Crewe-sing at the County Ground

Vic Morgan Blog

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

Don’t know about you, but I was shocked by Crewe’s performance last Saturday. Usually a team that likes to play football, our fellow railway team came, saw and kind of rolled over.

Even after Yaser Kasim’s superb opener the visitors showed little stomach for the fight. It made for a rather tedious contest. No fault of Swindon’s of course. The Town dominated and deservedly won. It would’ve been nice to see a competitive game though and the visitors supporters can’t have been happy making their way home. However three points to push Swindon into the top six has to be good and it continues the decent start to the season.

It was then onto the League Cup and the visit of Brighton.

A bright opening to the game threatened the Seagulls goal and it looked a likely shock. Then came a thunderbolt. One of the best goals seen at the County Ground in many a match. A ball from the left, a first time volley from distance and Brighton were in front. It was something to admire and many Town fans showed their appreciation.

So how would the Town react? Well in style is the answer. Some superb football led to a deserved equaliser just after the break from Louis Thompson. It was great to watch. Sadly even thought the quality was good, the result eventually went away from us despite a magnificent Kasim midfield display capped off with his second goal in two games.

The big worry though is the effect of the game on this weekend. Injuries will leave Swindon depleted for the visit of Coventry. There’s also a suspension for skipper Nathan Thompson after his rather pointless dismissal in the last minute of extra time. Just how depleted we’ll find out Saturday afternoon. I’m guessing though, that Nathan is regretting the challenge which saw him sent off and Brighton get a fourth.

The ups and downs of football have once again been highlighted by another managerial sacking. Two months ago most were shocked by the appointment of former Town full back Dave Hockaday as head coach of Leeds. An up for him, followed by this weeks down. It’s not for me to comment on another clubs dealings, but it all seems rather bizarre at Elland Road.

So the Sky Blues are here Saturday.

Keep it loud, keep it proud, keep it Swindon.

Washbag Podcast: Episode 34 – A comfortable start?

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Episode #34 of TheWashbag.com Swindon Town FC Podcast is now available to download…

Host Ron Smith is joined by two guests to discuss the opening fortnight to the 2014/15 season – Town fans Iain Watkins and Adam Tanner.

The three focus on the dubious red card received by Louis Thompson at Crawley; Town’s comfortable 2-0 victory over Crewe Alexandra; the potential reasons for declining attendances at the County Ground; the impact of international call-ups; a quick laugh at Oxford United’s run of form; and a preview of the midweek League Cup tie with Brighton.

The next podcast returns soon…

Get involved with the podcast, please submit your questions by emailing thewashbag[at]gmail[dot]com or tweet @thewashbag

Subscribe to TheWashbag Podcast on iTunes

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Click here to download the Podcast MP3

Listen now…

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Swindon 2-0 Crewe: Town in total control

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Calvin Hothi sees Mark Cooper’s team slowly dismantle a Crewe team intent on defending.

As I strolled into my seat for my first game of the season, you could have forgiven me and the rest of the 6,000-odd spectators in the ground for expecting a Swindon walkover. Previous home games against Crewe have seen us score three, four or even five goals but this one didn’t live up to those expectation. Manager Mark Cooper made one change going into the game with Louis Thompson replacing an unfit Massimo Luongo.

For the first ten minutes both teams tested the water with not many opportunities coming to fruition, Crewe were awarded several free kicks as neither team could work into a rhythm. Town played around the back and seemed content to remain patient while looking for gaps. Yaser Kasim fired a harmless free kick at goal on 16 minutes. The first moment of real intent from Swindon came from Brad Smith bursting down the left, beating his man but he was unable to find anyone with his delivery into the box. The Liverpool loanee then fired an overhit ball into the box, which would be a common occurance.

Then came the first clear cut chance of the game, Ben Gladwin picked the ball up and drove into the Crewe half, his ball found Yaser Kasim in the box who should have done better than to shoot at ‘keeper Ben Garratt. The Robins were in control of the game and chances fell for Nathan Byrne, Louis Thompson and Andy Williams who all couldn’t find a way to beat Garratt.

Andy Williams had a penalty claim turned down before Brad Smith should have finished, but had his effort held by Crewe’s goalie.

The breakthrough came on 31 minutes when Louis Thompson was hacked down and a free kick was awarded. Kasim and Gladwin both stood over the ball before Kasim unleashed a beauty of a chip which landed in the top left corner and gave Garratt no chance. It was his first of the season, and only third in Town colours.

Chris Atkinson replaced Jamie Ness for Crewe in the first change of the game. Swindon continued to be dominant in possession and Crewe rarely threatened as the first half faded out. Crosses from Gladwin and Brad Smith failed to find anyone before the referee signalled the end of the first period.

It had been a very dominant first half from Swindon, who controlled possession and managed to carve out several good chances. Kasim’s free kick was an absolute peach of an effort but Crewe didn’t offer much in reply.

The sides came out unchanged for the second half and Swindon continued where they left off, two chances for Michael Smith went begging as the Robins went to kill off the game. Balls from the wing-backs were regularly gathered by Crewe’s keeper.

Swindon nearly got themselves two in front when a Brad Smith’s cross (one of his few good ones) found the head of Michael Smith who could only strike the bar with his effort. Several corners came to nothing as Louis Thompson’s effort flew wide. Garratt had to be on hand to tip another dangerous Kasim free kick over with Town not having to break a sweat.

There was a rare scare for Town as Wes Foderingham flapped at a cross but Crewe were unable to take advantage as he scurried back onto his line. Swindon remained intent on using the short corner routine but it usually didn’t end well for them.

The killer goal came on 76 minutes as Branco won the ball deep in Crewe’s half, Williams picked it up and drove into the Crewe box, with Byrne and Smith his options left and right. The former Yeovil man decided to take it on himself and finished left footed past Garratt to kill off the tie – his second goal in as many games.

Jack Barthram came onto replace Brad Smith in the 82nd minute and a double change for Crewe saw Vadaine Oliver and Bradden Inman replace Lee Molyneux and Marcus Haber. Swindon remained patient playing it around the back and though midfield with Crewe content to have the game petter out.

Crewe did come to life for a brief moment but nothing came to fruition for the Railway men. George Barker replaced Gladwin and with nothing coming from three minutes of injury time, Swindon ran out 2-0 winners.

It was a good win for Swindon but the side were not really tested throughout the 90 minutes, The team didn’t have to break a sweat as they carved out several good chances. Brad Smith showed good pace on the left but his final ball is definitely lacking as the groans from around the ground showed on regular occasions. Michael Smith and Andy Williams seem to be linking up well up top and while it may not be perfect yet, it looks like it could turn into something very dangerous in the near future. Kasim controlled play again today and Jordan Turnbull looked good in the back three.

While three points were picked up, I think the coming tests of Brighton and Coventry will give a much better assessment of where the side is currently. Crewe looked dangerously devoid of ideas and I would tip them to go down to League Two this year.

While the starting eleven played well, the bench looked dangerously short of options, scholars Tom Holland and Lee Marshall were once again handed spaces and I think we need to strengthen before the end of the window. A centre back and striker in the mould of Michael Smith are needed for cover. Barker and Connor Waldon can fill in for Williams if necessary, that paired with Anton Rodgers return from injury should see a good campaign for Town who may nick a play off place come the end of the season.

My man of the match went to Yaser Kasim who I thought was brilliant throughout and my disappointing performance award goes to Brad Smith who had one of those days where not much went right and only highlights was his ability to beat his man.

Town are back in action Tuesday night in the Capitol One Cup where the take on Sami Hypia’s Brighton and Hove Albion at the County Ground.

Hope to see you there
COYR!

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Had our chips…

Vic Morgan Blog - Had Our Chips 1

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

A trip to Crewe doesn’t always fill you with great enthusiasm. I suppose if you’re a railway enthusiast and from Swindon you have a common bond with that place in Staffordshire. There’s another reason to look forward to Gresty Road and that’s the excellent chip shop situated adjacent to the ground.

Another similarity to our own revered venue. At times also when you look quickly the main grandstand it reminds you of the Arkells. Yes many things seem the same. Both clubs have spent most of their histories in the lower divisions and both have aspired to play decent football. So I guess a draw was always on the cards.

Swindon though will feel that they should have won. Certainly their possession of the football for large periods suggested they should have. However but for a comical penalty miss they would have found themselves behind at the break. When I say comical I was falling about laughing at the sheer majesty of the miss. Nathan Byrne’s extraordinary twisting run led to Ryan Harley’s first goal for the Town. A thunderous effort only matched by the home sides equaliser. So a draw and to be honest I felt that was fair and a point on the road is always acceptable. As were the chips.

No midweek game but international appearances by two Swindon midfielders. Congratulations to Massimo Luongo and Yaser Kasim. Recognition for them and for the club as well. Let’s hope it leads to more call ups from their respective countries.

As for England? Paint a wall and watch it dry, that would be far more exciting. I don’t know why I bother to watch our national team. The football is about as exciting as toothache. At least the introduction of the younger players after the break led to a bit more urgency. Of course they’re just misleading us their performance in the World Cup will be staggering and they’ll return with the trophy.

Wake up. Okay.

A Saturday home game is a real treat these days. Whether a visit from MK Dons is a treat I’ll leave you to judge. A win though would keep us in the play offs shake up. It’ll be necessary because three days later the Wolves come hunting. That’s going to be one of the highlights of the season without a doubt. Very much looking forward to a cracker if the first game in the West Midlands is anything to go by.

Busy few days then. Keep it loud keep it proud keep it SWINDON.

Vic

Crewe Alexandra 1-1 Swindon Town: Minus the chips…

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Mike Minihane usually writes about events 50 years ago, this time he’s up to date with Swindon Town’s visit to Crewe Alexandra…

Last season I went to Crewe on a Tuesday evening in October to see Swindon Town lose a game that we dominated. Now I was hoping for better, with Crewe just off the relegation places, in poor form and with an injury list even longer than ours. There was one important difference from my previous visit, even before the kick-off. Last year I was surrounded by Crewe fans eating chips and gravy purchased from the chipper in Gresty Road and I started to drool in a rather unsightly way. This time round I was prepared but when I tried to go through the turnstile with my chip bap (a very generous portion of chips and great value at £1.50) I was politely told that the club no longer allowed chips to be taken in, presumably because it does little for the sale of their own pies. Time was going on, so I had to wolf down my bap like someone who hasn’t seen food for a week.

I like Crewe. There’s an excellent unrestricted view from the main (home) stand where I ended up having bought my ticket locally, probably the best I’ve experienced in Leagues 1 and 2. A quite friendly home crowd too. The sun was shining, there was no wind and the playing surface was good, so no excuses there.

Swindon started well, half a yard quicker than them in midfield and playing some neat, probing passing. Crewe were not getting out of their half and the locals were becoming predictably, and increasingly, restless. All it need was for us to turn our clear superiority into a goal, and on 15 minutes we should have done so when Jacob Murphy’s neat pass put in Michael Smith one on one with their keeper only for him to put his shot too close to the ‘keeper who made a decent save. As strikers’ chances go it was pretty much as good as you get. Five minutes later another chance went begging as Nathan Thompson was played in by Iraq-bound Yaser Kasim and although the angle wasn’t good he should’ve done better than shoot tamely past the far post, when a square pass to Smith was the better option.

It wasn’t until five minutes before half time that Crewe really got into Town’s half and an ironic cheer went up from the home crowd as they forced a corner. A couple of minutes later Ryan Harley was adjudged to have handled by an eagle-eyed, and obviously very keen, assistant referee. The referee didn’t see the incident but the penalty was given. It all looked innocuous from where I was sitting. Up stepped the superbly named Chucks Aneke and with the crowd sensing a totally unjustified half time lead coming up, Chucks blazed hopelessly and wildly over the bar. The disgruntled home crowd were now incandescent and most left their seats to get in the pie queue.

That had clearly been a let off for us and we started the second half with purpose. Three minutes in Nathan Byrne literally danced through their defence and laid off to Harley who hit a left foot screamer into the top corner. It was a goal that would have graced any league. Shortly afterwards a good effort from Massimo Luongo shaved the bar, a second goal then and it would have been game over.

Crewe took off the ineffective Byron Moore (who scored twice against us last season) and his replacement, Billy Waters immediately gave them more threat. We stared to sit deeper and, encouraged by the possession they were now getting, Crewe sensed that they could get something out of the game; all the more so when Aneke hit the bar with a great effort from distance. A minute later the inevitable happened and Vadaine Oliver, who’d only been on the pitch two minutes after replacing Pogba, picked up a miss-header by Kasim and hit a volley from 25 yards that looped over Tyrell Belford. The young ‘keeper who would only have had a chance of saving if he’d been on his line. As it was he was two yards off it, I don’t blame him for that given the run of play at the time.

We endured a rather fraught final 15 minutes as the home side, buoyed by the prospect of a win that hadn’t looked in the least likely for most of the game came at us. However Swindon’s defence held firm without any degree of the panic that has been apparent in previous games.

To sum up, this was a game we should have won and could have lost. I felt it was a good performance overall. Our midfield was committed and creative and defensively we were solid. Belford dealt well with crosses and looked confident. Darren Ward and Troy Archibald-Henville looked comfortable and unflustered and the full backs got forward well at every opportunity. What we lacked was a cutting edge up front, with it we’d have won very comfortably. There were very good contributions from Luongo, Harley and Archibald-Henville, but for me the man of the match was Byrne, always a threat going forward and his footwork to set up Harley’s goal was a pure delight.

Vic Morgan Blog: Crewe-se Control…

Vic Morgan

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

When was the last time you saw a Swindon Town side so dominate a game?

When Town got the third against Crewe just after the break, it was all one way traffic. At what football it was. Really attractive on the eye.  Anybody watching that (apart from the visiting supporters) must surely have enjoyed it and gone away thinking this was a team which has massive potential. I don’t think I spoke to anyone who was there who wasn’t impressed. They weren’t getting carried away. We’ve seen false dawns in the past and we will again. But surely this is a side which will only get better.

The afternoon’s events were quickly followed by news of a three year contract for Massimo Luongo.  Early season has shown he’s a player that shows great promise and it’s a great piece of business for Swindon. Massimo is likely to have a huge impact in how we play in the future. Along with the likes of Yasser Kasim, and the two Ryan’s Harley and Mason, he helps make up a very useful midfield. As I say early days but the signs are more than good.

No need to moan this week then.

It makes the anticipation for the MK Dons match even greater. I don’t think anyone is under any illusions that our away form hasn’t been good in the league. But perhaps this Saturday is a good time to put it right in an almost local derby. We also have new forwards to see. It appeared at one stage that National Express had been hired to bring Swindon’s latest signings to the County Ground. Much to get excited about, but as I say, not get carried away.

On Wednesday I attended the funeral of Ian Ratcliffe. A life-long Swindon fan who died at the shockingly young age of 50. It’s at times like that when you realise the amount of friends you’ve come to know because of following a football team. Normally you only get to see them on a Saturday. But there’s a bond between us that won’t ever be broken. I’m not a sentimental person normally. However I couldn’t help but reflect on the train back to Devon that football isn’t just a game it’s a way of life for many of us. Without it, and the friends we make, our lives wouldn’t be the same. Maybe at times we’d be happier, but we’d miss out of the huge range of emotions that go with 22 men kicking a ball about. Rest in Peace Ian, you got the send-off you deserved.

So to the weekend and an early start for the trip to Milton Keynes. TV coverage again means our kick off time is moved from the traditional 3 0’clock. I’m very much looking forward to the game in the comfort of the vast and under populated Stadium MK. Our record in recent times isn’t great in Buckinghamshire but with a decent surface and our current form it’s a game we can approach with confidence.

Keep it loud keep it proud keep it SWINDON.
Vic

Swindon Town 5 Crewe Alexandra 0: Wrecking Crewe (Again)…

Wrecking Crew

We’ve used the title ‘Wrecking Crewe’ to describe two previous Swindon Town versus Crewe Alexandra games at the County Ground and this time won’t be any different. Adam Tanner was there to witness the perfect end to a fantastic week.

Town approached the game on the back of a superb performance and result at QPR, but with a modest haul of 4 points from four League One matches. Performances had varied considerably, although the two home games had produced plenty of clear positives. 7 points had been my personal target at the start of August. To achieve this, a win would be required.

Two changes were made from the side that started on Tuesday. Jay McEveley replaced the injured Alex Smith at left back, and Ryan Mason replaced his namesake Ryan Harley in midfield for his first start since 6th August.

The first half an hour was uneventful in terms of clear cut chances. Town patiently and accurately knocked the ball around, but without any real zest or purpose. Neither side managed an attempt of note, and a couple of Swindon corners were really as good as it got. At this stage, I suspected that Crewe would be the happier side; they had achieved the clichéd away team objective of frustrating the hosts and establishing themselves in the game.

The first real chance came when Nile Ranger intercepted a square ball and showed a decent turn of pace to bear down on goal. Unfortunately, his touch deserted him at the critical moment. The ball was smothered by the keeper and, with penalty claims relating to a tug by one of the backtracking defenders waved away, the moment was gone.

A couple of minutes later, McEveley drifted infield to intercept a loose ball, before playing a simple pass forward to Yaser Kasim. His through ball for Ranger was perfectly weighted, and this time the one-on-one finish was emphatic, hard and low to the left of the keeper. 1-0.

With half time approaching, a second goal emerged from nowhere. Massimo Luongo collected the ball down the left and effortlessly breezed forward 30 yards, aided by a smart one-two with Mason. Regardless of what he says, I daren’t believe that a player of Luongo’s ilk might overhit a cross. I’ll resolutely stick to my belief that his left-footed delivery from wide of the area was aimed at the inside of the far post, which it clipped on its way into the net… and let you make your own judgment call as to whether he had been targeting the lurking Nathan Byrne. Either way, his permanent signing is terrific news, and an immense compliment to the club.

The second half began perfectly. Town almost immediately worked their way forward, and the impressive Nathan Thompson fizzed in a 20-yard left-footed drive, which Alan Martin could only beat back into play. Crewe missed a couple of chances to fully clear, before the superb Kasim dispossessed Kelvin Mellor with a fine tackle, turned his man inside out, and set Mason through on goal inside the left of the area with another expertly weighted ball. His quickly-taken finish across the keeper was crisp and accurate. It seems astonishing that, at 22, Kasim had a single Football League appearance behind him prior to August. Full credit to whoever was responsible for tracking him down. We really are spoiled for choice in central midfield, to the extent that to play any less than three in there would seem wasteful.

Town soon scored again, for the fourth time in around 20 minutes. Not for the first or last time, McEveley and Pritchard linked up nicely down the left. Pritchard played a killer through ball for Ranger, and his presence inside the area drew a lunging foul from the advancing keeper, who escaped with a yellow card. Mason drilled his penalty hard and low into the left of the net.

The fifth goal wasn’t too far behind. Substitute Harley played Alex Pritchard in down the left, and as he jinked into the area no visiting defender dared to make a challenge. He eventually cut inside and hit a goalbound right-footed shot, which Mason helped in with a slight touch. It’s been a while since we’ve regularly had a pure, ‘old-school’ winger like Pritchard in the team. Like all players of his type, he can occasionally be overindulgent, and Di Canio would never have had the patience for him.  But he’s a genuine talent, and will improve further as he learns the ropes of lower league football.

By now, Town were really purring. Jay McEveley, who has still never scored for Swindon, arrived late to head a fine Nathan Thompson cross just wide at the far post. Harley then had a dig, with a fierce 20-yarder that could only be parried away. A lively cameo from debutant Nicky Ajose shouldn’t go unmentioned, and he whipped in an excellent low cross which a teammate really should have attacked.

Deep into stoppage time, Ranger was brought down by Mark Ellis to win another penalty. Mason grabbed the ball again, but this time his shot was too close to Martin, who beat it away. He therefore failed to become the second Town player in 2013 to manage four goals in 45 minutes.

Even so, there was still time for Nathan Thompson, once again steaming in late at the back post, to clip the bar with a strong header. One short year ago, his career seemed rudderless; he had made it to 21 without ever gaining a run in the side. Since finally getting his chance, he has generally been nothing short of excellent. He defends resolutely, and with the nous and composure of a far more experienced head. His crossing ability is good, and he can evidently offer a goal threat. What’s more, he clearly takes great pride in playing for Swindon. I hope Paul Caddis enjoys watching him from the stands as much as I do.

It’s been a terrific week, and it now seems bizarre to think that 14 short days ago we limped to a tame defeat at Shrewsbury. So what’s changed?

  1. Nathan Byrne definitely seems more comfortable and effective on the wing than at fullback. His pace and directness are a useful complement to the slower and more elaborate style of Pritchard. Meanwhile, Jay McEveley adds steel, experience and aerial presence to the defence. When Byrne plays back there, he still tends to commit himself too easily.
  2. In the 3 games that Nile Ranger has started, we have scored 9 goals. In the 4 that Andy Williams (remember him?) began, we managed 2. Without doing anything remarkable, Ranger has challenged for headers, held the ball up, laid it off, drawn fouls… and scored some goals.  All the little things that a good forward should do. Another astute signing.
  3. With 6 of those 9 goals having come from midfield, it looks as if we are set for a regular flow from the middle, for the first time in many years. Notably, Luongo has scored 4 goals in his last 9 league games. Mason obviously has 3 from his last 1. Byrne and Pritchard have also contributed. By contrast, striker Williams managed 1 in his last 14.
  4. Grant Hall is quickly learning the ropes. A few of the early goals that we conceded could be traced back to him. But he hasn’t panicked, and has made the necessary adjustments to his style without losing the “ball-playing centre-half” label that seems so pivotal to our system. During the last 2 games, against footballing sides, he has been faultless. Now, he must learn to deal better with physical opponents. If he can do so, he’ll be a great success.

It’s worth remembering that our next 2 games are both away to strong sides, and we are yet to manage an away point or goal in the league. But to have a team capable of doing what ours has done this week is significant. As per my previous article, the strong start will enable us to approach a tough month with real confidence. I for one can’t wait for next Saturday.

What could possibly go wrong?…

Neither TheWashbag or the contribution are responsible for the video

Vic Morgan Blog: Does It Feel Better Yet..?

Vic Morgan

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

Its amazing how different things can feel in the space of three days isn’t it?

Last Saturday after the game at Sheffield United things looked rather bleak. There were a lot of bemused faces on the supporters’ coaches after another disappointing afternoon. It felt like the Town were involved in a relegation scrap rather than looking for promotion.

Quite frankly Swindon were battered by a team that were stronger in most departments and obviously fired up after a change in manager.

It was difficult to see when and if another win would come. There were one or two bright moments. The debut of Mark Francis showed a lot of promise and its great to see another of the club’s youth products coming through.

Three days later and it is another scenario altogether. Four goals, three points and the play offs beckon. A lot of the doom and gloom was lifted and KMAC gets his first victory at the County Ground. Another win on Saturday against Stevenage and Swindon once again get invited to the end of season after party.

This at a time when clearly resources are somewhat stretched at the County Ground. Injuries have taken their toll and squad selection becomes a bit of a problem. Here’s hoping then that no further problems arise on that front and we can go into the post season with as clean a bill of health as possible.

While all of the above is very important to us as football fans other events this week have put a lot of things into perspective. The Boston marathon bombings have left an indelible mark on the past few days. Many of us have taken part in or supported similar races in the past and so can empathise with those affected. I wish all those caught up in Monday’s explosions all the best for the future.

This week also marked the anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. Sadly one of the campaigners for the truth of that terrible day passed away on Thursday: Anne Williams, who lost her son Kevin at that FA Cup semi final, died at the age of 62. After years of campaigning Anne and her colleagues in the battle for justice are getting to the truth. A fitting epitaph.

So to Saturday. One more win and then we’re guaranteed extra matches and that post-season lottery know as the play offs. Its been a long and exhausting campaign. I guess we’ll just have to put in that little bit more. I don’t think we’ll need much persuading.

One more thing. I know much more is being said elsewhere about this and by much more qualified people than I who are far more informed to comment than I am as a humble season ticket holder. But its time for a clear statement of intent from our football club’s owners.

Lets dispel all the rumours once and for all and tell us where we’re going. I’ll leave it up to the better qualified people to get the answers.

For the moment though keep it loud keep it proud keep it SWINDON.

Vic

Swindon 4 Crewe 1: Resurgent Reds go on Wrecking Crewe

Wrecking Crew 2

Swindon Town added 3 more points to their overall tally in their chase for a Play Off spot and kept the dream of promotion to the Championship alive writes STFC007.

The game started off in a blistering pace with the Town players full of passion and determination, passing the ball well and putting Crewe under constant pressure. The game was a joy to watch, especially the first half.

Town were due this performance, not only for the fans but also for the players themselves. The football on display during successive away defeats against Doncaster, MK Dons and Sheffield United was in sharp contrast to earlier in the season, when Town swept aside teams with ease.

The disappointment of dropping so many points at home recently – with only Bury holding a worse six games home form record – and not picking up many points away either, saw Town drop from Top of the League to the last Play-Off position in less than two months. The lack of points together with poor recent performances triggered a human reaction – the need to apportion blame.

As our chances of automatic promotion disappeared, fans started questioning MacDonald’s perceived lack of passion, the formation (4-5-1 vs. 4-4-2), his tactics, timing of substitutions and even some fans felt compelled to directly confront players via social media; it all became a bit silly.

Today’s performance had character, passion and self belief; key ingredients that were missing from those recent disappointing games. The home crowd were behind the team the entire match, applauding every effort even if the final ball lacked accuracy.

Swindon were pressing high up the pitch hunting in packs leaving Crewe very little time on the ball and forcing mistakes. Swindon’s opener came early on. McCormack’s free kick, after Williams was pushed in the back, was headed back across goal by Flint at the back post and helped into the back of the net by Adam Rooney.

It was a perfect start to steady the nerves.

There was a minute’s applause on 9 minutes in support of Andy Rowland, the former Swindon Town prolific goal scorer, who fell ill recently. The 77 Crewe fans who made the trip to the County Ground all joined in. Thank you.

Crewe did have chances but it was our opponents turn this time to be out of luck. There was some excellent last-ditch defending with some great tackles from both Flint and Byrne which made sure Town did not concede.

The defining moment in the match came on 17 minutes when Williams headed a ball off the line after a collision between Flint and Foderingham from a Crewe corner. Instead of an equaliser, we scored at the other end to make it 2-0. Ferry closed a Crewe defender down and from the poor clearance, it was McCormack who again whipped in a high curling cross, this time from the right, which was volleyed by Roberts back into the path of Luongo whose diving header was well out of reach of the Crewe goalkeeper Martin.

All outfield players got together to celebrate the goal which shows of the togetherness in the side. There was no letting up though, the chasing and closing down continued, orchestrated by Alan McCormack. At some stage he sprinted 50 yards to close down a ball near the touchline with a well timed tackle. No lack of effort from any of the players, everyone played his part; even Williams who sometimes can give up the chase a bit too easily if the ball is not within easy reach, chased down players each and every time.

It was 3-0 not long after. The impressive Luongo delivered a corner at the near post and Rooney’s glancing header found the back of the net at the far post. An impressive display overall with our midfield combining very well supported offensively by both Byrne and Devera on either flank.

Crewe had two great chances just before half time. A long throw in wasn’t dealt with properly by Ward who headed the ball back into the melee of players and Moore’s shot hit the crossbar. It was another poor headed clearance from Ward which gave Crewe’s Elliot a chance but his volley went well over.

The referee received applause for the way he dealt with a foul from Luongo just before the break. Rather than showing him a yellow card, which would have been fair, he had a chat instead – which was a sensible decision at the time.

In the second half, Roberts should have been on the score-sheet twice. He had the ball in the back of the net from a Rooney cross but was adjudged to have controlled the ball with his hand. The second chance came from a Ferry cross on the right, but instead of passing it in the net, he miscontrolled it and walked it past the post. It was good we were 3-0 up by then.

Ferry – who seemingly was carrying an injury – made way for Collins, with Williams dropping into midfield. This change had an impact on the balance in midfield allowing Crewe more time on the ball and execute some effective counter attacks, but luckily their lack of finishing .

Crewe scored their only goal from the penalty spot in the 70th minute via one such counter attack. Town’s midfield were caught out of position and the ball was allowed to end up in the space between Flint and Foderingham. Flint was unable to make up the ground between himself and the attacker. After an initial hesitation, Wes decided to come out but never got near the ball and instead clipped the Crewe player. A yellow card and a penalty straight through the middle made it 3-1.

Collins’ interception of some poor defending put him one on one with the Crewe goalkeeper. James kept his cool and placed the ball in the right hand side of the goal making it 4-1 on 71 minutes.

Crewe could have pulled back another following an off-side which wasn’t given, but Wes Foderingham made sure Crewe only scored the one. The game was over by now and late on in the game Mark Francis made his home debut in place of Andy Williams followed by a Rooney swap with Luke coming on for Adam.

It was a great team display with everyone willing to play for each other. Adam Rooney with his 2 goals was voted Man of the Match by the match sponsors. Deservedly so as he worked ever so hard and was on the score sheets twice.

My Man of the Match was Massimo Luongo. His contribution in midfield today was selfless. It was a pleasure to watch him link up with Ferry and he did not forget his defensive duties either. His excellent technique and vision allows him that little extra time being able to make things happen as a result.

For now, Town have answered their critics; not just by the getting the 3 points, but in the way they go them. Three more point from the last 2 League games will secure a Play Off place. I don’t really want to look beyond that, but if the improved performance can be sustained, who knows…….

Next Stop: Stevenage this Saturday at the County Ground for the all important 3 points.

Match Preview: Swindon Town vs Crewe

Gresty Road Crewe

Form Guide… 

6th placed Swindon lost 2-0 at Sheffield United at the weekend to make three defeats in a row and five games without a victory. Town are 20th in the League One form table with one win, two draws and three defeats, which is hardly promotion form at the business end of the season…

At the County Ground, Town have drawn their previous three games and are without a win in six games. Their last victory as hosts was on the 19th January and a 2-0 win over Shrewsbury Town. As hosts, Swindon are 23rd in the form table with five draws and one defeat.

Johnstone’s Paint Trophy winners Crewe Alexandra are 13th with 58 points and only a mid-table position to play for. Alex’ have lost their previous two games and 17th in the form table with two wins, one draw and three defeats.

On their Travels, Crewe drew 2-2 at Bury in their previous League One away game and are 11th in the form table with two wins, two draws and two defeats.

Swindon-Town-FC.co.uk Head-to-Head…

In all League, FA Cup and Football League competitions, Town have faced Crewe on 27 occasions, winning 11, drawing 4 and defeated 12 times; scoring 26 and conceding 29.

At the County Ground, Swindon have a record of 7 wins, 3 draws and 3 defeats, scoring 15 and conceding 9.

Swindon have been beaten in the two previous meetings, in which Crewe scored two goals in each game.

Crewe haven’t won in Swindon in three visits. Their last victory being a 3-1 win in December 2002.

Town have only failed to score twice as hosts versus Crewe.

The Stats…

Defence Attack
  STFC (Hosts) r Crewe (Away) r   STFC (Hosts) r Crewe (Away) r
Shots Against Per Game 5.7 1 14.1 24 Shots For Per Game 11.6 13 8.5 19
% Shots Against on Target 37.8% 1 53.4% 19 % Shots For on Target 45.7% 20 59.2% 2
% Save Rate 68.9% 21 77.9% 10 % Strike Rate 15.2% 2 15.1% 3
Corners Against Per Game 3.2 2 5 5 Corners Won Per Game 7.5 2 4.6 19
Possession Conceded 47.7% 9 51% 8 Possession Won 52.3% 9 49% 8
R = rank: The ranking shown for each measure indicates the efficiency of the sides against the rest of the division as either hosts or the away side | 1 equals the best and 24 is the worst | TheWashbag.com

As hosts Swindon do remain efficient in defence, however the problem remains the odd defensive lapse giving the opposition the one and only chance they need to frustrate Town.

Equally worrying is the lack of goals with only 3 scored in the 6 games since the 2-0 win over Shrewsbury. Comparing Swindon’s attacking efficiency between before the Hartlepool game and now, it’s interesting to see that Town have improved in terms of shots for per game (11.4 to 11.6), corners won per game (7.2 to 7.5) and increased possession (51.8% to 52.3%), however a lack of clinical shooting and a 4.3% drop in shots on target appears to be the main culprit in reducing the % strike rate from 18.7% to 15.2%.

Crewe are the opposite in attack, having few chances per game from fair amount of possession, yet they know how to find the back of the net with 59.2% of all shots on target and a effective strike rate of 15.1%.

SCORED 1-15 16-30 31-45 45+ 46-60 61-75 76-90 90+
STFC (as hosts) 6  7 5 0 4 8 6 1
Crewe (away) 5  3 5 1 4 4 4 1

Swindon typically start strong as hosts having opened the scoring in eight of their previous eleven games at the County Ground. Opening the scoring has been crucial to Town’s success with Swindon losing their previous two games as host when conceding first – versus Brentford and Bury.

Crewe’s goals scored are spread around relatively equally throughout the 90 minutes…

CONCEDED 1-15 16-30 31-45 45+ 46-60 61-75 76-90 90+
STFC (as hosts) 2 1 3 0 4 3 1 0
Crewe (away) 8 7 3 1 4 2 8 2

Swindon’s goal conceded at home versus Walsall in the 90th minute was our first in the later phase of the game as hosts this season.

Crewe appear to be susceptible at conceding early in games and in the final 15 minutes plus stoppages.

In their previous two away games, Crewe have  conceded four goals, all in the second half.

My prediction… 

We surely must win and Town cannot settle for a draw or defeat. All the sides down to Crawley in 11th are thinking they are the ones to mount a late push for the play-off place and their sights are firmly set on Swindon’s faltering form.

It’ll probably be another draw, probably goalless…

Come on You Reds!