This afternoon Swindon took on a top of the table Norwich City, who came into the match 7 points clear at the top and unbeaten in 4 games. City also boast two of the top players in League One this season, Holt and Hoolahan.
Swindon started the game at a gloomy County Ground with 3 changes from the midweek win away at Southampton. Jean-Francois came in for the injured Cuthbert in the centre of defence, Easton in for the suspended Ferry in the centre of midfield and new loan signing Frank Nouble partnering Austin up-front with Town reverting back to a 4-4-2.
Town dominated much of the first half as Norwich sat back content to play the waiting game to counter attack. Swindon were unjustly not given a penalty for a foul in the box on new boy Nouble who was under a strong challenge from Michael Nelson. Nouble was on a great run down the left and got the advantage over Nelson who clearly brought him down, but the referee waved away the protests and Norwich cleared to Holt up-front who had his shot blocked. As I see it the referee had two choices, to either give an obvious penalty, or to book Nouble for a dive, but he did neither. This was a sign of things to come as other poor refereeing decisions were made throughout the game against Town and to some extent Norwich.
The teams went in 0-0 at half time. It was a good and entertaining first half with several chances for both teams and exciting end-to-end football.
Not long into the second half Norwich capitalised on some lax play with our right-back Darby caught in possession, enabling Rose to deliver an excellent cross into the box, which was met perfectly by Holt who just got in-front of Jean-Francois. This goal came out of nothing and made it an even harder task for Town to get anything from the game.
Wilson was slow to regain the initiative after going a goal down. It wasn’t for another 14 minutes until Timlin replaced Easton and Marshall replaced Nouble. Then 10 minutes later Pericard came on for Austin.
Austin’s replacement was met with fairly widespread boos from the County Ground crowd who were unhappy with the new found talisman being substituted. Wilson’s reaction to the crowd’s view was startling, standing hands on hips, turned around to face the crowd, with a steely look of disbelief on hearing the boos. Austin had, as ever, never given up and was constantly chasing the ball down and dropping deep to regain possession. The problem wasn’t necessarily Austin coming off, rather it was the quality of his replacement Vincent Pericard, who has yet to score for Town and has been ineffective to say the least. Pericard is a complete contrast to Austin and I know who I’d want on the pitch whilst trying to get the equaliser in normal circumstances. However Austin was clearly tiring and suffering from the 3 games played this week. Wilson was therefore totally right to substitute him.
Town pushed forward in the final 15 minutes looking for the equaliser. Two further penalty appeals in 5 minutes from challenges on Douglas and Marshall in the box which were waved away by the referee. Sheeham then saw his well taken free kick pushed away by Forster in the Norwich goal, but there was no Town player available to capitalise on the rebound. Ward then was able to shoot, but again turned away for a corner by Forster. From further pressure and another corner taken by Sheeham, Gordon Greer was able to escape his marker and tower above to head the ball into the net deep in time added on, giving Forster no chance, sending the County Ground into raptures. 1-1! Greer shows what a magnificent leader he is by his performance today, also by his and his teammates reactions at the end of the game.
The equaliser was the last action of the game and it is Town who snatch a deserved equaliser, a great point and an important point in the push for the play-offs. Town achieved exactly what we hoped they would. Norwich must be sick they couldn’t hold on for the win, but surely they can’t argue as 1-1 was the fair result.
Other results were positive, Charlton could only draw 2-2 in the local derby with Gillingham and Colchester lost at Walsall. Leeds are set to play Millwall in a key game on Monday night. Outside of the play-offs MK Dons hopes took a big dent with a 3-0 defeat by Southampton and Huddersfield gained ground winning 2-0 at Leyton Orient.