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