End of season player ratings – Part 2

Score 2

Neil Evans is to give his perspective on everyone who put on a Red shirt in our amazing record-breaking season, part two.. 

18. Mark Scott. The young goalkeeper didn’t really feature and has been released by PDC..we wish him well 5 out of 10

19. Luke Rooney: Is it just me, or were we all expecting a lot more from Luke? if you compare his impact to say Lee Holmes it doesn’t really compare. I guess now isn’t really the time to judge him…lets see him after a PDC pre-season..and then decide if he is the real deal 6.5 out of 10

21. Lander Gabillondo: I have, I confess, something of a soft spot for the Spaniard. However his performances haven’t justified a new deal sadly though he set up the winner at Ashton Gate which alone gives him a 5.5 out of 10.

22. Lee Holmes: We simply have to buy this player from Saints…knows our club and on the evidence I saw, loves being here. He couldn’t get away from the Kassam quick enough! Great dribbler, a real edge of the seat player..crossing is better than Rooney’s too. I am a fan 8.5 out of 10

23. Raffaele De Vita: A real conundrum of a player. The best first touch at the club but must work much harder on the next ball after that…God-like status because of his goal at City..”who put the ball in City’s net….etc”. He can deliver, but next season will be make or break for Raffa…a Len Goodman style SEVEN!

24. Jonathan Smith: A bargain from York City..warrior and artisan in midfield…never shirks a challenge and compliments Ferry’s more creative tendencies. Another with a blistering shot and yes I do think he is better than Risser 7.5 out of 10

25. Jonathan Tehoue: His accusations (long after being discarded are a disgrace)…as a footballer he might have been OK…but bad attitudes we don’t need..
3 out of 10

26. Phil Smith: Loyal servant who’s penalty saves v’s AFC paved the way for JPT success…I’m sure everyone wishes Smithy well for the future…Made more mistakes this year than before but a sentimental 7 out of 10

27. Alessandro Cibbochi: I increasingly warmed to the combative Italian and though he was first class against Leicester away and benefitted from a run in the side…then he disappeared again…confusing but worthy of a solid 7 out of 10

28. Miles Storey: Barely featured so a default 5 is the best I can offer

30. Leigh Bedwell: Seemed to do well when with the squad and out on loan…so a mark of 5.5 out of 10

31. Billy Bodin: The dynasty continues with the offer of a new deal. Richly deserved for a player sent out, mystifyingly on loan the second time, after playing his best game for the Town. I rate Billy and the fact he has wanted first team footie shows commitment and desire…8 out of 10

32. Chris Smith: I missed his game so another default mark of 5 out of 10

34. Ronan Murray: Frustrating player to watch much of the time. Pacey and can clearly finish but never seemed to run where Benno flicked the ball or where midfielders passed it. The worrying thing is he didn’t seem to learn and often lost heart during a game. 6 out of 10

35. Wesley Foderingham: A tremendous acquisition at the right time. Thanks to his defence, Wes often had little to do. When he was called upon he was flawless. A class act in the making….9 out of 10

37. Louis Thompson: Another default mark of 5 for the youngster

39. Medhi Kerrouche: I know it is highly unlikely he will stay but I like the way he plays…and his goals to game’s ratio for us was very good. But I don’t manage the team and saw how PDC mercilessly hauled him off at Colchester in the cup for goodness knows what…7 out of 10

The Rest

Liam Ridelhagh: Solid enough performer and make a good contribution to our backline. Did OK 6.5 out of 10

Jake Jervis: Like the song..I wish he could have stayed just a little bit longer…best goals to game ratio and kickstarted our memorable JPT run at Exeter…8 out of 10

Lukas Magera: Struggled with the English game…but I’m not gonna give up on the giant Czech just yet. A good pre-season may see some useful returns in FL1 6 out of 10

Leon Clarke: So Leon how’s your career then?..Not so good? Shame, you had the talent but not the team-ethic or discipline…ability? Absolutely? Still a winners medal…it’s your loss mate…3 out of 10

Cristian Montano: West ham youngster who simply didn’t cut it..a waste of a loan 3.5 out of 10

Ahmed Abdullah: Never got a look in and has since been released…default mark applies.

Daniel Boateng: A huge disappointment. Big central defender who was knocked about far too easily…as anyone at Hereford can testify…I suspect he won’t have a huge future at A.senal, his parent club. 4 out of 10

Michael Timlin: One game at the season’s start and then an excellent campaign with Luggy at Southend…For services rendered 6 out of 10

Nathan Thompson: New deal offered so evidently rated..rightly so from what I’ve seen 5.5 out of 10

Southend Utd 1 Swindon Town 4: One word… Emphatic

2012.01.31 Southend 3

Swindon stormed into the League Two promotion places with a superb performance at Roots Hall last night – thumping fellow contenders Southend by four goals to one with an emphatic display, writes Richard Banyard.

I have to admit I was surprised by Di Canio’s team selection – I expected a very similar line-up to the one we saw at Leicester, with Risser in the middle, De Vita and Cibocchi on the left side – which seems to be Di Canio’s usual selection if we want to keep it tight. Instead, into the side came Kennedy and Rooney on the left flank, and though Risser was in there, he was paired with Smith and not Ferry.

It’s this sort of thing that has impressed me most about Di Canio – we all know about Paul Sturrock’s football philosophy, and that he considers the centre of midfield to be a ‘passing zone’ (remember how he left Curtis Weston out because he liked to run with the ball) – so though it was a gamble to go so attacking down the flanks, I’m guessing Di Canio’s selection was based around not allowing them to play in the middle of the park, and getting the ball out wide to attack.

And it worked a treat. Right from the start, Swindon were harrying and harassing their opponents all over the pitch – up front, Benson was winning a lot of ball in the air, but in the early stages the player who impressed me most was Ronan Murray. The Irishman was a livewire right from the start, and his running with the ball had the Southend defence panicking. His first opening came from a Kennedy ball that sold Rooney a little short on the left side, the winger just managing to knock it into the path of Murray before being fouled. The ref waved play on, but Murray’s effort on goal was blocked.

On nine minutes though, a build-up from a similar position put Swindon in the lead. Again from the left side, Murray was played in, and he ran at the defenders before placing a right-footed shot across the goal from the edge of the area – the ball beating the despairing dive from the keeper, only to come back off the post. The ball rebounded out to Ritchie, in a similar position to Murray but on the opposite side of the area – under attention from Southend full back Gilbert, the wingman cut the ball back outside onto his right foot, and slammed a low shot into the same corner that Murray had aimed at…. a great finish, and a perfect way to bring to a close all the transfer speculation that had surrounded him.

Southend pushed forward after the goal, and five minutes afterwards had their first real effort of note – an overhead kick from Hall that went wide. Within a minute of that attempt though, the Town had doubled their advantage. Again it was Murray causing the problems – this time attacking the home defence on the right side, his effort at goal deflected out for a corner.

It always makes me laugh how people complain when we go short with a corner routine – we have created numerous opportunities from them this season – so we had a few groans when Ritchie played the ball to the onrushing Caddis – his first time cross found Benson at the far post, and was headed back across goal – and after Murray just failed to connect, Jonathan Smith was there to slam it home.

There was definitely a bit of a lull after the second goal went in, and Southend started to muscle themselves back into the game a little – Michael Timlin was obviously up for the game – he had one long range effort that trickled into the hands of Foderingham, before another run at goal from the ex-Swindon man ended with him going down very easily under a challenge by McCormack, which earned the Town defender a booking. Though I didn’t think it was deserved, the yellow card was the only blip in an otherwise superb game from the Irishman, who read the game very well indeed. The free-kick from a dangerous position was shot wide by Dickinson – moments later, a cross from the Town’s left side was also met by Dickinson, who could only head straight at Foderingham.  At the other end, a fantastic piece of skill by Ritchie was coupled with good build up play by Benson to let in Caddis, but the full back didn’t connect well with his shot, and it harmlessly rolled into the arms of Morris.

On 34 minutes though, Southend got themselves back into the game with an excellent strike from JP Kalala. There seemed little danger when Jonathan Smith headed clear a cross – but when the ball found Kalala about twenty-five yards out, the DR Congo international volleyed the ball first time, through the packed defence and low across Foderingham, into the net off the post. It was a very good strike indeed, and probably the only place he could have struck it to score.

With their tails up, Southend threatened momentarily – but the Town quickly moved back up the gears to reassert their authority, and three minutes later, their two goal advantage was restored. After Murray was fouled in the centre circle, Alan McCormack played a high ball into the area – the Southend defence parted like the Red Sea, leaving acres of space for Paul Benson to run in to. The Town striker had time to control the ball on his chest, and with his back to goal, his perfectly executed bicycle kick had Morris at full stretch to tip over the bar.

Swindon mixed it up from the corner, this time Ritchie played it directly to the back post – where it was met by the head of the onrushing Joe Devera, who opened his Town account with a powerful header into the net. For the remainder of the half, we put the home side under increasing pressure, forcing corner after corner – Benson almost increased the lead further still, but his headed effort was deflected over.

Southend came out on the attack for the second half, which was by far their best spell of the game – had they have scored at this point, we may well have had a game on our hands. After a couple of wild efforts – one overhead kick that didn’t trouble and another shot that only troubled the flats behind the stand – they twice came very close through substitute Bilel Mohsni, firstly when Murray was forced to stop the ball on the line after a corner after Mohsni’s header, and then when he struck a great first-time effort completely out of the blue from miles out, which had Foderingham at full stretch to save.

Once we had weathered that little storm though, we had a little spell of our own that would wrap the game up. On 53 minutes, Caddis had a free-kick gathered by Morris at the second attempt – two minutes later, the ball was in the Southend net again. The move started with Kennedy on the left side – he swept a superb cross-field ball to Ritchie on the opposite flank, catching the defence unawares. Ritchie played a low ball in across the face of goal, which Morris could only palm into the path of Bodin, who netted his first goal in Town colours, lifting the ball over the grounded keeper – cue pandemonium in the stand behind the goal.

From this point, you wondered if the home side might capitulate, but to be fair to them, they kept at their task of trying to attack – Swindon were brilliant though, and never allowed them to settle, constantly pursuing their opponents all over the pitch. The pressure obviously got to Michael Timlin, who can probably consider himself very lucky to have stayed on the pitch – a late tackle on Oliver Risser brought a yellow card when a red would not have surprised me, and no more than two minutes later another late challenge would probably have brought another card had it not been so soon after the first.

Even after that, there were another couple of occasions where the referee had to warn him – fair play to him though, he made a point of coming over to the Swindon fans to applaud them after the game, despite a few fans in the away support beginning to turn on him.

We could have made it five, when a through ball found Bodin bearing down on goal, we thought the chance had gone when he failed to strike at what looked like an opportune moment, instead he got to the bye line and played the ball to Benson at the back post – with the keeper in no man’s land, the Town striker could only volley over, missing out on the goal his overall play had deserved.

Come the final whistle, there were memorable scenes on the pitch – as PDC made a point of standing with the Town fans to applaud the players for their efforts… completely by chance, I had decided to video the end of the game on my phone, which I don’t often do, but so very glad I did. There may have been some apprehension about the appointment of Di Canio in the beginning, but quite honestly, thinking about it this morning, I don’t remember being this positive about a Swindon side in my whole adult life…. nothing is done yet of course, but he’s proving to be an excellent choice…. great times to be a Town fan.

A very busy January at SN1

transfer-deadline 3

Scot Munroe gives his summary of the transfer window so far and what might be in store for Town fans.

We are just over three weeks into the new year and the January transfer window, there has been no surprise that we’ve witnessed new signings and deadwood departing.

On the way out of the County Ground we have seen Michael Timlin leave for Southend after a successful loan spell for an undisclosed fee. Striker Elliot Benyon has also joined Southend for an undisclosed fee after spending the first half of the season in an injury hit and goalless spell at relegation threatened Wycombe.

Also out was Leon Clarke. After his ninety day loan spell at Chesterfield – where he found himself scoring goals after he spectacularly fell out with Paolo Di Canio – joined Charlton Athletic in a swap deal with Paul Benson coming the other way.

Add to those three, Italian defender Alberto Comazzi, who left the club to return home after both parties mutually agreed to cancel his contract. If only Mattia Lanzano followed suit…

It won’t stop there. We can expect more players to depart as Paolo Di Canio recently confirmed the club had some offers from clubs in League One.

So that will include Mehdi Kerrouche, who looks certain to be leaving the club in the next ten days or so, following his falling out with Di Canio leaving the Algerian sidelined and training on his own since the 10th December away at Bristol Rovers. It also wouldn’t surprise if we found out that Lukas Magera and Etienne Esajas have been told that they can find new clubs; with League One a level that both could perform at.

After the Rotherham game it was reported that Ipswich was interested in two Swindon players which were the captain Paul Caddis and winger Matt Ritchie. This was swiftly rejected by chairman Jeremy Wray and Ipswich forced to turn their attention away from the County Ground. This wasn’t the first time that Matt Ritchie’s performances acquired attention, with Bournemouth unsuccessfully chucking bids to bring the former Pompey man back to the south coast. Whether Ritchie will leave in the summer – as Di Canio suggested he may allow – will eventually depend on League One football for us next season.

The players into the club have been real quality signings by the manager. Paolo Di Canio is certainly making amends for the players he bought in the summer transfer window with a significant change in transfer strategy.

Wes Foderingham made his transfer permanent after a successful loan spell from Crystal Palace. The young goalkeeper has made a real impact with some brilliant displays in between the sticks, cleansheets and, for once, confidence that our goalkeeping problems may just be over.

Paul Benson who was set to join on the last day of the loan transfer window, however that was vetoed by the FA as the paper work arrived pass the 5pm transfer deadline. Benson is the type of striker that Swindon has been wanted all season a fox in a box and a player and knows where the back of the net is.

Last Tuesday, Town signed Gillingham’s Luke Rooney with the winger signing a two and a half year deal, joining for a six figure sum. A superb debut against Macclesfield, including an assist, showed glimpses of an exciting future.

A player that returned to the club was Billy Bodin after the player had a very successful loan spell at Torquay. Back into the starting XI at Rotherham, it seems that Di Canio really likes Billy Bodin and the player definitely has a future at the club.

In the past two weeks Swindon has made three bids for Oxford striker James Constable. On the Thursday before the Rotherham game it was reported that Swindon’s bid was rejected. Then a second bid was made and Constable was reported to have asked for a move to Swindon, yet the bid was rejected and any suggestion of a transfer request turned out to be false.

A week later, Town’s third bid was surprisingly accepted by the Oxford board. However, Constable stated he was happy to stay put, this despite vile messages via Twitter from the Yellow and Blue, who then changed their tune and applauded him on his desire to stay. In the end Di Canio said he didn’t want Constable if he wasn’t committed to play for him and make that decision quickly.

Two loan signings have joined. Ronan Murray has returned to the club on a second loan spell from Ipswich. Last week, Di Canio finally secured the signing of Arsenal reserve captain Daniel Boateng. Boateng nearly joined the club in the summer but the move broke down and with this signing it adds more back up to the defence. Both deals run until the end of the season.

With just over a week remaining of the transfer window there one thing for certain… Di Canio will be after another striker.

With Town in negotiations during the last few days, it seems the player wants to come but this time it appears his club are in two minds whether they’ll let him leave.

Could it be Rotherham striker Lewis Grabban? Who had interested the Swindon boss and there were rumours flying around on Twitter that the club had already offered a six figure bid in for the player of around £200k.

Money seems to be no object as Swindon are willing to pay the big bucks to make amends for the Summer transfer dealings; buying the quality young British players Paolo now wants to get out of this division.

With a central midfielder and potentially more defensive cover to arrive, the remaining seven days of the transfer window will be frenetic as Town look to build the squad we should have had in August.

Vote for your STFC Goal of 2011

As we’ve moved into 2012 it’s a good opportunity to look back on twelve of the best Swindon Town goals of 2011.

The list, compiled by Daniel Hunt, comprises eleven different players who have contributed to this selection of towering headers, team goals and individual efforts. Hopefully we haven’t missed out a good’un in this selection as we’ve tried to give even coverage of the whole year.

We’ve provided a brief review of each goal and Youtube clips when available. Vote for your goal of 2011 below, the poll closes Thursday 6pm with the result to be announced in Vic Morgan’s blog on Friday.

Goal A | Sean Morrison v Charlton Ahtletic (Away) League One January 3rd

Towering header by a Reading-bound Sean Morrison to put Swindon 3-1 up at the Valley.

Goal B | Matt Ritchie v Southampton (Away) League One February 26th

After being fed the ball wide on the right by Simon Ferry, Ritchie cuts in on his favourite left-foot to slam home past Kelvin Davis. This would be the last goal scored under now Sheffield United manager Danny Wilson.

Goal C | David Prutton v Brighton (Away) League One March 26th

A Paul Hart inspired David Prutton scores from 30 yards past Caspar Ankergren at the Withdean. Great strike from an awful Swindon footballer…

Goal D | Calvin Andrew v Brentford (Away) League One April 9th

The title of the Youtube video says it all about Calvin Andrew really! His one moment of quality in the red of Swindon was this swerving effort to give Town a priceless victory after 18 winless games stretching back to January 3rd!

Goal E | Jonathan Douglas v Sheffield Wednesday (Away) League One April 25th

Never mind being mathematically relegated at Wednesday….were you there when Douglas scored? It was worth the wait mind. Bosh!

Goal F | Michael Timlin v Tranmere Rovers (Away) League One May 7th

This Michael Timlin curler rounds off the entries from last season. His cultured strike put Swindon 2-0 up in the Wirrall and gave Paul Bodin his first and only win in caretaker charge of the Town.

Goal G | Medhi Kerrouche v Southampton (Home) Carling Cup August 30th

Mehdi Kerrouche on fire as he bends this free kick past a hapless Bialkowski in the Southampton goal. Events after the match somewhat overshadowed the quality of this free kick! Something about Leon Clarke and Paolo Di Canio…

Goal H | Jonathon Smith v Southend Utd (Home) League Two September 10th

Jonathan Smith blasts home from the edge of the box against Paul Sturrock’s men from Roots Hall. This is possibly one of the hardest hit shots I’ve ever witnessed live!

Goal I | Raffaele De Vita v Plymouth Argyle (Away), League Two October 22nd

Time for a team-goal described by Di Canio as being ‘Champions League’ standard.  Ferry to Kerrouche, Kerrouche to Ferry, Ferry to Jervis, Jervis to Kerrouche, Kerrouche to Jervis who dummies for Ferry and Ferry slips in De Vita to slot home! Great one touch stuff!

Goal J | Matt Ritchie v Gillingham (Home) League Two October 25th

An opportunistic strike from 30 yards out by Matt Ritchie to help down the Gills! Great amateur footage as well.

Goal K | Oliver Risser v AFC Wimbledon (Home) Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Area Quarter Final November 8th

Oliver Risser went one better than his opening day volley against Crewe Alexandra with this rocket of an effort against the Wombles. The release of frustration clear for everyone to see on the Namibian’s face during the celebration!

Goal L | Paul Caddis v Bristol Rovers (Away) League Two December 10th

This was the Swindon skipper’s second great goal in a week after his dipping effort against Southend in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy three days before. A silky dribble from somewhere near the half line finished with aplomb on his wrong foot.

Southend & Colchester: Essex Cup dates for Swindon

welcome-to-essex

On Saturday morning live on Soccer AM, Swindon Town found out who would be their opponents in the JPT Area Semi Final.

It will be an away trip to Paul Sturrock’s Southend United in early December for the Robins.

I let out a cry of “No!” when the draw was made. Surely this is the worst possible draw for us in the Semi Final…

Swindon and Southend have met at the same stage of the competition back in the 04-05 season under Andy King and on that occasion Town came away from Roots Hall very disappointed after a 2-0 defeat. Hopefully on loan midfielder Michael Timlin will be unavailable to play for the Essex based club against us.

With Tuesday performance against AFC Wimbledon it clearly shows that Paolo Di Canio is taking this tournament really seriously and a Wembley date next year could be on the horizon.

On Saturday afternoon Swindon entertained Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup 1st Round.

It was great to watch Swindon dismantle a high flying and unbeaten Huddersfield 4-1, in a game that was was televised on Setanta Ireland, and Fox Sports in the US and Australia.

The draw for the 2nd Round was made on Sunday afternoon. Again, like the JPT draw, there was another load “No!” heard as ball number 6 – Swindon - were  drawn away at Colchester United. After the (relative) glamour tie of Huddersfield, Swindon now have a bit of the gloom tie away at Colchester United.

With this game the Robins will came up against former player Michael Rose who couldn’t wait to jump ship to Essex in the summer. Swindon have the capacity and the quality to get a result in the 2nd Round and the dream of a real glamour tie in Round three. You never know…a return to Upton Park for Di Canio…?

Interestingly, Swindon Town have never played Colchester United in the FA Cup, however Swindon Supermarine did face the ‘U’s’ in the 2nd Round last season.

The FA Cup 2nd Round tie will be played weekend commencing the 3rd December. The JPT Area Semi final tie will be played just days later in the week commencing the 5th December.

Another busy week of cup football awaits.

A Season in Stats: Part 4 – A case for the defence…or not…

Given the delay in the new Swindon manager announcement you can feast your eyes on some more statistics I’ve gathered over the course of the season.

This time I’ll be having a look at the defensive phase of play and the contribution of all players with a defensive role, in particular, these stats reveal how many goals have been conceded whilst each player has been on the pitch, how many per game played and the frequency arising from total minutes per player.

Continue Reading

New deal…or no deal?

Following on from the release of Alan O’Brien and Thomas Dossevi, there are nine other Swindon Town players out of contract at the end of the season.

We all know about Alan Sheehan’s lack of commitment to the club after going without permission to play for Preston North End in a trial match, but what about the rest, do they deserve a new contract at Town?

Scott Cuthbert - So often lost in the centre of defence since the departure of Gordon Greer, Cuthbert has certainly made his fair share of mistakes this season, but of course he isn’t the only one in the team to suffer that fate. What can you put that down to? Well an unsettled back four throughout the season hasn’t helped. Cuthbert is certainly a player for the future and one to build the team around. Also given that we paid £100,000 for him, this is money the club need to recoup if he were to go, so can’t see the board not exercising their option for an additional year.  NEW DEAL

Jonathan Douglas - By his own admission hasn’t played his best this season. Douglas has been asked to play too deep, often the sole outlet for a pass from our panicking defenders and quickly closed down by the opposition, leading to possession being given away in our own half. Despite all this I couldn’t imagine the team without him and if he doesn’t stay at Swindon many Championship and League One teams will be tracking his progress. NEW DEAL

Lecsinel Jean-Francois - The Haitian is a very useful and versatile defender, who on the rare occasion, puts in a stella performance and shows his quality. I like Lecsinel, he’s professional, gets on with the job and never gives up. Aparently Swansea were interested in signing Lecsinel earlier this year, which shows he has ability to possibly play at a higher level. A good League Two player and a worthwhile squad player for the new season. NEW DEAL 

Jakub Jesionkowski -  With David Lucas and Phil Smith (why?) signing new contract extensions, I’d be surprised if the Polish keeper stays around for another season of reserve football and loans to Oxford City. He cam to Swindon with great promise having been called up for the Polish u21 squad. Deserves first team games, but isn’t going to get the opportunity here. NO DEAL

Vincent Pericard - Where do we start with Big Vince… immobile, can’t jump, can’t score, painful to watch  etc. to name only a few failings. I can’t really see Vinny making a mark on League Two and we really need a better option upfront to hold up the ball. Vincent’s wages can be better saved or spent elsewhere such as on a sack of spuds or a bag of cement. errrr… NO DEAL!

Mark Scott - Of the two out of contract keepers, Scott gets my vote for a new contract. Still to make his league debut for Town, I was very impressed with his superb performances for Swindon Supermarine in their FA Cup run earlier this season. Excellent shot stopper and a local lad who came through the youth team. NEW DEAL

Nathan Thompson – Nathan was finally given his chance against Torquay United in the FL Trophy after coming on as a substitute. An excellent attacking performance in the cup secured a start at home to Charlton a few weeks later, however whilst Nathan didn’t discredit himself, the match highlighted the need for Nathan to get more first team football under his belt. Various injuries held him back from being sent out on loan, so deserves the chance to impress and a season in League Two provides that. NEW DEAL

Michael Timlin - Our second longest serving player at the club (behind Phil Smith), who played an instrumental role in the second half of our last campaign in League Two. With opportunities limited earlier this season I expected him to be sold, however he’s forced his way back into the reckoning, but failed to impress with an inconsistent campaign. If Douglas signs up and Prutton stays, is there really a need for another defensive minded midfielder? With the two youth graduates (Matt Clark and Abdul Said) providing further midfield options next season, I’m afraid you’re surplus to requirements…NO DEAL

One Town goal, two huddles and three points lost

I didn’t travel to Essex to watch Town at Colchester, so a big thanks to regular Washbag contributor STFC007 for his thoughts and reflections on the game.

After last year’s 3-0 away defeat at the hands of Colchester in their dreary stadium, I vowed that I would not return here for this season’s encounter. However, I felt quite positive all week that we could get a result despite all the negativity and decided that Town could do with as much support as possible, so I made the journey after all.

The walk to the stadium from one of the business parks was just as long as last year’s, and the stadium still has this ‘nearly finished’ feel to it, not helped by the eternal building site surrounding the stadium. The four stand-alone stands make the stadium devoid of any atmosphere, made worse by a meagre 3,624 supporters, of which a couple of hundred supporting the Town sat in the only sunny spot in the stadium.

After a Town team huddle prior to kick-off, something I had not seen for a couple of seasons, they started very positive making their intentions known from the start and pinning Colchester back. Town were very unlucky not to have scored with a quickly taken shot from distance by Benyon, only tipped onto the bar by the finger tips of the stretching Cousins in the Colchester goal.

The only real danger that Colchester posed in the first half was mainly as a result of lack of pace at the back and some dangerous situations of our own making;  Cuthbert and Rose bumped into each other but we got away with that one, but whilst Frampton was struggling to hold off a Colchester player making a run into the box, the bouncing ball hit Frampton’s arm. Most Swindon supporters nor the linesman could not see the infringement, but the referee who was in a good position pointed at the spot. Mooney sent Lucas the wrong way and against the run of play we were 1-0 down.

For a period after the goal, some restlessness crept into Swindon’s game where the long ball up to the sometimes isolated front two was used rather than the midfield passing game.

Timlin’s excellent recent performances, which kept Ferry out of the team, were not matched during the first half. He looked out-of-sorts and struggled to keep up with the pace. But Town continued their domination with some very nice combinations but any quality of a final pass was preventing a break-through; either way, Town were unfortunate to go into the dressing room at half time a solitary goal behind.

After the break, Town stepped up a gear and for long periods were dominating the game. The equaliser, when it came, was well deserved.

Cuthbert reacted quickest after a corner was only partially dealt with by the keeper and headed the ball into the net. Cuthbert’s outburst of emotions with him beating the logo on his shirt running towards the Swindon supporters was only part of the story. All players ran towards him and joined the celebrations dispelling any rumors of a split dressing room, or the team not being up for it.

Not long after his goal, Cuthbert nearly scored again with a header only for man-of-the match Colchester keeper Cousins making a fully outstretched dive to keep the ball flying into the top corner.

Swindon continued to press, but the quality of the final pass continued to fail them; overshot free-kicks and wayward crosses adding to the frustration.

The referee, Mr Salisbury, played his part as well, as referees have done in so many of Town’s games this season. The inconsistency of his decisions and lack of vision to read the game makes it unlikely he ever played the game at any reasonable level. And supporters can’t always be wrong as both sets sung their disapproval of his decisions several times during the game; he was poor, very poor.

Bringing the play back to the centre circle after an infringement whilst Obika was off clear on goal was careless, but not giving a clear cut handball in the box after giving a penalty to the home team in the first half shows a level of poor decision making. Town are more likely to reach the play-offs than Mr Salisbury ever to referee a Premier League game.

Even though play became more open towards the end of the game, and Colchester had a few chances, Swindon’s domination deserved a winning goal. Instead a loose ball after a corner was mis-hit by Gillespie and flew into the back of the net, 2-1 Colchester. Dossevi came close to a late equaliser, but his shot went just wide.

There were many positives, especially during the second half; a robust and confident performance from a returning Lucas in goal, a great willingness to win from all players and a belief from both players and supporters that has been missing for quite some time. There was also an increased togetherness illustrated by a second huddle instigated by Lucas after a short break in play following an injury.

Despite the precarious position in he table and wayward form both home and away, I am confident that if the same work-rate and desire is displayed during the remaining games, Town will pick up enough points to secure our League One safety.

————–

If anyone else would be interested to contribute a match report or your reflections on the goings-on at the County Ground, then please feel free to contact me at thewashbag@gmail.com or @thewashbag

Benyon spares Wilson’s blushes with late equaliser

What a difference a goal makes?

Perhaps not given the widespread reaction to Town’s 1-1 draw at home to Rochdale, a match that saw neither side ‘deserve’ the victory.

“WILSON OUT!” remained the text and email of choice of the many who contacted BBC Wiltshire post match. However, Wilson confirmed he has no intentions to walk as he “has a job to finish”.

The late injury time equaliser by débutante Eliot Benyon, the first début goal by a Robin since Ben Joyce in April 2008, was enough in my eyes to not join those voicing that opinion of Wilson’s future. But serious doubts remain whether the team can secure any sort of form in the final 17 games to steer clear of relegation to League Two.

from swindontownfc.co.uk

Even if Town had surrendered our unbeaten record against Rochdale (in all competitions), would sacking Wilson really achieve anything positive and was this a decision that Fitton would make in any case?

What we have is a problem created by the players available. This started after the was heart ripped out of the squad at the end of last season with Paynter, Greer and Ward not being adequately replaced.

Now the transfer window has closed this problem can’t really be properly resolved, where a new manager would also have his hands tied.

We’re in the middle of a rebuilding operation with an unsettled first eleven. Whether Wilson’s five January signings, plus Jonathan Obika to arrive on Wednesday, make any positive step in the right direction, we will only find out after the next 3 to 4 games.

So in this sense Wilson has to be given further time.

There are a few things I feel Wilson could address change to improve our chances.

It goes without saying that Jonathan Douglas is a crucial player in his withdrawn playmaker role. So often, perhaps too often, the Town players are looking to pass to Douglas instead of pushing forward.

However, our opposition have found us out, constantly and quickly closing down on Douglas, thereby restricting this area of play. The end result, we’re not creating enough chances and we frequently lose possession in an area where we are in danger of a swift counter.

Whilst Timlin has performed so well this season, especially after being sent out on loan, Simon Ferry is surely the better option in the middle with Douglas. This will help to provide a second creative outlet as well as concentrating on improving our breaks down the flanks.

Dossevi has become the new Pericard judging by some of the reactions of the crowd on Saturday. Despite his efforts, he hasn’t had the best of games recently and hasn’t shown any consistency this season.

Part of the issue with Dossevi is his inability to adapt to the English game and the hit it long style of play we’ve resorted to for most of this campaign. He prefers it played to feet and will look to turn and quickly pass. He doesn’t stand a chance with the long balls, often with too much pace and inaccuracy, pumped up to the forwards.

With the soon to be arriving Obika, perhaps there is an opportunity to move Dossevi out to the right wing, a position he played for some time in France, to use his tricks to make us more a threat down the right.

Given Wilson’s tinkering I expect further changes at Leyton Orient midweek. Will Cuthbert return? Will the same right backs start? Who will line-up in Midfield?

If it was up to you, what changes would you like to see?

Town v Tranmere: 2 points lost…at least a point won

Readers of my blog post on Monday may be surprised that I’m not calling for Wilson’s immediate dismissal following the goalless draw with Tranmere at the County Ground last night. After all, I did clearly state from the next two home games “Six points are needed. Any less and we can kiss goodbye to League One”.

Yes, of course a win would’ve been fantastic, a massive boost and something to build on, but I witnessed just enough last night to provide some assurance Town were not going to keel-over to our opponents in the fight to avoid the drop.

Our improvement was helped by the four Town changes to the starting line-up, with Kevin Amankwaah, Andy Frampton, Michael Timlin and Thomas Dossevi all performing well, with Timlin deserving the man of the match.

Town were able to dominate large periods of the game, but found it difficult to penetrate a Tranmere side that was set out to defend the point.

The first half was a story of misjudged long passes with too much behind them. The aimless long balls from the defence brought back memories of Jerel Ifil clearing without a thought.

A year ago Austin’s firmly struck penalty would’ve flew into the net. Such is our lack of luck, and of course, goalkeeper Tony Warner’s excellent save, we couldn’t capitalise early on in the game.

For a short period following the penalty Tranmere took control. Our heads didn’t completely drop and credit to the Town players to remain firm and not capitulate. Fortunately Leteef Elford-Alliyu’s close-range shot hit the Swindon post and then he failed to bury an inviting rebound. Then later in the half Aaron Cresswell long-range free-kick tested Phil Smith, but Rovers couldn’t go into the break ahead.

Wilson made the needed change midway in the second half when the poorly performing JP McGovern was replaced with Alan O’Brien. Not much is expected of O’Brien, but for once he put in a reasonable performance down the left, actually chased the ball a bit, got clear of his marker, but his lack of crossing quality so lets him down time after time.

As the Town pressure on the Tranmere goal intensified, we had several good chances to get the lead, save for further good work from Warner.

We could’ve won it late on as Charlie Austin’s sharp turn and fired in a shot from an acute angle against the bar. It just wasn’t his day…

At least Phil Smith was alert to brilliantly tip over Adam McGurk’s excellent long range effort in the dying minutes of the game. Perhaps our luck had changed. Haven’t these been going in recently for our opponents?

At the final whistle, yes we didn’t get that needed win, but we held on. I’d disagree with some of the media reports of ‘a chorus of booing’, which clearly wasn’t the case as the improvement in the team was evident and support grew as the match progressed.

Moving on to Saturday.

Town face Exeter City and still desperately need to secure that vital win.

Town remain 14 games unbeaten in all competitions against the Grecians, a run that stretches back to 5th April 1980.

What better way to continue that excellent run and in the process secure a win.

Come On You Reds!