Yorkshire grit

Vic Morgan Blog

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

Let’s be honest it was a bit of a battle, but what a battle. Swindon’s performance at Valley Parade was exceptional. Despite some, quite frankly, awful refereeing and conceding an early goal, the Town came away with three excellent points.

My reaction at the award of a penalty against Wes Foderingham at the time was of disbelief. Having seen it many times since, I remain convinced Wes won the challenge with a fair tackle. Justice was done with a superb Foderingham save. Wes went on to win man of the match in my eyes with several crucial stops and he’s on his way to becoming one of Swindon’s best ever.

Tuesday was his 150th league appearance for the Robins, let’s hope there’s many more. The early goal was unfortunate. Louis Thompson had to make a challenge in the box, sadly he diverted a cross into his own net. No blame there just bad luck.

As for Jon Obika? Well two goals on your full debut for the club is a major statement of intent. Having spent an unhappy spell on loan at Swindon a few years back, he’s obviously relishing a second chance. Jon looked keen, fit and ready to play. That’s all you can ask for and he was quite literally Johnny on the spot for his goals.

So a happy trip home to Devon and the thought of many more journeys north this season. Mind you if they’re all like that, I won’t be complaining. Fantastic game and day out. It was kind of like football ought to be.

Work prevented me attending the Oldham game, so I can’t really offer an opinion on that. Suffice it to say, four points from two games is a decent return and sets us up nicely for the visit of Sheffield United at the weekend.

A worry for the Town hierarchy must be the size of the crowds at the County Ground. I know Oldham on a Tuesday evening isn’t a great draw, and with another home game on Saturday, many may have been saving their pennies for that one.

Is it the prices of the tickets and ancillary expenses that’s keeping people way? Is it that, despite a fine young team, fans aren’t yet convinced of the chances of success? Or is it still early season malaise and people are waiting to see how their faring further on down the track? Certainly food for thought. I’m sure the club is looking at ways to boost attendances. Certainly cost is one factor they have to look at.

So to the Blades. Looking forward to it. Should be a cracker.

Keep it loud keep it proud keep it SWINDON.

My Weekend: Alan Sheehan*

Alan Sheehan 1

Following Saturday’s victory at Bradford City, we catch up with Alan Sheehan who reflects on an eventful weekend*…

Friday – I’ve fond memories of playing for this weekend’s visitors Swindon Town.  They’ve had so many world-class left-backs over the years, Yinka Casal, Jason Drysdale, David Peach, plus this son of Athlone. But not Michael Rose as he’s a real c#nt for keeping me out the team when I would’ve saved them from relegation. So being part of this illustrious group, Swindon really know what to expect from me and I’ve gotta deliver – which is exactly what I did when I scored a worldy strike from what must’ve been 45-yards for County against Town in April. It’s been a busy week, nothing else but practicing free-kick after free-kick and plenty of penalties in training. Plus for that extra fitness I’ve been down the boxing club seeing that there’s always talk around here about being bantamweight.

Saturday – Parky’s up early with some important news. He’s sent a text to everyone with a plan to get us an early advantage. Apparently whoever gets closest to their ‘keeper first needs to throw themselves to the ground, then, he emphasised “position yourself to directly face the referee while sitting and then place both arms in the air”. Why you ask? I’m on penalties duty, yes… my sweet left peg never misses.

Sunday – Our entire gameplan went perfectly until their goalkeeper saved the penalty. We’d worked really hard until that point. Clarkey said after the game it wasn’t my fault as he’d planned to get their ‘keeper sent off. Bit shocked by Nathan’s reaction after the strike as we used to be teammates, plus he knows I’m sensitive. I just want to use this opportunity to clear up the ‘incident’ with that Argentinean bloke Bucking Branco. The referee Richard Clark loves his red cards, he got what he wanted when Swindon played at Notts as he got to give two reds. Yesterday he looked really bored and to be honest I felt sorry for him. I know its wrong, he’s the referee and us players shouldn’t give a f@ck about them, but the way Clark brandishes the cards like confetti really does it for me. He’s only got eyes for the red so I just had to land the body-blow.

Monday – Parky phones “well, I had to tell everyone you’d gone over and punched him, it was unacceptable and I’ll fine you the maximum amount…” I can take the fine, I’d do it again to make Clark happy. The FA will be giving me a three game ban, so I’m off to Preston for a few days, might get a trial…

*Bullshit is according to TheWashbag, not Alan Sheehan

Bradford City 1-2 Swindon Town: The return of the Obika

2014.09.18 Bradford City - Wes Save 3

Adam Tanner headed north to Bradford to watch Swindon Town’s strong start to the season continue…

Swindon approached the game looking to uphold an impressive record at Bradford City, where we were unbeaten in our four previous visits since 1998. As expected, Nathan Thompson and Jon Obika replaced Josh Lelan and Andy Williams in what turned out to be the only two changes from the team which drew with Coventry. Mark Cooper was spared a difficult decision at centre back when recently re-signed Jack Stephens was ruled out through illness. Wizened old veteran Raphael Rossi Branco, who turned 24 in July, was the team’s oldest member.

Cooper wasn’t wrong when he suggested that Bradford would start strongly, and Town were unusually lethargic throughout the opening 15 minutes. In the second minute, Nathan Thompson conceded possession cheaply in midfield, before the recovering Jordan Turnbull underhit his backpass towards Wes Foderingham. Even so Wes certainly appeared to win the ball when challenging Bradford’s Billy Clarke with his feet, so the award of a penalty looked very harsh. When Alan Sheehan stepped up our remarkable habit of conceding to former players looked set to continue, but fortunately our ‘keeper bailed us out by diving low to his left to make a typically excellent save.

Even so, Town didn’t heed the warning, and Bradford opened the scoring within minutes. Mark Yeates was given too much time and space down the left, and his cross was bundled into his own net by Louis Thompson, whose attempts at covering were in vain.

Fortunately, the goal seemed to kick Town into gear. It was surprising to see the predominantly right footed Yaser Kasim take a left footed shot from a free kick 25 yards out, but he produced a superb curling effort, which drew a strong save. Shortly afterwards, in the 23rd minute, an impressive break involving Nathan Byrne and Massimo Luongo ended with Branco’s effort being blocked. Brad Smith whipped the resulting corner to the far post, Michael Smith’s header back across goal was strong and well-directed, and Jon Obika was ideally placed to flick a header of his own into the net from two yards.

Town continued to press, and Luongo and Kasim began to shine in central midfield. Luongo had a couple of chances, drawing a decent save from one shot and putting another narrowly wide. It’s a shame that a player of his quality has only scored once since November. Swindon did take the lead in the 43rd minute. Nathan Byrne’s corner caused every bit as much panic in the Bradford defence as Smith’s 20 minutes earlier; Branco’s flicked header wasn’t cleared, and the ball fell to Obika, who smashed it into the roof of the net from 8-yards. We have badly missed a “poacher” since Nicky Ajose returned to Peterborough last December, but early signs suggest that we’ve found a new one.

The early stages of the second half were strong, as Swindon remained in control; Louis Thompson, Obika and Branco all had chances. My only criticism would be that our occasional habit of failing to test the ‘keeper reared its head. In fact we didn’t manage an attempt on target during the half.

Town’s performance fell a few notches as of the 68th minute when Michael Smith, who gave a typically tireless and capable performance, was replaced by Andy Williams, who sadly tends to play with a different mentality. Bradford suddenly had time and space to play from the back, and Town came under some heavy pressure. The defence lost some of its composure, and a string of dangerous free kicks were awarded, with Sheehan assigned to most of them. He drew an excellent save from Foderingham with one, and put another narrowly wide. Bradford also had a goal disallowed for offside after a ball into the box hadn’t been fully cleared.

Josh Lelan replaced Brad Smith for the six added minutes, and immediately conceded possession in a dangerous area. Bradford launched a break down the right which fortunately only resulted in a corner. Moments later, from a Sheehan cross, the flying save that Foderingham made to keep out Stephen Darby’s header was superb.

The final minute of stoppage time produced drama of a much more acceptable kind, when Sheehan decided, in his eternal wisdom, that if he were to punch Branco in the chest rather than the face, the officials might not notice. He was wrong, and the inevitable red card was followed seconds later by the final whistle. Full credit to our lads for showing each of the qualities required to grind out a win from, in my opinion, our most difficult match so far.

Here are my thoughts:

  1. Away Form

We have won two and drawn one of four away games to date and, crucially, have played well in each of them. Although these are early days, genuine progress appears to have been made from last season, when we averaged less than a point per game and put in a long list of poor (or worse) performances.

In view of the forthcoming run, this is just as well. Our scheduled home match against Preston on Saturday 11th October falls during an international weekend. As both sides postponed last week’s game due to call-ups, it seems unlikely to go ahead. We therefore face at least four consecutive away fixtures after next weekend’s match at home to Sheffield United; potentially five, if we win at Newport in the JPT and travel to Plymouth in the following round.

  1. Centre Backs

While there are various reasons behind our much improved away form, I believe that the current centre back personnel are high on the list. Last season’s most regular pair, Darren Ward and Grant Hall, seldom truly seemed up for the scrap required to win at somewhere like Bradford. You may have noticed that Bradford’s imposing striker James Hanson wasn’t mentioned by my report, and this is because Branco, Turnbull and Thompson, a trio who will mix the rough with the smooth, battled and fought their way through every second of the match. Last season, we were good enough to pass a fair few teams off the pitch, especially at home, but failed to challenge for promotion because we were one-dimensional, almost snobbish in our refusal to budge from “Plan A”. Not anymore.

If, as expected, Jack Stephens is soon fit to play, it will be interesting to see whether anyone makes way for him. Personally, as highly as I rate Stephens, I would allow him to wait his turn. In practice, I suspect that Branco could be the unlucky loser (possibly due, in part, to us wanting to keep Southampton onside by selecting both loanees). If so, I would urge Cooper to reconsider. In my opinion, Branco, more than anyone, offers the aerial dominance that we have tended to lack since losing Aden Flint. He also brings an attacking threat; one goal and two assists in five games shouldn’t be sniffed at. If his contract isn’t extended without delay, we risk losing an astute signing, who we have developed significantly, for nothing next summer.

  1. Attacking Set Pieces

I would be keen to know the last time we scored from two corners in a game. County Ground traditionalists will be delighted to hear that both deliveries were whipped directly into the box; in fact, I don’t think any of our eight corners were taken short. Presumably this was a conscious tactic (Bradford fans warned us in the pub beforehand that they keep conceding from set pieces), and it will be interesting to see whether it is repeated.

We’ll find out on Tuesday…

Eggstraordinary Easter….

Vic Morgan Blog

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

Two wins out of two and the play offs remain an outside possibility with just two Saturdays of the season to go. The first victory came bizarrely at Northampton against Coventry City. I found it difficult though out Friday’s game to remember we were playing the Sky Blues and not the Cobblers. An early goal gave us the lead we warranted, even though the match wasn’t the most exciting. A strike from nothing brought Cov level and it looked as though it may peter out into a draw.

Then a moment that Michael Smith will relish. A last minute winner at the Sixfields which brought on celebrations like the League Two win against Northampton a couple of years ago. This time it was a rampaging run by Wes Foderingham and not the manager that caught the eye. A great win and a happy journey back to Devon for a rare Saturday off and a chance to look forward to the home game against Bradford City. It seemed odd for the next couple of days. With football on Friday, it makes the following day seem like Sunday etc. So kind of weird.

Onto Monday then and the visit of the Bantams. A win was essential. Anything but and the last two matches would have been dead rubbers. It looked as though it was going to end that way until a rare goal decided the points. It was rare because it was from Lee Cox. A midfielder, who’s been an almost forgotten figure. His strike from the edge of the penalty area though, was a beauty. It came against an unambitious Bradford team who seemed very happy to take a point. There was a nice moment when Rafa DeVita was given a standing ovation.  It was a time that the Town fans could show their appreciation to a player who always gave his best in a Swindon shirt. It’s rare when a visiting player gets such a reception so it’s hopefully it’s something he’ll remember for a while.

Where does that leave us? Well it means the season is still alive. Peterborough United though must have the upper hand. Four points in front, with two to play. Still, nothing is certain in football and a win this weekend for the Town and a loss for Posh, would mean for a tense last weekend.

The game at Meadow Lane won’t be easy will it? County always make it difficult for the Wiltshire team. Another former Town man in the shape of Alan Sheehan is always capable of providing the killer cross. One thing that’s massively in Swindon’s favour, is the current defensive stability. Since his return, Troy Archibald-Henville has been excellent. Jack Stephens has been terrific and would be a great asset next season. Ralph Branco was very solid on Monday and deserved his Man of the Match award.  Whatever happens it’s been a season full of promise. Not many people would have put us in this position at this stage of the campaign. Will it have a happy ending? That remains to be seen. Of course there are always off the field things happening at STFC. We’ll leave that for another day, I still don’t understand them. For now it’s off to the East Midlands.

Keep it loud keep it proud keep it SWINDON.

Vic

Swindon Town 1-0 Bradford City: Seriously…what happened..?

Bradford City Gent

Another three points for Swindon Town at home to Bradford City just about kept Town in the race for the League One play-offs. However Ron Smith couldn’t watch most of the action so this is light on detail, but fortunately he didn’t miss much…

Swindon Town certainly know how to end a season with a run of five wins from six games in the lead up to the encounter with Bradford City. Peterborough in sixth were tantalisingly close and while a 4-1 victory for the Posh over Carlisle United today ensured the gap would remain four points, with two games remaining anything is possible although a Town finish in the play-offs does look highly unlikely.

For me, kid-a-quid ensured a second visit to the County Ground for my daughter. Now two and a half she already expected watching football involved plenty of goals having watched Town’s 5-2 victory over Port Vale back in early November. Clutching her toy Rockin’ Robin and fuelled by various snacks I diced watching the game with responsibilities of feeding / entertaining / pandering / comforting etc…

Not long after we arrived I needed to add consoling to those responsibilities. Where was Rockin’ Robin and why wasn’t he doing his Haka? It’s strange how a bloke in an oversized fluffy animal costume captivates toddlers and the lack of the pre-match ‘entertainment’ disappointed one little girl. “Where’s Rockin’ Robin? Where’s Rockin’ Robin?” was all I heard until ten minutes into the game. Given that the day was a kid-a-quid it seemed bizarre the mascot wasn’t there. Yes it’s Easter, but surely some tit willing to be dressed up as a mischievous bird for the afternoon could be found at the County Ground. So we had to make-do with Bradford’s Billy Bantam, itself a poor replacement for the ‘City Gent’. In the end I accepted her answer that Rockin’ Robin “had gone shopping”.

So to the game, what I watched of it. Mark Cooper made two changes with former forgotten man Lee Cox replacing Ben Gladwin and Miles Storey took Nathan Byrne’s place in a 3-5-2 / 3-4-1-2 with Alex Pritchard behind the front two. Michael Smith also received a slightly ironic and very loud cheer from the crowd to counter those boos “he’s been the target of recently”.

Amongst the parental duties it was fortunate that I have nothing significant to miss / report on those opening 45 minutes. The pace of the game was slow, Town didn’t have an answer to Bradford’s regimented back-line and even when creative Pritchard found space between the Bantam’s defence and midfield he frequently wasn’t the eventual target of the pass. Jay McEveley also spent the half wandering infield and compacting the already limited space, I guess under specific instructions. Apparently Wes Foderingham’s save from a Gary Jones free-kick was good, although I didn’t see that.

Finally, the second half witnessed Town not just content to play possession. A series of organised attacks, predominantly through the central to right side of the pitch allowed Town to finally make a breakthrough.

That goal came from an unlikely source. Former ‘outcast’ Lee Cox’s recent appearances have arisen following injuries to the five man midfield. In truth, apart from the goal he never looked to be needed as Bradford’s low risk football meant he had little to contend with. As for the goal, Pritchard’s initial blocked shot rebounded to Cox who was composed and alert enough to sweetly curl his shot into the bottom corner.

A captivating game this wasn’t. I was still hardly distracted to respond to the action on-the-pitch with the exceptions of a close-range header from Michael Smith and a few efforts from Pritchard. Away from the goal and as the half drew on, a series of fierce tackles from Bradford’s combative side didn’t even warrant enough attention from usually card-happy referee who was probably bored and was looking forwards to his drive home to Surrey.

At least there was a welcome standing ovation for a returning Rafa De Vita, which marked an innovative way of recognising a returning former Town player judging by recent crowd reactions.

This turned out to be Alex Pritchard’s final home game as the terms of his ‘youth loan’ from Spurs means he cannot play following his 21st birthday – small print I and many others missed. It’s a shame he’ll miss the Rotherham United game, however I’m sure he’ll be in attendance to bag the silver – not to prejudice our own player of the season vote later this week.

After a miraculous turnaround of the early 2014 results, Town have the form but are quickly running out of games to catch Peterborough. So for the remaining two games we can sit back and relax in the knowledge that Mark Cooper can actually manage a winning side and perhaps the youthful approach can match our ambitions for a real challenge for promotion in 2014/15.*

*Caution! – this is dependent on the continuing ownership saga  

As we return home and still disappointed the robin wasn’t gracing the pitch, she’ll need to make do with this…

 

 

 

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