scoring another, as the reason that Roy Hodgson beat Redknapp to become England manager. Of course, the reality is that other circumstances were present – not least Hodgson’s willingness to play a part in overhauling the English grass roots game at St. George’s park. Still the ability to change a game with substitutions and other tactical decisions remain a key success factor for managers; and one of the few ways they can affect the game, once the players have crossed the white line.

On Friday 1 June, at the Football League AGM, the Chairmen of the 72 clubs voted in favour of Derby County and Birmingham City’s proposal to revert back to a population of seven substitutes on each bench for the coming season. This reversed the decision to reduce the number of named subs to five that was carried at the last AGM only 12 months ago.

The arguments for and against a seven seater bench vary depending on the club. There’s clearly a huge difference between the top of the Championship and the hungry trap door out of the League which, this season, claimed Macclesfield and Hereford. A gap that is increasing all the time.

Generally, more substitutes favours affluent clubs. Affluence is not limited to finances – youth recruitment and development and depth of squad, both in terms of quantity and quality, will tip the balance. When the match day squad size was reduced, the idea was to minimise the financial burden for cash strapped clubs who, last season, saved money by reducing the numbers of seats on the coach, beds and portions of food required for away games. The effect was a change in a fundamental bench, a goalkeeper was riskily often sacrificed and for large squads like Swindon’s it meant players, particularly youngsters, who would have ordinarily sat in seat six or seven, were loaned to divisional rivals.

For 2012/13 Swindon’s squad size will need to increase, possibly by borrowing talented youngsters and experienced but unneeded loanees who will be at an even higher premium. It is no secret that the best youth development in Britain exists within Premier League clubs, but owing to two extra seats on the bench, Championship clubs will have first refusal on these loan deals, as coaching is at a higher level and Premier League clubs only let these players out in order to progress their development.

The result may be that Championship clubs are more willing to loan players out to lower divisions as better players displace them from the Premier League reserve teams. However, what is more likely is that with the increased level of seats to fill is that, fearing sporadic injuries and suspensions teams in the Championship will be far less amenable to letting personnel drop a league.

It will probably mean that fewer players will be allowed to leave on loan than last season. Then, Bodin was allowed to go to two successful clubs – Torquay United and Crewe Alexandra in League Two – to develop and Medhi Kerouche’s disagreement with the manager ended with the ultimate punishment of donning the dreadful yellow and blue of our rivals up the A420.

Had seven substitutes been available throughout 2011/12 it would have meant that players that Paolo clearly sees the potential of, like Billy Bodin and Nathan Thompson, might have had a better opportunity to force their way into contention rather than sending Bodin out for first team spells elsewhere. However, the extra bench seats to fill, would doubtless have resulted in a reluctance by Barnsley to lend players like Jay McEveley and increased competition for Premier League players like John Bostock, both who look set to join permanently after their loan visits.

It’s difficult to tell which option would have been best for Town at the moment. What is clear, though, is that the squad will need to grow, either through loans or with permanent signings, but loans will face more competition and transfer fees will be inflated. The decision to revert to seven subs is probably in Swindon’s favour, but further signings will be required to this end and this all costs money. The positive aspect is represented by the morale the youth will feel being part of a match day squad, travelling with the senior players and understanding what is required of a budding professional.

Ultimately, it will mean fewer youth players are released on loan. Based on the acquisitions already arranged, the manager knows the areas he needs to strengthen but, it will be difficult for him to find players to increase the quality of the team. Young players will be held by Swindon, named on the bench and possibly introduced to play, much more freely than last season.

End of season player ratings – Part 2

Score 2

Neil Evans is to give his perspective on everyone who put on a Red shirt in our amazing record-breaking season, part two.. 

18. Mark Scott. The young goalkeeper didn’t really feature and has been released by PDC..we wish him well 5 out of 10

19. Luke Rooney: Is it just me, or were we all expecting a lot more from Luke? if you compare his impact to say Lee Holmes it doesn’t really compare. I guess now isn’t really the time to judge him…lets see him after a PDC pre-season..and then decide if he is the real deal 6.5 out of 10

21. Lander Gabillondo: I have, I confess, something of a soft spot for the Spaniard. However his performances haven’t justified a new deal sadly though he set up the winner at Ashton Gate which alone gives him a 5.5 out of 10.

22. Lee Holmes: We simply have to buy this player from Saints…knows our club and on the evidence I saw, loves being here. He couldn’t get away from the Kassam quick enough! Great dribbler, a real edge of the seat player..crossing is better than Rooney’s too. I am a fan 8.5 out of 10

23. Raffaele De Vita: A real conundrum of a player. The best first touch at the club but must work much harder on the next ball after that…God-like status because of his goal at City..”who put the ball in City’s net….etc”. He can deliver, but next season will be make or break for Raffa…a Len Goodman style SEVEN!

24. Jonathan Smith: A bargain from York City..warrior and artisan in midfield…never shirks a challenge and compliments Ferry’s more creative tendencies. Another with a blistering shot and yes I do think he is better than Risser 7.5 out of 10

25. Jonathan Tehoue: His accusations (long after being discarded are a disgrace)…as a footballer he might have been OK…but bad attitudes we don’t need..
3 out of 10

26. Phil Smith: Loyal servant who’s penalty saves v’s AFC paved the way for JPT success…I’m sure everyone wishes Smithy well for the future…Made more mistakes this year than before but a sentimental 7 out of 10

27. Alessandro Cibbochi: I increasingly warmed to the combative Italian and though he was first class against Leicester away and benefitted from a run in the side…then he disappeared again…confusing but worthy of a solid 7 out of 10

28. Miles Storey: Barely featured so a default 5 is the best I can offer

30. Leigh Bedwell: Seemed to do well when with the squad and out on loan…so a mark of 5.5 out of 10

31. Billy Bodin: The dynasty continues with the offer of a new deal. Richly deserved for a player sent out, mystifyingly on loan the second time, after playing his best game for the Town. I rate Billy and the fact he has wanted first team footie shows commitment and desire…8 out of 10

32. Chris Smith: I missed his game so another default mark of 5 out of 10

34. Ronan Murray: Frustrating player to watch much of the time. Pacey and can clearly finish but never seemed to run where Benno flicked the ball or where midfielders passed it. The worrying thing is he didn’t seem to learn and often lost heart during a game. 6 out of 10

35. Wesley Foderingham: A tremendous acquisition at the right time. Thanks to his defence, Wes often had little to do. When he was called upon he was flawless. A class act in the making….9 out of 10

37. Louis Thompson: Another default mark of 5 for the youngster

39. Medhi Kerrouche: I know it is highly unlikely he will stay but I like the way he plays…and his goals to game’s ratio for us was very good. But I don’t manage the team and saw how PDC mercilessly hauled him off at Colchester in the cup for goodness knows what…7 out of 10

The Rest

Liam Ridelhagh: Solid enough performer and make a good contribution to our backline. Did OK 6.5 out of 10

Jake Jervis: Like the song..I wish he could have stayed just a little bit longer…best goals to game ratio and kickstarted our memorable JPT run at Exeter…8 out of 10

Lukas Magera: Struggled with the English game…but I’m not gonna give up on the giant Czech just yet. A good pre-season may see some useful returns in FL1 6 out of 10

Leon Clarke: So Leon how’s your career then?..Not so good? Shame, you had the talent but not the team-ethic or discipline…ability? Absolutely? Still a winners medal…it’s your loss mate…3 out of 10

Cristian Montano: West ham youngster who simply didn’t cut it..a waste of a loan 3.5 out of 10

Ahmed Abdullah: Never got a look in and has since been released…default mark applies.

Daniel Boateng: A huge disappointment. Big central defender who was knocked about far too easily…as anyone at Hereford can testify…I suspect he won’t have a huge future at A.senal, his parent club. 4 out of 10

Michael Timlin: One game at the season’s start and then an excellent campaign with Luggy at Southend…For services rendered 6 out of 10

Nathan Thompson: New deal offered so evidently rated..rightly so from what I’ve seen 5.5 out of 10

Catching up on the ‘Retained List’, Caddis, McCormick and the rest…

Lyme Regis and Amelie's first visit to the the beach 1

You may have noticed we’ve been a bit quiet responding to the latest Swindon Town news recently, Ron Smith has been on holiday…

A week without the mod-cons in rural Dorset, in an isolated place where the only signal known to locals is morse, has undoubtedly been the relaxing break that me and the young family sorely needed.

The only thing ‘football’ about the week was finding out our nearby market town of Bridport was where the goal nets of the ’66 World Cup Final were made.

Having returned to civilisation – although many outside Swindon would dispute that – the unexpectedly busy flow of post-season news while I was away yielded several key nuggets. So I might have well have my say a little later than usual…

Lyme Regis and Amelie’s first visit to the beach

First we had the ‘Retained List’. This was presented almost as if football had returned to the feudal hierarchy days of retain-and-transfer pre-1963. Although today there’s no certainty you can keep those you want to retain.

Town announced they sought to retain the services of two out of contract players – Billy Bodin and Nathan Thompson – and have shown the door to Phil Smith, Mark Scott, Callum Kennedy and Lander Gabilondo.

Smith surely has more sense than to stay around and warm Foderingham’s gloves. Instead Phil deserves to find the first team action elsewhere at this late stage in his career. Fellow ‘keeper Mark Scott departs having never been allowed to prove himself, save for superb performances for Supermarine 18 months ago in their FA Cup run. Long serving left back Kennedy departs, which is fine by me considering that he blocked me on Twitter several months ago for no apparent reason. Gabilondo leaves – as expected – proving he’s another of Paolo’s failed foreign imports, although one who fortunately joined on a single year deal.

I’d be surprised if either Thompson or Bodin refuse to sign new deals given their rise through the youth ranks. However Bodin’s stock has risen in recent months after excellent loan spells with Torquay and Crewe, leading to a turned-down full international call up. So unless he knows guaranteed first team action awaits at SN1 they’ll be suitors waiting to pounce.

Next up we had the club taking out their option to extend Paul Caddis’ deal until June 2014. The qualifications for this decision are obvious, however as it was likely Simon Ferry joined on similar terms in the summer of 2010, the lack of a similar extension highlights Ferry remains yet to convince his third manager that his long term future is worth securing.

True to form more controversy follows Town around every corner. Midweek news emerged that convicted drink drive killer ‘keeper Luke McCormick has long been training with Town on day release and is set to join on trial in July. Cue the typical posturing from some supporters, treating football as a special case and all too quick to write off anyone with a criminal conviction from earning a living again. Its simple, I don’t like the situation anymore than you, however he’s been convicted, been through the justice system and served his time so move on – even how heinous the crime, and what a horrendous tragedy he was responsible for. What next, should we call for any Town fan with a criminal conviction to be banned from entering the ground..?

Paolo Di Canio has finally returned Alex Cooke’s copy of Inverting the Pyramid by Jonathan Wilson. Not content with plans ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’ or ‘D’ for 2012/13, the Italian has vowed to add to the alphabet to provide sufficient options to tackle the many Guardiolas, Bielsas and Sacchis in opposition dugouts next season. Also I must take this opportunity to apologise for us exposing Town’s only tactic as the season progressed, leaving Di Canio with no choice but to seek alternatives. At least Alex will have plenty to get his teeth into…

Could our first signing be Yeovil striker Andy Williams? After scoring enough to secure the Glovers’ League One status he’s going to depart ‘Bosman style’. Like many Town fans I’ve also not be paying enough attention to League One highlights reel on the woeful Football League Show so, for now, I’ll also fit into the “never heard of him so he’s probably crap” category.

Oh wait! Yet another flop is on his way. Etienne Esajas departs to free up much needed wages for Di Canio’s expected summer signing spree. If only Mattia Lanzano would follow suit and learn the phrase ‘mutual consent’…

This summer promises to be as busy, if not busier, than the last. That’ll keep me occupied…

Benson’s search for a striking partner

Paul Benson 3

Swindon Town are top of League Two and normally that comes down to a solid frontline banging in the goals, such as our partnerships of Mooney and Parkin, Allison and Finney etc. This season, the frontline has chopped and changed but still to some success, Adam Johnson looks at the situation.

Paul Benson. 32, 6ft tall, 11st, looking for a partner to have fun and score…goals with. It’s a simple love advert at the back of The Swindon Advertiser but even after nearly four months, the search goes on.

The former Charlton striker has done nothing wrong in a Town shirt, except being unable to keep a partner. The cries from the Town End and Swindon faithful have been pointing to Alan Connell in recent weeks but, who has really been the most effective as a partnership this season?

After looking through every fixture, noting down every partnership and every goal scored by a striker in which partnership, there is one thing I can safely say. We’ve had lots of different combinations, 27 by my count – See the table below

27 different pairings in 50 games, normally with figures like that you’d be thinking about a side struggling to score goals and at the wrong end of the table. We all know this isn’t the case and actually many of the combinations have good appearance to goal ratios.

11 strikers have seen their chances come and go and it’s not that most of them have only had sub appearances. Di Canio either hasn’t known his preference of player or his preferences didn’t work out. I’d assume it was the latter…

Connell’s longest run in the team for example is four games, and he scored one goal. Murray had a run of four games starting, and scored none. Bodin started three and scored 1 which is fine but none of them when alongside Benson have shown a constant threat in front of goal.

Di Canio has tried all the combo’s, everyone has had their chance. Luckily for Town, these players have come on for one another and grabbed a goal but no one except Benson seems able to take advantage of their starting place.

If we go back to the start of the season it was a similar tale. This is where many of the different pairings were formed, when we were being too inconsistent to mount a title challenge. Oh how times have changed!

Anyway, I’d say that 22 out of the 27 duos were formed before Christmas and during that time, everything was tried. Magera was given four starts, no goals. Clarke 4 starts, no goals. De Vita 4 starts, no goals. Jake Jervis and Kerrouche were the only success stories early in the season but there is still a pattern with them.

Both had good starts, scoring goals in as many appearances but towards the end of their stay, they had a few quiet games and were dropped. Kerrouche was dropped more for his attitude but Jervis started well and ended with 4 goals in 10 starts.

All of these figures may come across as over thinking but there is one common theme in all of this before Christmas: ‘‘If you don’t take your chance, you’re not going to play.’’

Paolo has given each striker a run of a least 3 games to prove themselves, that’s 270 minutes of football. Over this period, it’s fair to say you’ll know each striker’s strengths, weaknesses and scoring potential. The problem was even if Kerrouche was good, Jervis was good, Connell was good, none of them were scoring goals regularly and could be counted upon.

This is where Paul Benson fits the bill perfectly and it’s to no surprise that this man has started every game since his two sub appearances when he first joined as he sought to gain match fitness. He can be relied upon in a game to pop up when needed with a goal. He doesn’t do it every game, but he has in the majority rather than the minority.

So, this is where we can reveal the best pairing of the season so far, wait for it Town fans before the majority jump up for joy, is Benson and Connell. That may not come as much of a surprise but they lead with 11 appearances together and eight goals.

However, it has to be stated, that whatever partnership Benson is in the stats are good. With Ronan Murray they’ve got four goals in 10 appearances and with Billy Bodin; it’s even more impressive, with six in seven appearances.

In the table we see that Jervis and Montano scored 2 goals in three games together, Jervis and Connell got three in three, and Jervis and Magera got 2 in 3 games but the common theme was Jervis, not the other partner as well, which we’ve already eluded too.

So, what is it Paolo is looking for? He has his perfect striker Benson at the moment, on the pitch, working hard, scoring goals. But look and think about the likes of Benson, Connell and Jervis, when I think of these three, I think of target men.

Benson is good in the six yard box but he is effective at holding play up, same as Connell and similar to Jervis. What is also interesting about these three is that they’re actually three of our top four strikers.

Benson is the least like a target man but he definitely isn’t the quick play off your partner striker. Swindon has struggled for that other one to really rely on for getting on the end of long balls, or to beat opposing defenders. Look at the JPT final for example.

However, it’s Connell and Benson who have brought about the most success in front of goal. Both players are good in the air and both are strong forwards who can get about.

When Connell starts alongside Benson, the latter gets a new role of being on that last shoulder, and unselfishly by Connell I feel, it brings about chances for his partner. Connell is a workhorse and I’ll always admire that in a footballer. It these types of players you want to do well. He may not have the best conversion rate in the team but he helps the team, rather than the individual.

If you read Alex Cooke’s blog last week, looking at our choice of formations, I’d agree by saying that starting with just Benson upfront could solve problems (if you can call being top of the league by four points a problem).

You wouldn’t have another striker to worry about, and with the signing of John Bostock, it could be that Paolo had taken advice from that blog – perhaps not but you never know, he could be reading… Having the Spurs loanee just behind Benson would still give him the freedom to roam the box rather than the outside of the box. Leave the connecting the play to Bostock, and allow Benson to do what he can do best, score goals.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m an Alan Connell fan. If Paolo stuck with Connell and Benson for the rest of the season, we’d still be successful. However when we finish this season, we all know another striker will be on his way in anyway…


Some Strikeforce Stats….

Appearances, goals and longest runs in the first team:

Benson 16 (2) 9 16 (scored 7)
Connell 20 (18) 11 4 (scored 1)
Murray 6 (14) 3 4 (scored 0)
Bodin 9 (2) 3 3 (scored 1)
Jervis 12 (2) 5 10 (scored 4)
Montano 3 (1) 1 3 (scored 1)
Magera 9 (9) 1 4 (scored 0)
Kerrouche 11 (7) 7 6 (scored 3)
Clarke 4 0 4 (scored 0)
De Vita 6 (1) 1 4 (scored 0)
Storey (3) 0 3 sub apps in a row
Tehoue 1 (1) 0 1 (scored 0)

Strike partnership stats…


Benson & Connell 7 (4) 8
Benson & Murray         3 (7) 4
Benson & Bodin          5 (2) 6
Benson & Tehoue 1 (1) 0
Benson & Magera (1) 1
Connell & Murray       4 (3) 3
Connell  & Tehoue (1) 0
Connell & De Vita 1 (2) 1
Connell & Bodin           (1) 0
Connell & Jervis 3 (3) 3
Connell & Kerrouche 5 (4) 4
Connell & Clarke 2 0
Connell & Magera (2) 0
Connell & Storey (1) 0
Jervis & Magera 3 (4) 2
Jervis & Kerrouche 2 (2) 1
Jervis&  Murray (3) 1
Jervis & Montano 3 2
Jervis & De Vita 1 1
Kerrouche & Clarke (2) 1
Kerrouche & Storey (2) 2
Kerrouche & Magera 4 (1) 1
Kerrouche & De Vita (1) 1
De Vita & Clarke 2 0
De Vita & Magera (1) 1
De Vita & Bodin 2 0
Magera & Murray 2 (3) 1
Magera  & Clarke (1) 0

Allow for human error…

Swindon 1 ‘Nam 0: Cheltenham lose chance to play for the ‘Gold’ Cup

Cheltenham Gold Cup 2

They huffed, they puffed, but they couldn’t blow the house down. Despite a huge dominance in possession, Cheltenham Town couldn’t recover from failing to convert a first half penalty and then going behind shortly afterwards to Paul Benson’s ninth goal of the season. Town’s 1-0 victory was, by all accounts, by the slimmest of margins, but true champions ride their luck, with this victory moving Swindon – a perhaps unassailable – eight points clear at the summit of League Two, writes Ron Smith.

With Paul Caddis out of the starting XI for the first time this season through injury, Paolo Di Canio had to organise a makeshift backline to prevent second best on the road Cheltenham from leaving the County Ground with all three points. Alan McCormack was favoured to deputise at right back, while Oliver Risser took the former Charlton man’s place at the centre of defence alongside Joe Devera. The only other change saw a welcome return for Luke Rooney on the left with Raffa De Vita dropping to the bench, which also featured new loan signing Jonathan Tehoue.

It was our visitors who started the sharper, with a Steve Elliot header clearing the bar and then former Town youngster Kaid Mohamed’s shot passing to the right of Wes Foderingham’s goal.

Town needed time to settle into the game – a common theme this season with just 4 of our 61 League Two goals scored in the opening 15 minutes – and it wasn’t until the tenth minute when we had our first shot, when Alessandro Cibocchi’s free kick failed to beat the wall. From 40 yards out the ever hopeful Italian always had the odds stacked against him to find the target, a situation replicated five minutes later with another speculative effort failing to test Cheltenham ‘keeper Jack Butland.

Looking to shoot from direct free kicks – from whatever distance – seems to be a disappointing and  reoccurring theme this season. With only one goal scored direct from a free kick in League Two, you have to question whatever happened to the constructive approach setting up the many red shirts in and around the box…

A few minutes later Billy Bodin had an excellent chance to put Town ahead. After being put through on goal the Welsh u21 International shot low, hard and straight at Butland, who saved well with his legs for the ball to run loose. Seeing that Bodin typically makes better use of his bucket load of technique, experience will teach the youngster to round the ‘keeper or play a simple chip. Matt Ritchie was quickest to react to the ball, however his follow up shot was cleared over the bar by a defender.

After Alan McCormack was cautioned for a needless push on loan striker Darryl Duffy, Cheltenham came back strong into the game, however the Robins from Gloucestershire needed the referee’s assistance to provide the golden opportunity to take the lead.

With half an hour on the clock and the long ball punted forward towards Duffy, Oliver Risser allowed the Cheltenham striker to lean back into him and collapse to the ground, sending the Namibian with him. Referee Russell, without thinking why on earth would Duffy collapse in the absence of a Risser arm around his front to wrestle the forward – that would be obvious from the ref’s position – or any pulling from behind – that would have been clearly viewed from his assistant, nonetheless without hesitation he awarded the penalty kick to the visitors.

Duffy couldn’t capitalise on his good fortune, striking the penalty low and to the right of Wes Foderingham, who once again proved his tremendous ability, to dive and parry the ball away to the jubilation of the County Ground faithful.

With their penalty chance gone begging, for a short spell Cheltenham lost the momentum and within five minutes it was the hosts who stamped their authority on the game with the opening goal.

The otherwise quiet Luke Rooney made his first real contribution to the game. After finding himself in acres of space on the left side and running half the wing, the former Gills man laid the ball back to Alessandro Cibocchi, who made up for his earlier speculative efforts with a right teaser of a cross deep into the box. After Billy Bodin excellently fained to leave the ball and the Cheltenham defenders just watched as spectators, it was left to the ever alert Paul Benson to sneak in at the far post to strike home. Benson again showed his poaching skills with this strike being his sixth of eight goals in League Two scored from within the six yard box.

The goal signalled the end of a frenetic phase of the game and with Cheltenham edging back into control, this half time whistle came not a moment too soon.

The second half started and thereafter it was all about Cheltenham controlling the game, however they failed to make best use of their 60% dominance in possession as the half unravelled.

Cheltenham’s versatile five man midfield – switching from a flat five to two deep lying ball winners and an attacking three supporting Darryl Duffy – overran Town. Not for the first time this season, and most notably at Oxford a week ago, Di Canio didn’t seem wise to the opposition threat and change his approach, stubbornly asserting his system will prevail.

Instead of using the replacement of Bodin – five minutes into the half – and then the next change eight minutes later, to reinforce the midfield manpower by going to one target man upfront, the still wooly hatted and gloved Italian stuck rigidly to his 4-4-2. With an abundance of space behind Ferry and Smith (later Cox) Cheltenham were pulling Swindon apart, forcing Risser and Devera ever forward to clear up and cover, leaving space for the alert Duffy to exploit the offside trap, although he failed to really test Foderingham and add to his 15 goals this campaign.

The Cheltenham system restricted our usual attacking outlets. Our normally overlapping full backs spent more time actually defending and tracking the widemen, leaving Rooney and Ritchie dropping deeper to chase the ball – much to the complaint of Di Canio – instead of being ready to receive in their normally dangerous forward positions. Ritchie also wasn’t helped by the absence of Paul Caddis, as McCormack didn’t seem to have the energy of Caddis to continue tracking back after his infrequent marauding forward runs.

At the final whistle

With so little of the play and the widemen gone AWOL, throughout the half Town were reduced to the long ball and speculative efforts, but of those a dipping half volley from Paul Benson had to be expertly turned away by Butland and later on a long range drive from Luke Rooney again saved by the ‘keeper.

The introduction of new loanee Jonathan Tehoue was meant to provide Town with that physical presence to deal with the long ball, but it just didn’t work. Tehoue didn’t show here was a play who is playing to win a contract come June. The Leyton Orient striker will have to show much better in a Town shirt, having shown he’s nothing other than a poor man’s Wayne Allison, with a desire and energy to run that makes Vincent Pericard look like Usain Bolt and defies his “I would say I am a runner” assertion to Gary Rose last week. All that being said, this was hardly the best game for the Frenchman to settle into the Swindon system.

Cheltenham’s best chance of the half came with four minutes remaining, when Duffy reacted quickest to a cross and found space for an overhead kick only to send the ball direct to the focused Foderingham. A yard either side and our rivals would have been celebrating a ‘deserved’ late equaliser to show for their efforts.

The match ended with a talking point for the Cheltenham supporters, who were angry the referee didn’t order the injured Joe Devera and Oliver Risser to rejoin play from the sideline and instead the Town pair were allowed to defend a corner. Cheltenham fans having forgotten Law 5, which allows the referee to exempt enforcing players to leave the field after treatment if those players were from the same team.

This victory ensured Town have taken 47 from the available 54 at the County Ground and are now surely favourites to not only secure an immediate return to League One, but they’ll depart this division with the silverware that Cheltenham now have little hopes of getting their hands on.

A welcome week of ‘rest’ with no midweek match awaits a tired Town side before the trip to Crewe next Saturday.


Your Man of the Match Result: 1st Foderingham 59% | 2nd Devera 33% | 3rd Benson 6%

Header photo was originally posted to Flickr by lhourahane and confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-2.0.

Swindon 4 Dagenham 0: Daggers’ dawn cut short by red & white army

dagenham-redbridge 3

Having been unable to breach the triple-decker bus parked in the triple-sided stadium on Saturday, Tuesday’s game could not come quick enough to put the Swindon Town TGV firmly back on the tracks heading at speed towards League One, writes STFC007.

In the build up to the game the level of optimism from most Swindon Town fans was refreshing – as usually after a defeat in the past, doom and gloom lurked just around the corner. As the clock moved closer to kick-off time though, there were some doubters pointing out the recent good form of Dagenham & Redbridge against whom Swindon had never recorded a victory. But surely the team riding high in the division should be able to brush aside a team languishing near the bottom of the table with ease…

When the teams came out you could sense the Swindon team meant business with concentration on each of their faces, focussed on the task of continuing their immense run in becoming League Two Champions. Despite Di Canio’s indications that he was considering introducing quite a number of changes, there were only two in the starting line up – De Vita replaced Rooney and Bodin was favoured to partner ex-Daggers Benson up top.

Dagenham’s intentions were clear from the outset; to prevent Swindon’s midfield from playing their usual passing game and with it forcing the Swindon backline to reach their front pairing of Benson and Bodin with the long ball. Not only did this tactic work well initially, as Dagenham’s sturdy centre back pairing dealt with most what they were served with, Swindon seemed not to be firing on all cylinders in the early stages of the game either.

A host of inaccurate passes, half clearances, and some ricochets made it difficult for the Swindon players to create any sort of momentum. Di Canio in his post-match interview described the start the team made as ‘shy’. In fact, it was a scrappy and nervous, affecting some players more than others.

The referee, who in general had a good game, also had his moments. Bodin just missed out on controlling a long ball which ended up with the goalkeeper. The linesman did not raise his flag, nor did the referee blow his whistle, but the goalkeeper walked out of his area with the ball in his hand ready to take a free kick, which was never awarded in the first place. It clearly should have been a free-kick against the ‘keeper for handball, but suddenly the linesman raised his flag and offside was given instead with the referee pointing profusely to his headset several times as some sort of apology.

Had Dagenham come to the County Ground with a different game plan and approached the game more positively than their one shot on goal all game indicated, I am sure they could have caused Swindon some issues during those early exchanges. As it stood, the only real chance in the first 15 minutes fell to Benson, who was able to flick the ball up and volley it towards goal only for his effort to get blocked.

Having highlighted – the day before the match – that realistically only injuries could negatively affect the outcome of our season, our captain – the most constant beacon of steadfastness till now – limped off. He was replaced by Jonathan Smith, while Oliver Risser moved to centre back and McCormack to right back. Despite being able to walk back to the dressing room, the injury looked serious and hopefully the scan planned for Thursday concludes that Caddis will be back soon.

The forced changes seemed to destabilise the team somewhat and they were under the cosh for a little while. Dagenham enjoyed a little pressure but the few corners they had in quick succession, came to nothing, as none of their efforts managed to be on target.

Benson, playing against his old team where he enjoyed immense success, was marked very closely and the defenders were able to get away with a lot of pushing and holding. When he was wrestled to the floor in the centre circle once more, he was seemingly annoyed. His frustration was channeled in a positive way, as he seemed to up his contribution.

Initially, twinkle-toed Bodin managed to outwit the defence with some moves that could have been choreographed by the street dance act Diversity, only for his effort to end up against the post. But less than a minute later, Benson, this time breaking free on the right hand side, delivered a nicely weighted pass across goal to the back post, far enough out of reach of the goal keeper but accurate enough for Bodin to slide the ball into the back of the net to make it 1-0.

There was relief as Swindon took the deserved lead despite not being at their best. Ferry started to drop deeper and demanding the ball more from the defence, which provided for some better, varied play.

Some nice interplay between Bodin and McCormack on the right, saw the new right back whip in a cross at speed, only for Smith to head over the bar as he tried to adjust his neck position, being in the air already and somewhat ahead of the ball.

Dagenham at this stage were not able to wrestle themselves back into the game and this was made even more difficult as their #10 Scott saw red after a two footed tackle on Risser.

As Dagenham tried to adjust their formation, more space became available on the flanks as gaps started to appear. Ritchie took advantage of this and as he picked up the ball in midfield, ran towards the defence and passed to De Vita who found himself in acres of space. However, Raffa’s touch let him down, as the ball ended up too close to the goalkeeper who managed to stop the shot.

The second half was better and the introduction of Rooney on the left in place of Devita, created more of a threat as defending became more difficult for Dagenham as the game got on.

A Rooney corner seemed to be going going out for a goal kick, but Devera who had a very good game again, jumped up highest to head the ball into the back of the net to make it 2-0. The game was over at this stage as Dagenham did not manage to put up any real fight and had their hands full trying to contain Swindon and keeping the score down.

A nice bit of skill from Ritchie on the right saw a his cross, left by Bodin’s dummy, reach Rooney who rifled his shot into the roof of the net to make it 3-0.

The best bit of skill in the second half came from Cibocchi, who did have a few funny minutes in the first half. He picked the ball up on the left and the onrushing Dagenham #23 Woodall had his legs spread out just enough to be nutmegged as Cibocchi delivered an accurate pass to Rooney.

Alan Connell had his name sang out loud by the crowd when he was waiting to come on to replace Bodin. The Fans’ favourite almost made an immediate impact as the ball ended up at his feet, after a controlled double header from Benson. With his back towards goal, he turned the defender inside out, but saw his effort go just wide of the post. Connell was lively and combined well for the remainder of the game with Benson and the rest of midfield.

Rooney continued to terrorise the left hand side and a shot on goal was met by Benson whose tap-in meant the rout was complete, 4-0. It could have been more had Rooney looked up a few times and passed the ball to a team player in a better position, rather than going at it alone too often. The frustration from some of his team mates was visible as they continued to make make the runs into the box even at this late stage of the game. It didn’t really matter as the 3 points were secured, but on another day when the scores are even, he should be aware he may get a different treatment if he does reach a team player in a better position than himself.

There were smiles all round with our closest rivals dropping points, the lead on Cheltenham in second place, who will be visiting the County Ground on Saturday, is now 6 points with a game in hand.

And while John Still kept his players on the pitch for a pep talk as Dagenham continue their quest for Football League survival, Paul Benson – who spoke so highly of his time with Dagenham in the match program – went over to the visiting 87 Dagenham supporters to applaud them and show what true gent and genuine professional he really is.

Being a Swindon Town supporter is great at the moment with a tasty encounter to look forward to on Saturday when Cheltenham Town are the visitors.

Man of the Match Result: Joe Devera 42%, Rooney 17% and Bodin 14%

Hereford United 1 Swindon 2: The true sign of champions..?

2012.02.18 Hereford 4 2

They say championship winning teams must have luck on their side but they can also grind out wins they perhaps don’t always fully deserve. Town’s 2-1 victory over Hereford United at Edgar Street was exactly one of those ugly wins by a side now surely on course for the top of League Two, writes Ron Smith.

The visit to the in-laws in Worcester was timed to perfection. Ample babysitters and a short journey meant I arrived in plenty of time at Edgar Street. If you haven’t had the opportunity to visit this relic…then that’s a shame, seeing that in all likelihood only a cup draw would pair these sides together in the not too distant future. Unchanged since 1989, Edgar Street makes up for its distinct lack of modernity and signage – the later particularly important to a lost Gary Rose – by the friendliness of its welcome, years of history oozing from the partly derelict Meadow End and great vantage points right close up to the action.

Swindon arrived in exceptional form following six League Two victories in succession, including Tuesday’s thumping of Crawley Town. Meanwhile the Bulls – managed by former Town youngster Jamie Pitman – hadn’t tasted victory as hosts since October and now looking agonisingly over their shoulders at a resurgent Plymouth Argyle.

Two forced changes for Town – Daniel Boateng in place of Joe Devera and Lee Cox replacing Simon Ferry – ensured Di Canio sent out yet another changed side, however rotation hasn’t impacted on recent results.

The sides ran out onto a sparsely grassed and uneven pitch that would play against Swindon’s preferred passing style. However, the poor quality of the surface hardly played into Hereford’s hands, as a surprising lack of understanding of their every lump and bump ensured by the host’s pitch favoured neither team.

In truth the first half provided little entertainment for the large travelling support and Di Canio, who was seeing out the last match of his (current) touchline ban – yes there will probably be more to come before this season is over…

Watching Hereford’s lack of defensive discipline, composure and woeful goalkeeping distribution was admittedly amusing, yet our reliance on the inevitable mistakes demonstrated early on that this match would be closer than the gulf in league positions suggested.

It was Hereford who made the first real attempts with Joe Colbeck shooting wide from yards out; then former Town u18s captain Will Evans’ shot was saved by Wes Foderingham, before Byron Anthony reacted quickest to the rebound only for his shot cleared off the line by Jonathan Smith.

Opportunities were limited for both sides. Hereford played to stifle Town with five in midfield and an impressive workhorse Nathan Elder leading the attack. Elder is hardly the most mobile of units, yet he ensured Daniel Boateng had to work hard in his Town debut; this was despite the Hereford frontman playing through a dislocated finger through much of the first half. Whereas Town were unable to find space, particularly on the wings, and whatever running by the disappointing Bodin and his partner Paul Benson the supply was largely cut off at the source.

With Hereford ‘keeper Adam Bartlett’s clearances becoming ever more unpredictable, Town seized the advantage in an inevitable fashion capitalising on a mistake, leaving Bulls fans bemused at the state of their defence.

Under no pressure Simon Clist’s poorly played back-pass was hurriedly cleared by Bartlett. The ‘keeper was being hounded by the advancing Billy Bodin, yet there was no excuse for his umpteenth poor clearance of the match, which softly fell at the feet of Paul Benson yards outside of the box. The former Charlton man cut inside onto his right only for both Ryan Green and Bartlett to equally contrive an ill-timed challenge on Benson, who was sent tumbling for a penalty. Up stepped Paul Caddis to fire Town ahead, which would be enough to ensure a noticeable chorus of boos were directed at the Hereford XI from the Merton Stand as they trundled off for half time, with special criticism reserved for Bartlett.

Much like at the encounter back in October, Hereford emerged a changed team second half and improved as evey minute of the 45 passed. However, before the Bulls could think about making a real impact on the game Town seized on yet more defensive errors to secure a two goal advantage.

A quick Paul Caddis throw found Billy Bodin, who found space to cross despite three Hereford men wastefully failing to close him down. Adam Bartlett should have dealt better with this cross as the ball sailed past his flailing gloves at the near post and found the waiting Paul Benson, who pounced to turn the ball unchallenged into an empty net.

One Hereford player desperate to make an impact and avenge being cast adrift by Paolo Di Canio was Will Evans. Within the opening 15 minutes of the half the tough tackling midfielder had a decent effort at goal blocked by Boateng and then proceeded to make four fouls in quick succession. With a caution against his name and Evans running into a certain red card, his substitution and replacement with Harry Pell, who combined excellently with another substitute Lyle Taylor, would prove to be the turning point for the Bulls.

Minutes later Hereford were back in the game. Bartlet’s long clearance was well shielded from Boateng by the ever effective Nathan Elder, who created space for the on-rushing Rob Purdie, whose fine long range shot sailed past Wes Foderingham into the top corner. From that moment onwards Town had 25 minutes to hold on for the win as the Bulls looked as if they were to mount their second unexpected comeback of the season against Swindon.

It was to be Hereford’s right flank and Lyle Taylor that proved to be their strength. Taylor tormented Cibocchi with his pace and trickery, having a great headed chance slip wide and winning several corners for his side. This performance was aided by the home fan’s angry reactions to the Italian’s quick recovery from knocks and injuries, leading to those around me to accuse the nearby Di Canio of presiding over a ‘bunch of cheats’. It was almost as if we were Crawley for the day…

It was from one of those corners that Byron Anthony rose above Alan McCormack, only for his header to beat Foderingham but strike the crossbar. There were other missed opportunities for the hosts, but the stubborn and organised Swindon defence – as has been our strength since October – stood firm until the end.

With a 2-1 victory in the bag, a determined and resilient Town once again proved their worth in the most competitive of the English divisions. The performance typified signs of a championship winning team and importantly Di Canio now realises he has to be willing to accept a battling and unpretty win over style.

The real question now is can Town press on to secure some cushion at the top of the league before our trip to the Kassam in just less than a fortnight…

Vic Morgan Blog: Total Football…

Vic Morgan

The ramblings of BBC Devon’s Vic Morgan..

Great win wasn’t it…?

At the beginning I feared a drab game, with the wrong result. How wrong I was. Swindon’s performance was excellent.

Despite playing a strong side…not gonna get into the Crawley bashing…they played a brand of attacking disciplined football, which was a delight.

Luke Rooney must have been delighted to get his first at the County Ground. Tremendous follow up to Cibocchi’s sublime free-kick. Billy Bodin’s first at home for the Town was a wonder strike and Paul Benson’s a real poacher’s effort after wonderful work by man of the match Alan McCormack.

It was a great evening.

Of course, those who were there for the ill-fated cup replay last season, will have been extra pleased with the result. And do you know what..? For a circus team, I thought we did pretty well.

As for the other side…? Well what is there to say, apart from six-nil on aggregate.

What does this mean for the Town’s season..?

I’ll bore you once again with what I said after the Macclesfield home win. It is written for the Town to win the title this season. They are playing supremely well, and look fit as a butcher’s dog.

One side also very much in the frame is Torquay United. Martin Ling’s team is also right in the groove, and could be our main rivals. The win for the Gulls at Cheltenham on Tuesday, was a massive indication that they’re bang in form. As they proved on Boxing Day, they’re a side with great potential.

The meeting at the County Ground in March could prove pivotal and also a great football match. It shows that teams in League Two can get out playing the right way, and after all the bally-hoo over handshakes at Old Trafford last weekend, isn’t that refreshing…

I became disillusioned with that level football some time ago. The Premier League has become all about money, and unpleasant spats between players who ought to know better. Sometimes I’ll start watching a game, but then would rather go out into the garden and stand in the rain quite frankly.

The row over racism is disgusting…IT CANNOT BE ALLOWED IN OUR GAME, and especially at a level which millions watch. GET A GRIP on yourselves, and GROW UP, it’s 2012, not 1812.

Anyway proper football Saturday at Hereford.

Keep it loud, keep it proud, keep it SWINDON


Swindon 3 Crawley 0: We make it six nil on aggregate…

Crawley-Mascot 2

After Swindon Town’s emphatic 4-1 win at Southend, it was time to face another early table topping team Crawley Town. The West Sussex side sought to enhance their ‘Champions Elect’ tag as the bookies’ favourite to win League Two… or would they become another victim on Swindon’s seemingly unstoppable run, writes STFC007.

In the build-up to the game, Crawley’s coach Steve Evans had for a second time in quick succession declared his admiration for DiCanio, by stating “I love his way and think he has been fantastic for League Two”. This was in sharp contrast to his comments about ‘the Di Canio circus rolling into Town’ when both sides met at the Broadfield Stadium in the reverse fixture on September 13 last year.

On this fine Valentine’s Day night, our ‘Romeo’ Evans unfortunately was unable to woo his Juliet, as Di Canio, seated in the stands, would not come down into either technical area, following the FA’s ridiculous ‘waving arms’ charge which resulted in a touchline ban.

There was a strange atmosphere just before kick-off which continued into part of the first half. Perhaps this was caused by a certain level of trepidation going into the match, knowing that a win would bring us level on points with Crawley, but a loss would see the gap with them widen again to six points.

When the game kicked off, Swindon were out of the blocks very slowly, in fact it seemed they were still looking for them as Crawley started much the brighter. Town were unable to keep the ball mainly due to inaccurate passing and early Crawley pressure high up the pitch. This nearly paid off for the visitors as in the 2nd minute a wayward cross from the left somehow managed to hit the bar well out of Foderingham’s reach.

Crawley were well on top in the early part of the match and it was therefore rather strange to see their goalkeeper Kuipers taking every opportunity to slow the game down; ultimately playing into Swindon’s hand allowing them to settle into the game.

The anticipated side show did commence, but it took longer than expected. Around the 15th minute, Evans, still in his technical area, made his displeasure of an innocuous foul on one of his players known to both the referee and the 4th official in no uncertain terms. This intimidation had a clear effect on the referee in the first half, manifesting itself in some very strange decisions. Caddis was clearly held back but the free-kick was awarded against him; Smith was clearly pushed over at the edge of the box but the referee allowed play to continue; and various other fouls were either left unpunished or given the other way.

The referee’s decision not to send the Crawley player off after he cynically tripped up Bodin – who was seemingly unhindered through on goal – was not completely unexpected. The lack of communication between the linesmen and the referee showed, judging by the large amount of time between a raised flag and acknowledgement by the referee.

This started to affect the confidence of the crowd in them. The usual chants of “You’re not fit to be a referee!” and “You don’t know what you’re doing!” were sang out loud by the home crowd. This played into Crawley’s hand, as they seemingly were more focussed on expressing their displeasure on the performance of the referee and Evans’ antics rather than getting fully behind the Swindon XI.

The game had passed Ferry by for most of the period and the ill midfielder – who in hindsight perhaps shouldn’t have started – was replaced by Cox; making his debut in front of the Swindon Town faithful.

The introduction of Cox steadied the midfield reducing Crawley’s ability to dictate play and allowing Rooney more time on the ball in attack. Swindon, who up till then had been limited to only one real chance on goal through a looping header from Benson, were rewarded a free kick. Cibocchi, who had a very good game at left back stepped up and rifled the ball against the crossbar well out of Kuipers’ reach. The ball bounced back into play where Rooney was able to control it and direct it into the bottom right hand side of the goal.

His run across the front of the Arkells stand to celebrate his first goal in front of the home support – as he later explained in his post match interview – was to try to catch a glimpse of his family, who were out in force to support him. He couldn’t see them so instead the players’ celebrations took place more or less in front of the visitor’s dug-out, much to the displeasure of Evans.

The goal livened up the County Ground and a feeling of anxiety and frustration was replaced with relief and belief. The turning point in the match came just before half time. Crawley were starting to apply pressure once more and had several corners, but two world class saves from Foderingham made sure Swindon would go into the break with a 1-0 lead. In particular, the second save where he had to not only dive low very quickly, but also put a steady hand to parry the ball away was worthy of the standing ovation he received.

The goals…

The second half saw a different Town team altogether. The atmosphere was also different compared to the start of the first half and somehow strange forces must have been at work as the referee had a much better game in as well.

Swindon were much more confident and this time it was Crawley who were chasing the game. Strangely, they continued to waste time through lack of urgency in bringing the ball back into play and through simulating injuries. Crawley are a good, well organised side but it seemed they did not have a plan B. The recent departure of Tubbs is clearly a huge loss to them as the half chances they had were wasted. The fact they only created half-chances was mainly down to Devera and McCormack who are starting to form a strong centre back pairing in the absence of Flint.

The game became more open as Crawley was trying to put more men forward, but Swindon continued to be in control of the game. Bodin, who had worked hard up front but had been just too late or just in the wrong place a couple of times, demanded the ball from a throw in from Caddis in front of the Don Rodgers stand. He let the ball run across his body towards the box and from the bounce struck it very sweetly indeed, flying well out of reach of Kuipers into the top left corner. Caddis ran the width of the pitch with his arms wide open in true simulating airplane fashion to join the group of players celebrating Bodin’s wonderful strike.

The game had its circus slapstick moments as well, providing some laughter for everyone in the stands. There were a couple of airshots and a trip over the ball by a Crawley player, but Kuipers, whose confidence seemed affected after some poor clearances, got the most laughs by allowing the ball bounce off his chest a couple of times; and was very lucky the ball ended up on the outside of the post when he somehow fumbled a shot.

The win was secured following a very good move. McCormack found room in midfield and continued his run. A well worked one-two with Bodin found him at the by-line allowing him to pull the ball back where Bodin’s shot towards goal was met by Benson who from close range couldn’t miss.

Post match

The game was up and the 268 visiting Crawley supporters – around 10% of their home support which isn’t bad at all – were left making their preparations for the trip back on the M4 accompanied by the usual ‘cheerio’ chants.

Not only did Swindon Town despatch confidently with two of League Two title contenders in quick succession, according to the bookies The Town are now favourites to win League Two, confirming what Di Canio has said all along and what we had hoped.

Looking at the bigger picture though, it’s the upcoming fixtures against Cheltenham, Shrewsbury and Torquay that will define our season as being good or consolidating our league position with a serious chance of becoming League Two title winners.

When reading and listening to the post match interviews on this Valentine’s Day night, I could not help but think about John Mason’s quote from the movie ‘The Rock': “Losers always whine about their best. Winners go home and f#@k the prom queen!”

Next stop: Hereford…

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Man of the Match Result: 1st Alan McCormack 32%, 2nd Wes Foderingham 25%, 3rd Billy Bodin 18%