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.
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.