Raining on the parade…

Raining

It’s Friday, so it must be time for the latest blog by BBC Devon’s Vic Morgan.

It was a soggy start to the New Year then… I particularly enjoyed driving most of the way to Swindon from Devon, only to have to turn round again when I heard that the Town’s game with Crawley was off. Mind you I wasn’t surprised. The M5 resembled a canal and the sides of the roads a new ocean. Incredible and with more to come, thank goodness there’s no game this weekend.

Before that, I had an early start for the trip to Bradford. The ongoing Nile Ranger saga meant he wasn’t in the line-up at Valley Parade  and not surprisingly it looks like his time at SN1 is up. A shame really. A player with so much talent and somehow not able to channel it into his football career. Enough said on that matter.

More should be said on the excellent defensive display by Swindon. Too often this season defensive lapses have proved our undoing. When the home side went in front early on with an almost free bullet like header, things didn’t look promising. Grit, determination and some good football got us back into the game leading to a wonder goal from Alex Pritchard. It was reminiscent of Ricky Villa’s effort in the Cup Final all those years ago. A mazy dribble and a great finish in front of the Town fans. Wonderful moment and made the long trip worthwhile.

It was also farewell to Nicky Ajose. The loan from Peterborough has come to an end. A player who always gave his all and looked as though he cared. He scored the goals which have got us to the latter stages of the JPT. Ironic that we face his parent club in the area final.

So what of 2014? A top eight finish would be tremendous. Play offs even better. We don’t know what sort of squad we’ll have at the end of January so it’s difficult to judge how strong we’ll be. On the evidence of Valley Parade, Branco is one player who’ll come into the frame. Coming on as a second half substitute, he was superb. So a real backbone emerged and that’s what we’ll need over the second half of this campaign.

A weekend off then and a chance to make sure my house doesn’t blow away. Enjoy.

Keep it loud keep it proud keep it SWINDON.

Vic

Bradford City 1-1 Swindon Town: Was this Pritchard’s final goal for Town?

Alex Pritchard 2

The Alex Pritchard show may be entering its final series at Swindon Town but with such stellar performances over the Christmas period, which Town fan in their right mind could begrudge him a switch to the Championship in January? Writes Daniel Hunt.

Where the on loan Tottenham youngster was denied several times by his former youth team-mate David Button at Griffin Park, Bradford City were powerless to stop Alex Pritchard tip-toeing his way from the right hand touchline into the box before placing neatly into the bottom corner to equalise in the 63rd minute. It was a magnificent goal worthy of winning any game but an open second half would result in neither side going on to seal the three points.

With the charitable Nile Ranger spending his hard-earned wages helping to keep a Bristol nightclub in business on Boxing Day evening, Dany N’Guessan struck down with a virus and Mohamed El Gabbas seemingly out of favour pending his inevitable release in January; Mark Cooper put out as attacking a side as he could with Nathan Byrne and Pritchard playing either side of the lone front man – Nicky Ajose. Miles Storey and Ryan Mason had to be content with places on the bench with Louis Thompson and Yaser Kasim supporting Massimo Luongo in central midfield.

I just want to congratulate Cooper on the set-up of the midfield as it caught Bradford out slightly. Luongo played as the deepest central midfielder and I think this improved Swindon’s link up play between defence and attack. This allowed Kasim to play as the most advanced of the three and he’s actually a very good footballer as he showed in the first half. Perhaps it was a result of his recent virus, but Kasim faded in the second half and was replaced by the towering Ben Gladwin – who definitely looked more assured than he did at Brentford on Boxing Day.

Bradford City were combative opponents, backed by the most vocal support I’ve encountered in League One so far this season. They carried twin threats, little and large, in 15 goal Nakhi Wells and the returning target-man James Hanson. For the 28 minutes that Wells was on the pitch before going off injured, Town’s defence were given a difficult time dealing with his intelligent movement in either channel. Former Swindon loanee, Mark Yeates, replaced Wells but barely made an impact on the game as Town’s task became much simpler.

The Bantams started with quite a rigid 4-4-2 formation that allowed Alex Pritchard the freedom of Yorkshire to get on the ball ‘between-the-lines’ (feel dirty saying that phrase but hey, this is ‘modern’ football) and repeatedly terrorise the home defence. The first chance of the match was a Pritchard shot that went narrowly over the bar and the midfielder would twice more go close to scoring before half time – forcing McLaughlan to parry a low shot in the 37th minute and curling a 20 yard free kick just the wrong side of the upright two minutes later, following a strong run from Jay McEveley.

Left winger Kyel Reid was the most impressive player for the hosts but he was well shackled all afternoon by Nathan Thompson – who looked noticeably fitter and stronger than in recent displays, suggesting that ‘Nasty Nath’ has fully recovered from his injury troubles. Swindon would shade the first half but went into the break a goal behind courtesy of one of Bradford’s main strengths, set pieces.

I remember Rory McArdle well for a towering headed goal against Aston Villa in last season’s marvellous League Cup run and sure enough, he was at it again in the 16th minute. A left wing corner was flicked goalwards at the near post by McArdle and with the assistance of the underside of the crossbar, Bradford were ahead. The Swindon response to falling behind was measured and if Nicky Ajose had brought his shooting boots, Town could have found themselves at least level before half time.

In the 26th minute, a heavy second touch meant that Ajose fluffed his lines when one-on-one with McLaughlan following a neat through ball. As if that wasn’t frustrating enough, a similar move in the 34th minute saw the on loan Peterborough striker pull out of challenging the keeper when through on goal again. Although the incident was at the opposite end of the pitch from where I was sat, it looked like Ajose bottled the challenge I hate to say.

I’m as yet unsure whether Ajose is eligible to play against Crawley Town on New Year’s Day – the terms of his loan deal expire on the 1st January – but I hope he gets the chance to sign off in better fashion. He’s done very well during his time at the County Ground and deserves a good send off. An injury to Jay McEveley would mean that Miles Storey, Swindon’s only other striking option in the match day squad, made it on to the pitch in first half stoppage time. I worry for McEveley from what I saw from the away end, as he slumped to floor to receive treatment from Town physio Paul Godfrey, the left back looked very resigned to his fate. Hope it’s not a reoccurrence of his long standing knee injury for his sake.

Storey provided a good outlet for Swindon in the second half, particularly as the game became stretched and Bradford defenders tired in the Yorkshire cold. Unfortunately for Miles, he didn’t capitalise on the breaks that came his way and several promising moves broke down before an effort on the Bantams goal could materialise. By comparison, fellow youth team graduate Louis Thompson got stronger and more influential as the game went on – a significant feat given how few sets of 90 minutes the youngster has completed in the first team.

Two lovely Louis Thompson moments I’d like to call out for different reasons;

1. Early in the second half, Louis was felled by Mark Yeates, a foul which drew a yellow card from referee Oliver Langford. Brother Nathan was on the scene quick as a flash to defend his brother’s honour, squaring up to Yeates – reminiscent of a tag-team wrestling pair! Genuinely touching in a funny way.

2. As the second half was drawing to a close, Louis still had bucket loads of energy to chase back and harry one of his Bradford opponents into a mistake on the half line. Once he’d stolen the ball, he knocked the ball past another player and ran on to his own ball forward in a lung-busting, breathless piece of play. The move fizzled out moments later but with every passage of play that passes, Thompson junior is looking more and more like the brilliant midfielder we all hope he’ll become.

With Byrne already switched to left back covering for the injured McEveley, the defence would be further de-stabilised by an injury to Grant Hall in the 53rd minute. Hall had twisted an ankle and manfully tried to play on before being replaced by Raphael Rossi-Branco – an unused substitute sixteen times this season. The final straw came when Hall tried to challenge Hanson in the air but luckily for Foderingham, Hanson’s header was straight at the Swindon keeper.

Rossi-Branco had some early shaky moments but brushed these off to deputise well alongside captain Darren Ward. Promising signs from a defender who Cooper had himself described recently as ‘not being ready’ for League One football. With two tall members of the back four now in the treatment room, Wes Foderingham drew praise post-match from Cooper for his efforts in coming out to punch the numerous crosses which rained down upon the Swindon six yard box. This trait was noticeable during the second half and it certainly helped ease the pressure on an inexperienced backline.

The play switched from end to end in an exciting second period and Foderingham had to be on his mettle to keep out a swerving Doyle shot in the 81st minute – it may have been going wide but Foderingham made sure. At the other end, Alex Pritchard continued his excellent game by inducing a trip on the very (and I mean very) edge of the eighteen yard box with six minutes to go. Pritchard struck the free kick into the wall and from the resulting short corner, Nathan Byrne dribbled across the box before curling agonisingly wide of McLaughlan’s left hand post – it was close.

Roared on by approximately 350 Swindon fans in the top tier of the away end, Swindon smelt blood but the two final chances fell to Miles Storey who could only force the ‘keeper into one save when it fell on his right foot on the right side of the box. A draw felt about right at full time but you get the sense that Town will come away disappointed they didn’t go on to win the game.

I was personally very critical of how Mark Cooper set the team up (the much discussed 4-6-0 formation) for two winnable away ties at Crawley Town in November and Sheffield United earlier this month. My biggest issue with that approach is the message it sends to the opposition – we’re here not to concede and nick a one goal victory at best. Full credit to Swindon Town though for the way they’ve approached two daunting away games over Christmas, despite only gathering one point in six.

Brentford are a very good side at this level and we’ve given them one of the toughest home games they’ll have all season, while Town created many chances to win the game at Valley Parade. The approach has been much more positive and it’s resulted in two entertaining games that have been well worth the trip for our loyal away followers. I feel that Swindon are so close to turning the corner away from home, I just hope that Cooper retains a positive approach because with so many pure footballers in the side, it’s a shame to play any other way but positively.

There’s going to be a few changes at the club in January, some that we may not like at first but all I ask of my fellow fans is that we also keep a positive approach to how Swindon cut their cloth accordingly…

Cheers Pritch! Thanks Nicky! Don’t go Wes! Oh, and don’t let the door hit you on the way out will you Nile?

Happy New Year from all at ‘The Washbag’!!

Follow Daniel Hunt on Twitter – @dphunt88

Vic Morgan Blog: And so the end is here

Vic Morgan 2

The final ramblings of the season from BBC Devon’s Vic Morgan.

So that’s it for another season then. There we were back in August welcoming a new campaign with a 3-0 home win over Crewe and now in May it’s passed in a blur.

Its had more than the fair share of ups and downs. After that initial up against the other railwaymen, there were quite a few downs before the march to title glory.

You can hear a longer review of the season on the latest Washbag podcast, but I think every Town fan will agree it’s been a season unlike any other. That’s due to the influence of one man of course, the ringmaster himself Paolo Di Canio.


Has any manager had as much impact on a club and a community as this man has ? He arrived at the County Ground when everyone was at a low ebb, and here we are brimming with confidence. His secret ? Passion yes, but also a willingness to throw himself into the task and give everything to the club and fans he works for.

Last Saturday was a prime example. It’s not often you come away from a goalless draw with some great memories. One of the most emotional minute silences I can ever remember paying tribute to the victims of the Bradford fire disaster. The genuine applause by the Town fans for the title winning members of the Bradford City disabled football team, and then the after match celebrations.

This is when we saw Di Canio at his best. Not only taking the acclaim of the fans but organising his team so they would “Stand up for the Champions”, the fans. Terrific, even now I’m going misty eyed thinking about it. If you were there you’ll know exactly what I mean, if you weren’t watch it on Youtube its terrific.

After you’ve watched that video, then find Di Canio sings Toploader. Now here he is prepared to lay himself open and “sing” with a top pop combo in front of thousands of fans. It’s pure theatre and everyone loved it. Another moment when every Swindon fan who witnessed it, was chuffed to bits he’s manager of our club.

So we feel good about life at the moment and rightly so. We can have a long summer break and keep ourselves occupied during the summer months, watching cricket, mowing the lawn, cowering under the umbrella, looking forward to life again in League One.

For me this is when the club needs to progress. We’re back where we were 12 months ago, and now we need to make strides towards the Championship. I’m going to be realistic and say a top ten finish would be great next season. I’m not sure PDC would be happy with that, but the team has to be right before it makes the next step. However if promotion comes along again, they hey that’s okay too.

One thing we must all do is say thank you to the Swindon Town board, without whom this season wouldn’t have been possible. They’ve obviously decided to back the boss and give him the leeway to make a few mistakes along the way. That shows good judgement, and hopefully will pay dividends now he has a years experience under his belt. So Jeremy Wray, we thank you and wish you a speedy recovery from your illness.

Now its a case of waiting for the middle of June to see which Tuesday we travel to Carlisle on, and who we meet on the opening day, Boxing Day etc. For now though, I’m looking forward to the rest and I wont miss the motorway food.

My thanks also to Ron for allowing me to “ramble on”…great Led Zeppelin track that by the way, every week on this website, and I hope I might get the chance again next season.

In the meantime have a great summer and keep it loud, keep it proud and always keep it SWINDON.

Vic

Follow @swindonred

Bradford 0 Swindon 0: Farewell League Two and thanks for the memories

2012.05.05 Bradford City

A spectacular season was capped by a match somewhat less so, as Valley Parade played host to the only goalless game in the Football League this weekend. With nothing more than pride to play for, the game itself had somewhat of a pre-season feeling to it, writes Rosie MacGillivray.

Both players and supporters shown that sportsmanship still existed. The Bradford team welcomed their Swindon counterparts onto the pitch before an immaculately performed silence was observed for the 56, who died at Valley Parade 27 years ago. Alan McCormack got the day off as Paolo Di Canio shuffled the defence around to accommodate Nathan Thompson. Jay McEveley moved into the centre, while Paul Caddis switched to left-back.

Thompson’s golden opportunity to impress Di Canio was brought to an abrupt end by a rash Rob Kozluk challenge. Thompson attempted to carry on but with a wince followed every attempted run, tackle or pass.  One man’s misery is another man’s gain as Chris Smith was given a chance of his own to prove his worth.

Against Kyel Reid, Smith’s first challenge in professional was a tough one. As Matt Ritchie drifted in on a regular basis, a lack of pace and fitness combined with nerves left him exposed on occasion, by the tricky winger.

All in all, it was a dull first 45 and only the regular chant of ‘Stand up for the champions’ stopped me from dosing off. Fortunately, Wes Foderingham’s concentration levels bettered mine as he showed good reflexes to save from a Nahki Wells shot. Swindon were unable to get going first-half and Bradford failed to take advantage of a disorganised, makeshift defence. Bradford City’s lack of clinical finishing explained their lowly league position more so than their actual play.

Town came out for a second half with a spring in their step as Matt Ritchie and John Bostock were more involved. However, the promise turned out to be short-lived. Smith continued to struggle against Reid and consequently, swapped with Caddis. Lee Holmes’ tendency to stay out wide allowed him to assist Smith with defensive duties.

The Swindon defence obviously had holiday plans on their minds Wells found Dave Syers with ease but finishing that was so poor, it was criminal ensured he wasn’t to break the deadlock. Credit must also go to Foderingham for his ability to stand up strong and stay big.  Soon after, Syers did find his shooting boots as found the net. However, unsurprisingly the goal was ruled out as Foderingham was clattered following a previous shot. The disallowed lifted the atmosphere as stewards had to in stop the ‘handbags’ from both sets of supporters.

It also sparked some life into the game as Town finally looked interested in ending the season with three points. Miles Storey and Luke Rooney were also introduced in quick succession in place of Ferry and Holmes. Storey showed good awareness to find Ritchie, although the latter never, as he shot when other options were available. Although it is the same selfishness that has seen him score 11 goals this season.

Minutes later, Bostock showed quick feet to skip past City defenders and feed Caddis, whose cross-field pass found Rooney, but he was unable to threaten the goal. Rooney then won a free-kick after he dazzled defenders with his dribbling. While we thought it was close, the reality is Bradford keeper Jon McLaughlin was never challenged.

One final throw of the dice saw a blatant handball but somehow, a penalty wasn’t given. A quite staggering decision and had it been a higher-profile game, it would have been shown time and time again. It was just as well nothing was counting on the game. My frustration at the penalty not being given soon transfers to witnessing a seat being thrown my way from someone above.

While the game wasn’t all that, post-match celebrations more than made up for it. Di Canio used his powers to hush a 1000-strong travelling support, who were at first slightly bemused to see everyone sat on the pitch. No-one was expecting to hear a chorus of ‘stand up for the champions’ from the players. It showed a club full of togetherness and unity – pure class.

It’s just a shame Di Canio didn’t enjoy being thrown in the air as much. Far from a classic, but the same can’t be said for this season. Farewell League Two and thanks for the memories.

Videos from STFC007 & swindon-town-fc.co.uk

Match Preview: Bradford City vs Swindon Town

Bradford City

Form Guide… 

Champions Swindon are 4 points clear at the top of the table with a record of four victories and two defeats in six League Two matches.

Away from the County Ground, Swindon have a mixed record of late following the successive defeats at Aldershot and Gillingham, making it two victories and four defeats in six away trips.

18th placed Bradford City lost their last game 1-3 against Cheltenham to record three victories and three defeats in six League Two matches.

At Valley Parade, the Bantams have won their previous two games against Macclesfield and Northampton to pick up three victories, two draws and one defeat in six.

Swindon-Town-FC.co.uk Head-to-Head…

In all League, FA Cup and Football League competitions, Town have faced Bradford City on 29 occasions, winning 10, drawing 10 and defeated 9 times; scoring 45 and conceding 42.

In Bradford, Swindon have just 2 victories, 6 draws and 6 defeats from 14 matches.

Swindon drew 1-1 at Valley Parade in our most recent visit in a League One match in February 2006 thanks to a 90′ minute Sean O’Hanlon goal.

The two sides drew 0-0 in the encounter at the County Ground earlier this season, which is Town’s one of two goalless draws we’ve been involved in this season.

Swindon-town-fc.co.uk History Book…

After being formed in 1903 and joining the league immediately in an attempt to introduce the round-ball game to an area dominated by rugby league, it was 55 years before Bradford’s first encounter with Swindon, a 2-2 draw being played out at the County Ground.

In 1968/69, Bradford nearly put an end to the Town’s run in the League Cup early on, when they took a two goal lead within the first eighteen minutes of the Second Round replay at Swindon. Goals from Jack Smith and a Don Rogers penalty sent the teams in level at half-time, before Smart and Noble put the game beyond doubt – a late consolation by City ending the scoring at 4-3, as the Town went on to Wembley.

Swindon-town-fc.co.uk Memorable Match… Swindon 2 Bradford 2 | Division Two | 30th March 1988

After the first match is abandoned with the Town 3-0 up, the rematch seems to be going the same way, when Roy Wegerle and Dave Bamber put the Town two up with two goals in a three minute spell early in the second half. Bradford have other ideas though – pulling one back with just over twenty minutes remaining, before equalising in stoppage time to steal a point.

My prediction… 

Town are champions and we’ll end the season on a high with a 3-0 victory to give Town 95 points and our 2nd highest ever points total in League football.

Come on You Reds!

unfortunately no stats this week

Vic Morgan Blog: Five Star Champions

Vic Morgan 1

Here are the latest ramblings of BBC Devon’s Vic Morgan..

Dreamland wasn’t it ? The way to win a title is how? Well to blast five goals past your opposition and to play some of your best football of the season.

This time last week we had no idea how the game against Port Vale would go. It was probable that Vale would make it difficult, after all they’re a side who would have been dicing with the play-offs had it not been for entering administration and a ten point deduction.

First half they certainly looked like they might be capable of spoiling the party. However once Matt Ritchie had hit his wonder goal and Paul Benson had scored the second, then Town eased to the win.

I was thinking as Benson grabbed his second, that clearly he’s a player who loves what he does. Even at times when he’s run himself into the ground, he keeps on running. In an age when we suffer endless rubbish about so called superstars, here is someone who fans love to watch. Enthusiastic and willing to run forever for your team.

If you were in the away end at Morecambe you’ll know what I mean. Last minute of the match, a narrow one-nil lead and Benson chases down a ball despite there being little chance of making anything of it. It was one of the highlights of the season for me, and he’s been a great addition to the squad.

Back to last Saturday, and the moment when Paolo Di Canio delivered on his promise of bringing a title to Swindon. To see the County Ground packed and totally together was marvellous. After the misery of last season, this was a great day. We don’t win many championships…three if I recall correctly, and my how good it feels.

The quality of football has been great at times this season, and there have been some stand out performances. Next week I’ll reflect in greater detail about the campaign that’s been, but it’s fair to say we’ve not seen too many like it.

I’m not close enough to know the financial implications of winning League Two, but we’ve clearly got a board of directors who are determined to back the manager. We as fans have high expectations, so many times that leads to disappointment, and those expectations need paying for. We’ve moved to a higher league which means we’ll be looking at players who can play at that higher standard. That will cost money. That needs finding etc etc.

It would wonderful to think we would have twelve thousand plus in the CG every week but being realistic that’s not going to happen.But as fans all we can do is back the club as much as we can, after all they’re our team through good and bad so we might as well.

So to party time in Yorkshire on Saturday. For the first time this season we play a game where there is no pressure whatsoever. Title is won and delivered, and so we can just go and see the season out in a relaxed fashion. I don’t suppose for one moment PDC will see it that way, he’ll want the three points no matter what. But it’s time for fancy dress and saying goodbye to old friends for the summer.

It’s a strange day the last day of the football season isn’t it ? We all need a break from the weekly emotional roller coaster of following our team, but there stretches a long summer ahead of us. Still there’s the Olympics and Euro 2012 and the cricket to look forward too. Good luck by the way to Roy Hodgson, a decent man who deserves his chance to be England manager…get behind him!

So if you’re off to Valley Parade on Saturday see you there, if not back here for the final time this season next week.

Keep it loud, keep it proud, keep it SWINDON.

Vic

Vic Morgan Blog: Congratulations…

BBC Radio Wiltshire commentator Vic Morgan continues his weekly blog only here on The Washbag.

Congratulations on several fronts…

First and foremost to Ron and his wife from the Washbag, for the safe delivery of Amélie. Football is important of course, but it’s things like the birth of a child that are the true magical moments of life. Many many congratulations.

Congratulations also to Swindon Town for the recent good run, and four successive clean sheets. More on the playing side later.

Now though congratulations for “THE WASHBAG” October player of the month.Continue Reading

Swindon 0 Bradford 0: Town come unstuck against plucky Bantams

Bradford were the visitors to the County Ground on Saturday and the team from Yorkshire came in search of their first away win of the season. Swindon were going into the game on a three match unbeaten run and with an eye on the automatic promotion places. Just who would come out on top? Reports Andrew Steele-Davis.

Having kept the same line-up for the last three games, Di Canio opted for only the one change, Mehdi Kerrouche returning from suspension to replace Cristian Montano in the starting eleven. Montano dropped to the bench where there was also a welcome return from injury for Phil Smith, who now has his work cut out to oust the impressive Wes Foderingham from the No 1 spot.Continue Reading

Match Preview: Swindon vs Bradford City

Form… 7th placed Swindon have won 4 , drawn 1 and lost 1 of their previous 6 games, having won 3 successive games and are unbeaten in their last 5 games at the County Ground.

Lowly 21st placed Bradford City have won 2, drawn 1 and lost 3 of their previous 6 games. The Bantams lost their previous game 1-0 away at Macclesfield and are winless in 8 league games on their travels.

Phil Parkinson’s side join Accrington as the only teams yet to win away in League Two this season.Continue Reading