A Weak Week…

Vic Morgan Blog

It’sFriday, so it must be time for the latest weekly review by BBC Devon’s Vic Morgan.

Been a bit uninspiring this week, hasn’t it?

The trip to Crewe wasn’t too bad. After all a point away from home is always welcome. The game itself was memorable for a couple of sendings off and a referee who booked just about everybody in the ground.

Unfortunately the match also saw a nasty injury to Louis Thompson. One of the Town’s best players this season suffered a shoulder problem after falling awkwardly in the second half. Hopefully we’ll see him back before the end of the campaign.

As for the football on display? Well in the main it wasn’t great. I suppose earlier in the season Swindon would have done enough to grab the win but in truth a draw was just about right. At least the chippy was worth the wait.

I’ve always been impressed by Crewe’s Gresty Road ground. In a lot of ways it reminds me of the County Ground. I guess the very large main stand is reminiscent of the Arkells. The rest of it is rather bijou and compact. Decent and comfortable with delicious cheese, potato and onion pies.

Gresty Road Crewe 2015

So a goalless Saturday and a feeling of indifference really.

One thing that’s beginning to annoy me is the amount of midweek games at the moment. Because of work commitments, going to games on a Tuesday is difficult. I hate missing Town matches. It’s an evening of pacing around at work checking any source I can to keep tabs on the score.

Mind you by all accounts, missing the Gillingham game saved a lot of anguish…

It appears that our team is struggling at the moment. I can understand fans frustration when things aren’t going well. However there are several things to bear in mind. It’s been a great season and would you have accepted fourth place in League One had it been offered to you back in August?

Another is that’s a young team still learning the game. Many of these players haven’t been through a full league season. Maybe fatigue is setting in. Maybe it’s just a pure and simple lack of form. Who knows the real reason, but one things for sure nobody looses and plays badly on purpose.

Saturday sees the home game against Notts County. The first meeting between the sides saw a brilliant display by the Town who were at their very best. Some of the football was sublime and it’s arguably Swindon’s most complete display on the road this term.

Hopefully that’ll spur them on to a return to form.

Remember though, keep it loud keep it proud keep it SWINDON!

Goalless at Crewe Alexandra: Is Town’s Promotion Running out of Steam?

2015.02.28 Crewe

Does the disappointing away performance in the Railway Derby mean Swindon’s promotion push is stuttering, asks Joe Young.

Swindon’s miserable away run continued as a 0-0 draw at Crewe saw Town’s away winless streak extend to four matches. Not since January’s televised clash with Coventry have the Robins picked up all three points on their travels. More worryingly though, for me at least, is the deterioration in our play over the same period. Disappointing results at Sheffield United and Oldham were at least accompanied by strong footballing displays, but the same couldn’t be said for the defeat at Scunthorpe and Saturday’s draw at Crewe.

There’s been talk of a crisis with results not going well, coupled with increasing discussions over style due to the nature of some of the goals conceded. I’ve not hidden in previous reports that I’m a firm believer in Cooper’s style, including playing out from the back, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to a crisis of confidence having seen us lose three times away in fourteen days. Given the reports of the negative atmosphere at the Bradford match on Tuesday I was thinking about this a lot on my way to the ground. I didn’t really draw any firm conclusions other than the obvious, we need to start winning and we need to stop giving goals away.

On a difficult pitch Town never really got their flowing football game going. Credit must be given to Crewe who were happy to sit back deep, denying Swindon space to play their way through. This resulted in Town having a few long range attempts from Massimo Luongo and Louis Thompson.

Despite Crewe’s determination to sit deep Swindon did create two good chances down the right hand side. One saw Michael Smith fire wide from Nathan Thompson’s cut back, before Andy Williams had an effort blocked following good work from Nathan Byrne. These were the type of chances that were being tucked away during our rise to the top.

Shortly afterwards Town thought they’d broken the deadlock when Jordan Turnbull turned the ball in after Crewe Keeper Paul Rachubka followed to hold a Ben Gladwin effort. Sadly, Turnbull was adjudged off-side and the score remained 0-0 at half time.

@thewashbag is this targeted ads for away fans? How rude.

@thewashbag is this targeted ads for away fans? How rude.

In the second half Crewe started strongly on the counter, with Turnbull doing well to hack clear. Soon afterwards Town looked certain to fall foul of the immutable law of the ex as Nicky Ajose broke free. As he set himself to shoot I fully expected to see the net bulge, but it didn’t as the ball flew high and wide. Later, when Ajose was withdrawn he received a decent reception from the Swindon faithful – which is always nice to see.

The game settled into a familiar pattern, Town dominated possession but couldn’t create that killer opportunity. Luongo and Jonathan Obika both had decent efforts, but no breakthrough came. Swindon players continued their worrying trend of picking up cheap bookings – some for dissent and some for cynical spoiling, which was to prove costly as Stephens picked up his second yellow. Cooper can moan about the referee all he wants, but if you give him the chance to book you for kicking the ball away you’re begging for trouble.

Crewe rallied after the sending off and had some half chances of their own to win it, but, much like Swindon, they couldn’t fashion a clear chance. Town defended well and when Crewe were also reduced to ten men Swindon looked the more likely. Sadly, it wasn’t to be.

After another disappointing result I returned to the one of the pubs near the ground. As I was thinking through the performance a Town fan sat by the bar summed it up nicely for me. “You’d have taken this at the start of the season. You’d have taken being where we are and you’d have taken a point away at Crewe.”

I revisited my earlier thoughts. I love watching Swindon, but I love watching this Swindon more. You know they are going to try and play attractive, attacking football and you know what, if we all keep together and keep the faith, anything’s possible with this team. Sometimes, as in my case on Saturday, it can take somebody else to tell you what you already know.

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

Add this Podcast to your RSS feed

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…

Gresty Road Crewe 2

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.