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