STFC Player of the Month Result: November

Player of the Month 4

Our TheWashbag.com Index calculates the Swindon Town Player of the Month by assessing the key statistics from all league and cup matches. The November result is in…

2013.11 Player of the Month

Massimo Luongo and Dany N’Guessan are tied for the monthly award. Both have secured 29 points in November.

Luongo played every minute of the seven league and cup games in November and scored three goals from midfield – two versus Port Vale and another against Carlisle United. I’m sure that Massimo picked up additional points for assists, but I can recall in which games..?

N’Guessan also scored three goals in November; picking up extra points for his goal at Colchester coming from his wide midfield position in Cooper’s 4-6-0, and positive impact when coming on as a substitute versus Carlisle.

Nicky Ajose is just behind with 26 points and was the top goal scorer in November with four.

Last month’s winner Alex Pritchard takes 3rd with 21 points.

Agree or disagree with the statistics..? Who receives your vote for the November Player of the Month?

How it works…

Swindon Town players receive a score based on their performance in all league and cup fixtures based upon the statistics collated by the Press Association and published by BBC Sport. The format of the scoring is very similar to that used in the Fantasy Premier League, with some exceptions.

  • For playing up to 60 minutes = 1 point
  • For playing 60 minutes or more = 2 points
  • For each goal scored by a goalkeeper or defender = 6 points
  • For each goal scored by a midfielder = 5 points
  • For each goal scored by a forward = 4 points
  • For each hat trick scored = 3 points
  • For each goal assist = 3 points
  • For a clean sheet by a goalkeeper or defender = 4 points
  • For a clean sheet by a midfielder = 1 point
  • For every 3 shot saves by a goalkeeper = 1 point
  • For each penalty save = 5 points
  • For each substitute appearance having a positive impact on the final result = 2 points
  • For each substitute appearance having a negative impact on the final result = minus 2 points
  • For each penalty miss = minus 2 points
  • For every 2 goals conceded by a goalkeeper or defender = minus 1 point
  • For each yellow card = minus 1 point
  • For each red card = minus 3 points
  • For each own goal = minus 2 points

Swindon Town 3-1 Carlisle United: Pritchard spares Swindon’s blushes

Alex Pritchard 3

Having not won for the last two games Swindon Town looked to get back to winning ways against Carlisle United in game week 19 of the Sky Bet League One. Swindon, who came in to the game off the back of a hard-earned point against now managerless Crawley, were keen to get the three points in order to maintain a play-off push, as Matthew Peach reports.

As Swindon approached the final month of 2013 they were sat in 8th, only a single point outside the final play-off place. Despite this they have had a largely inconsistent start to league, winning eight, losing seven and drawing just three.

Town gratefully welcomed Nile Ranger back into the first team squad after being in an ‘exile’ of some description since that game up in Macclesfield. Swindon also had Jay McEveley back after his one match suspension, however, due to another debatable red card in midweek the former Spurs man Nathan Byrne had to sit this one and the Johnston’s Paint Trophy area semi-final tie with Stevenage out in the stands. Town adopted a fluid 4-5-1 / 4-6-0 formation against Carlisle. This was a variant of what had been on show in the away games against Colchester and Crawley; Nicky Ajose and Alex Pritchard operated wide forward roles with Massimo Luongo supporting them in a withdrawn striker role, similar to that of one Lionel Messi.

The game commenced with Swindon attacking the Town End in the first half, having lost the toss. Within the first two minutes both teams had a corner each that came to nothing. Talking of corners, I can’t be the only one who has noticed the poor delivery of corners by Pritchard and co.? With Ranger, N’Guessan, Ward, Hall and McEveley in the ranks it would be good to see a good corner whipped in so one of these could have a half decent chance of attacking it.

Anyway enough about me ranting on about set-piece strategies, let’s talk about the first real chance of the game, and it came from an unlikely source: Jay McEveley. The left back, who is either hated or loved by the Town faithful (personally I love him), evaded a couple of chances and found himself in the box… what were we to expect? A goal? An assist? A new roof needed for the Town End? Unfortunately none of these. After skipping past the last defender he set himself up on his weaker right side and blasted the ball… high and wide of the goal. Despite this early disappointment Town continued to make chances. This mainly came down the left flank, with Ryan Harley and McEveley creating chances at will.

Swindon’s dominance finally paid off when after great work from Alex Pritchard, dispossessing the Carlisle full-back and playing it into Massimo Luongo who calmly swept it passed Manchester United loanee Ben Amos to get town off the mark. Swindon kept up their dominance until the end of the half, however, Carlisle, who were a threat all afternoon from set pieces, threatened with a looping header from much-travelled Lee Miller. The Scottish striker looped a header onto the woodwork with Wesley Foderingham sprawling in an attempt to push it away to safety.

After most fans got something hot at half-time – it was remarkably cold – Carlisle started the second half. Town were hoping to pick up three points for the first time since the 16th November and send the fans into the festive month with a smile on their faces. They did it, albeit the difficult way. This season Swindon have struggled to complete a ’90 minute performance’. They have very often torn teams apart for 45 minutes, such as Wolves and Crewe. However, doing this over a full 90 minutes has proved to be a struggle. Unfortunately, after playing so well in the first half, Town let their standards slip and invited Carlisle to play their game. After slowly creeping their way back into the game they finally got a break when a free kick was pumped into the Town area and guess who? Sean O’Hanlon headed in to Wesley Foderingham’s far post to drag Carlisle back into the game.

Town needed to get into gear. Who would step up to make the change? Shortly after conceding Town won a free kick about 20 yards out. Swindon needed a bit of magic and up stepped Alex Pritchard to lusciously whip a free kick over the wall and into the top corner. Just what the doctor ordered. Straight after Swindon got back in front a certain Mr Nile Ranger returned to first-team affairs and his presence was felt immediately. After having a ten minute run-about he latched onto a delicious through ball by fellow substitute Ryan Mason and crossed first time for, wait for it, fellow substitute Dany N’Guessan to tap home. Game. Set. And Match. Three points in the bag.

Swindon Town now have a much needed ten day break to recharge the batteries and make a promotion push over Christmas. First we have an JPT Area Semi-final game against fellow League one opposition in the form of Stevenage; a game that Town really should be winning in order to get a step closer to the place that shall not be named.

In the meantime, get in the festive spirit, and see you at the County Ground on the 10th…

COYR

Matthew Peach – @MattJPeach

Header image from skysports.com

Crawley Town 0-0 Swindon Town: Resilient Robins earn a point

Broadfield Stadium Crawley

A resilient and dogged Swindon Town side fought out a hard earned 0-0 draw against Crawley despite being reduced to ten men late on after Nathan Byrne’s dismissal, reports Andrew Steele-Davis.

Both teams headed into the Tuesday night encounter with a patchy formbook. The hosts were on a six game streak without a win with four of those games ending in defeat. Their last home win stretched back to October 19th where they defeated Bradford whilst Town on the other hand entered the game on the back of a 1-3 home defeat at the hands of Leyton Orient at the weekend and had won three but also lost three of their previous six games.

Swindon boss Mark Cooper reverted back to the 4-6-0 formation that worked wonders during the previous away outing at Colchester United with Nathan Byrne returning from illness which kept him out of the defeat to Leyton Orient to replace the suspended Jay McEveley. Louis Thompson also came into the starting eleven with Alex Pritchard dropping to the bench; whilst there was a surprise inclusion amongst the subs for Ryan Mason who had made a quicker than expected return from injury.

Crawley had the game’s first opening on goal with just four minutes played after a poor attempted clearance from Wes Foderingham fell to Nicky Adams who could only send the ball straight back into the relieved Keeper’s arms from 30 yards.

The opening fifteen minutes or so were short on any kind of quality or excitement. Swindon seemed quite content to put 11 men behind the ball and soak up any Crawley pressure whilst getting ready to catch their hosts on the break.

However, it was to be Crawley who were to have the game’s next slice of meaningful action, as Foderingham again put himself at risk of going red in the face with embarrassment with just under twenty minutes played. Kyle McFadzean pumped a long ball forward, which Foderingham completely missed as he surged out of his goal, but fortunately for Wes and Swindon no Crawley players were on hand to tap home Dannie Bulman’s cut back across the goal and the danger had passed.

Town created a rare chance on 26 minutes and thought they had nipped in front when the in-form Nicky Ajose prodded home from Massimo Luongo’s cross but Ajose was accused of handling the ball in the build-up and referee Andy D’Urso called play back.

With the game threatening to burst into life Josh Simpson tried his luck for the home side with a rasping long range effort, which Foderingham tipped wide. That was to be the last meaningful action of a very dull first 45 minutes of football as both sides went in at the break goalless.

The second half did improve marginally however as Simpson again attempted to test Foderingham from distance but this time he lashed his vicious effort just wide of the left-hand post with 50 minutes played.

Town became more adventurous in the second half with Alex Pritchard and Ryan Mason both brought on with Dany N’Guessan and Ryan Harley making way but before that Ajose came so close to edging the visitors in front. With 20 minutes remaining Yaser Kasim sent a ball over the top of the Crawley defence which Ajose latched onto and then attempted to lob Jones but watched on in agony and despair as his unlucky effort drifted just wide.

The visitors looked the better team going into the last ten minutes and it was that man Ajose again who nearly snatched victory for Swindon with 84 minutes. His initial header had come back to him but he could only prod against the post with the rebound.

With Swindon gathering steam and looking a good bet to go on and steal all three points Mark Cooper’s side were handed a blow which proved decisive. Nathan Byrne was dismissed for a second bookable offence with just four minutes left after clattering Gary Alexander. The sending-off was harsh but it was enough to curtail Town’s ever increasing dominance on the game and in the end both sides had to settle for a point.

Cooper will be frustrated with his side’s failure to capitalise on some very good chances but will be relieved after seeing his side claim their first clean sheet in seven games. Swindon fans haven’t had the pleasure of many 0-0 draws recently with last night’s being the first in a staggering 34 games.

Swindon can now look forward to the visit of Carlisle United to The County Ground on Saturday with the manic Festive Period just around the corner, albeit after a two week break following our exit from the FA Cup…

Enjoy what few highlights there are…

Swindon Town 1-3 Leyton Orient: Derailed by the Orient Express (Again)

Simplon Orient Express poster 2

Leyton Orient visited the County Ground and, like recent meetings, they beat Swindon Town convincingly. Brendan Hobbs gives his own unique take on proceedings…

I don’t do many match reports for The Washbag and I’m beginning to realise why, to date I’ve written two, one covered an uninspiring home draw with Oldham, the other was to report on a home defeat by one Leyton Orient, so at least I get to re-hash the headline I used last year.

So to escape being called the Washbag Jonah, I think should just stick to doing the occasional podcast, T-shirts, logos and writing cynical ramblings in the Press Watch articles.

You’ll be pleased to hear though, my irrational Panini fuelled Orient hatred still burns bright (see here for explanation) and by Panini I mean the sticker albums, not the overpriced, plasticky toasties that overpriced, plasticky coffee bars seem to sell to overpriced, plasticky people.

My match day didn’t start well, my neighbour spotted me getting into my car with my red and white scarf and yelled “fantabulous day to smash the Orient wouldn’t you say young fellow?” (he’s about 3 years older than me.) Now as well as his choice of words making me feel that I’d time warped back to Victorian times, it’s always a really bad sign when he passes judgement and makes scoring predictions. His last effort was when we were supposedly going to ‘wallop the Saddlers’ and we all know what happened there.

Mark Cooper made some minor adjustments to the starting eleven who like the Viking Olaf Tryggvason triumphed on some barren Essex wasteland near Colchester. One Thompson brother dropped out whilst the other returned, Alex Pritchard in place of Louis and Nathan replacing the ill Nathan Byrne.

Leyton Orient’s team read like a who’s who of experienced lower league players, all of which I’d happily like to have in Swindon’s squad – and it was those steady heads of Orient who had the first sight of goal. With two minutes on the clock, Scott Cuthbert reminded us all of his prodigious leaping ability with a towering header from a Dean Cox corner, but unfortunately for him, he showed a lack of accuracy as the ball sailed harmlessly over the bar.

Town started to find their feet and burst into life with a trademark run from Nathan Thompson, who dribbled into the box but unfortunately his effort was blocked.

Nicky Ajose was trying to match the havoc Nathan was causing on the right with a series of mazy runs of his own on the left, ultimately into a cul-de-sac each time, but still the threat was there. He then got his first glimpse of the onion bag on 12 minutes when he was played in by Massimo Luongo’s clever pass but the angle was tight and ‘keeper Jamie Jones made an easy save.

The next time Ajose saw the whites of the goalie’s eyes he should’ve scored, Cafu (Jay McEveley) scythed brilliantly through the static Orient midfield to slip a delicious pass into the diminutive striker’s path. While the Orient backline was a sea of raised hands and barked claims for offside, Ajose was steadying himself for a one-on-one with Jones, but the rising fans were soon crashing back to their seats as he promptly skewed the ball wide.

However, my comical, over-the-top disappointed sigh had barely cleared my lungs when finally Town got the breakthrough goal they deserved and that man Ajose claimed it.

Pritchard, in what was his only contribution of note, lashed a shot goalwards after some good interplay involving N’Guessan and Thompson left a pin-balling sphere just begging to be hit. An O’s defender managed a decent block but in the process he simultaneously set up Ajose while wrong footing his keeper, this time the striker made no mistake.

One-nil and on reflection, we deserved it, but with hindsight it turned out the worst thing we could have ever done. Straight from the standard kick-off routine, a lazy flick-on found Nathan Thompson seemingly daydreaming about what he was going to spend his win bonus on, leaving David Mooney to nip in behind him to snaffle the loose ball and brilliantly guide it over a static Wes Foderingham who was probably daydreaming about when his Bournemouth-based estate agent will call him back.

The whole game turned on that moment of defensive slackness and sheer brilliance from the Orient striker. From that moment on confidence just oozed from every player in gold, it was as if they all believed they were all worth the colour of their shirts – and they set about stealing an unlikely half-time lead. Swindon totally went the other way and never really showed the incisive passing and defence splitting guile again.

Meanwhile referee Chris Sarginson was getting annoyed by the lack of attention he was getting, what with all the nice passing and clinical finishing going on, so he decided to award a strange series of free-kicks, including one against Dany N’Guessan for trying to legitimately win a ball whilst it was being cuddled by an Orient player.

Orient eventually and predictably took the lead, a simple goal which again highlighted our defensive frailties. A straight forward diagonal ball freed up a roaming Kevin Lisbie. Once the ball was under control the striker pulled the back to a totally unmarked Dean Cox, who under no pressure at all curled a wicked delivery to the back stick where it was met sweetly by a diving Yaser Kasim, who steered it past the helpless Foderingham. Moses Odubajo claimed the goal, but from my vantage point it definitely looked like the Iraqi who got the final touch.

Half time finally came and if I thought the end of the first half was the stuff of nightmares, then the entertainment served up during the break was the stuff of horrific, sweat drenched acid trips. I mean, a human-sized robin sporting a Day-Glo T-shirt juggling huge inflatable dice in front of a fritzing advertising board. I checked my coffee for hallucinogens.

The obvious change came at the break with Pritchard, who was more anonymous than a sex-fantasy letter in Razzle, made way for Mohamed El Gabas.

Town allowed us all of sixty seconds of blind optimism before capitulating miserably. A series of really weak headers courtesy of Messrs’ Darren Ward and Grant Hall allowed Odubajo to turn sharply in the box and unleash a vicious strike. Unfortunately for him his effort was only going to trouble the paintwork of the ACE scaffolding advertising board, so in stepped Ward to finish with aplomb.

Great, I thought at least we now have a new great pub quiz question, “in which game did Swindon score three times but lose 3-1”.

Town pressed trying to get back in the game, with N’Guessan dragging a shot wide and Ajose lashing over from twenty yards following some more excellent work from McEverley. For all of Swindon’s effort and industry we simply didn’t look like scoring, whereas Orient looked likely to score with every attack. Town’s efforts were largely hampered by the incompetence of Chris Sarginson, who seemed hell-bent on turning the game into bad-tempered affair by giving a series of baffling infringements. In his pre-match blurb Sam Morshead mentioned that Sarginson’s one wish in life was to join England’s cricket supporting ‘Barmy Army’, it kind of makes sense now.

His actions were definitely creating a poisonous atmosphere in the ground, with most home fans getting more and more frustrated about Swindon inability to work Jamie Jones in the Orient goal, so a ‘fan’ in the Town End decided to take matters into his own hands.

The lively El Gabas twisted and squirmed into the box and went down a tad theatrically under the weight of a few Orient boots, the ref refused the pleading screams of the Town faithful and a minor dust up occurred. Meanwhile a brain-dead interloper slipped by the minimum wagers in fluorescent coats and squared up to Jones, maybe landing one punch.

Bad, bad stuff, but considering what goes on all around us in the world, children dying every second, civil wars orphaning indiscriminately, poverty and famine etc – so let’s not get too Daily Mail about this incident.

The Football League Show praised Jones for his restraint, he is indeed to be applauded, but seriously I would have loved it if he’d just flattened the intruder with one amazing punch Ivan Drago style, then nonchalantly wiped his glove on his shorts and carried on the with game.

I know, I know not the right thing to say, but there you go, anyway back to the game which in truth, like a pensioner’s sex drive, was just fizzling out. We had a couple of half chances courtesy of N’Guessan but that was that. Oh, and my man of the match McEveley got sent off right at the end, which summed it all up really.

Obviously it most definitely wasn’t ‘that was that’ in the social media world, as sadly that evening the apocalypse descended on us all again. The sheer amount of hate and bile which is typed into cyberspace due to a second home defeat (to the division leaders) at the end of November is truly astonishing.

I read a handful of tweets and turned off; I glimpsed a couple of Adver comments and then closed my browser. The despair I feel is extraordinary, not at the performance, not at our hapless backline but by our fans sometime to the reaction to such a defeat.

I didn’t access social media at all today, I built Moon Base Beta 1 Command Centre out of Lego with my son and felt a lot better for it – I recommend it to all guerrilla keyboard warriors out there, it does calm you the f#@k down.

Supporting Swindon is like building stuff out of Lego, the central premise still hasn’t changed for god knows how many years, all the pieces are basically the same. You build different things all the time, with the same raw materials, sometimes it’s good, sometimes not, but it always stays the same – even if you build something truly spectacular it still gets broken up and dismantled.

Consistency would really help Swindon at the moment, we’ve not had the luxury of that in heaven knows how many years. Orient had eight players on show that featured in the match day squad in last year’s encounter; Swindon on the other hand had three, and only one in the starting line-up.

So c’mon, chin up and start building your own Moon Base Beta 1 Command Centre, it does help.

The original 80′s packaging<
Moon Base 1

My (and son’s) effort – yeah, screw you! I didn’t have all the pieces; the set is almost thirty years old for Christssake!

Moon Base 2

A better way to travel…

planes-trains-and-automobiles

It’s Friday, so it must be time for the latest blog by BBC Devon’s Vic Morgan.

How do you explain it? This game called football.

A couple of Saturdays ago Swindon Town made national news for the wrong reasons. Humbled by a non-league team in the FA Cup (again) and a tad embarrassed. Seven days on it was back to form and the flowing passing game had returned.

Just as well because the match was played on a cold, dank November afternoon. It was real football weather. Time for woolly hat, coat, scarf and gloves. The first twenty minutes were somewhat poor. Both sides struggling to impose themselves. Swindon playing without an out and out forward, Colchester trying to work out why Swindon had no out and out forward.

Then step forward Nicky Ajose. We’ve not seen too much of Nicky in full matches. Suffice it to say though he was excellent in Essex. So much so that the travelling 300 Town fans got to grips with their new Ajose song. Nicky was there to turn in the opener after Massimo Luongo’s shot was parried by the home ‘keeper. For the rest of the afternoon he was a constant threat to the bewildered home defence still trying to work out who they were supposed to be marking. Three goals in two games for the on loan player.

The second goal arrived courtesy of Dany N’Guessan. Now this was a player inspired after half time. Can’t imagine how you would stop him in this mood. Strong and quick, he must terrify defenders. So all good? Well the old defensive frailties allowed Colchester to score near the end. A free header inside the penalty box and it led to a tense final few minutes before the second away win of the season was secured.

Last week it was difficult to think of one player for man of the match, this week there were several. Ajose and N’Guessan, Ryan Harley, Louis Thompson and Jay McEveley, all of them in the frame. Leaving a ground after winning away is a great feeling and so much better than the dejection of Moss Rose.

So a week in which to ponder and anticipate this Saturday’s game against Leyton Orient. Now if ever there was a true test of Town’s potential this is it. Orient have had a marvellous season so far. An extraordinary winning run at the start of the campaign, has seen Russell Slade’s team lead the division until just recently. Its a game to look forward too. Hopefully a big crowd and a great atmosphere.

I’m N’Guessan we’ll play with forwards in this match. so a return for Nile Ranger? Ranger’s absence was a mystery to most Town fans I spoke to on Saturday. You would think he’ll play a part this weekend. Whatever is going on we’ll leave for another time. Right now its about how he performs for Swindon.

While we sit and shiver our cricketers are toiling in the heat. Yes the Ashes are back. The footballers of our national side give us little to get excited about, but the old England-Australia battles are something to be relished. Years of misery have been replaced by a English dominance in this particular contest. LONG may it continue, certainly over the next few weeks.

To the County Ground then.

Keep it loud keep it proud keep it SWINDON.

Vic

Andy’s Angle: Tactical masterclass..?

Mark Cooper

Andrew Steele-Davis reflects on Mark Cooper’s tactical masterclass, looks ahead to the visit of Leyton Orient and suggests why England’s recent squad inclusions means good news for the lower leagues…

Eventful is the word best used to sum up the last two weeks at SN1 with games now coming thick and fast and the hectic Christmas schedule just around the corner. After the feelings of anger, humiliation and just downright disbelief that the FA Cup humbling at the hands of Macclesfield Town brought, it feels good to be writing this on the back of two straight wins. Two victories that are hugely significant in their own unique way.

Progression through to the Southern Area Semi-Finals of the JPT at the expense of Wycombe Wanderers last Tuesday evening has everyone connected to the club dreaming of yet another date with Wembley, and a chance of lifting some much coveted silverware. Now wouldn’t that be nice?

Town were utterly dominant against Wycombe. I know I wasn’t the only one that was left bewildered by the fact that the visitors went in at the break a goal to the good. Despite Swindon being rampant in the second half, for a while there was that horrible feeling floating around the County Ground that Town were facing the prospect of two cup exits in a matter of days. Step forward Nicky Ajose, who has been in lethal form of late, to score a late brace to ensure that Swindon’s name would be present on a card ready for the Soccer AM crew to make the draw. Stevenage will be the team standing in Swindon’s way of the Area-Finals, but with the game being played at the County Ground expectation levels are understandably high.

We all know that Town’s away form this season has been rather hit and miss so the prospect of a trip to Colchester last Saturday, would hardly have raised cheers among the travelling Swindon faithful ahead of the journey. Mark Cooper deserves a large chunk of the plaudits after his side secured a vital 2-1 away win, as it was his tactical nous that proved critical in taking the three points back to Wiltshire.

Lining up in a 4-6-0 formation, Cooper’s young side were tight and compact and enjoyed near total control for the majority of the game. It was a display that certainly warmed the cockles of the traveling Town support on what was a typically cold Essex afternoon. The in-form paring of Nicky Ajose and Dany N’Guessan got the all-important goals and despite the hosts pulling one back Town held out to secure a rare enjoyable away day. This was a victory which will hopefully signal a change in fortunes for Swindon’s away form.

It’s nice to see N’Guessan and Ajose hitting the back of the net with regular frequency and with Nile Ranger’s absence it is vital that the in-form duo continue to deliver the goods. Both have been revelations since joining the club and both offer different quality’s to Town’s attacking hub. N’Guessan brings sheer power and brute force to the table while Ajose is a menace in the box as well as being influential out on the flanks. Dany has bagged six goals in eight games now, whilse Ajose has three in his last two outings. There has been a clamour of support for Nicky Ajose’s loan from Peterborough to be made permanent in the January Transfer Window, a move which I consider to be both necessary and vital to Swindon’s promotion hopes this season.

It was also good to see Ryan Harley return to the starting line-up against Colchester after a couple of outings off the bench following a lengthy lay-off. I marked Harley as a key figure for Town at the start of the season. While his season has been ravaged by injuries so far he was at his influential best on Saturday and was pivotal to Town’s second half comeback against Wycombe. Hopefully Ryan’s injury problems are behind him now and that he can kick on and establish himself as a key component in this Swindon side.

Leyton Orient are the visitors on Saturday and their stunning start to the season has been good news for The Football League. Orient don’t have the biggest budget in the league and their current side have been together for a number of years now with that continuity now paying dividends. The most pleasing factor of their impressive season so far has been Russell Slade in the dugout who has been given time to gradually build a side and create his own blueprint and philosophy. At a time when managers are discarded with at an alarming rate Slade and Orient’s successes should lift the hearts of every football fan around the Country.

To finish off then I don’t think I am the only one when I say that the recent inclusions of Adam Lallana and Jay Rodriguez in the England squad should bring hope to talented footballers currently plying their trade in the Football League. Both Lallana and Rodriguez, along with Rickie Lambert, all displayed their talents in the lower leagues before being invited to dine at the top table of English football. Lambert’s, Lallana’s and Rodriguez’s recent exploits on the international stage should inspire the likes of Alex Pritchard and Ryan Mason, as well as the vast array of young potential stars that currently litter the Football League. They need to know that combining talent with hard work and determination, whilst getting the experience of regular football at a lower league club, can pay off in the long run.

Until Next Time…

Colchester United 1-2 Swindon Town: Tactical tinkerings pays dividends

Colchester Weston Homes Stadium 1 1

Swindon Town secured a 2-1 victory over Colchester United to move back into the League One play-off places courtesy of some tactical tinkerings by a brave Mark Cooper, showing Craig Levein how to get the strikerless 4-6-0 formation to work. Writes Scott Keith. 

If you’re going to go to Colchester’s new ground, the Weston Homes Community Stadium, it’s important you are entertained in as many ways as possible. Stuck on the edge of the town with no apparent amenities nearby bar a service station and a “stadium out of the box” feel (it does bear a remarkable resemblance to Chesterfield’s new ground) it’s a venue that is lacking.

So Mark Cooper not only obliged in providing a win, but an exciting game of “Guess the Formation”, which you could play not only between two and three pm, once the team line up was revealed, but for a reasonable part of the first half.

In the end, it was the return of Wes Foderingham in goal, the usual defence at the moment of Nathan Byrne, Darren Ward, Grant Hall and Jay McEveley. Ryan Harley was brought in, and played with Yaser Kasim and Louis Thompson.  Then it got more complicated. The two wide strikers Nicky Ajose and Dany N’Guessan started right out on their respective touchlines, leaving a giant crescent like space which Massimo Luongo could move into.

Colchester had a few forays forward before we got the first idea of how, whatever exactly they were, the new 4-6-0 tactics might work. Nicky Ajose was sprung from deep and shot over after being able to run with the ball for a good 25 yards and Town were reasonably happy to stand off and let Colchester have the ball up to halfway.

“Do your worst with the ball” was the message to the home team. Largely they obliged.

After Harley, who did very well in keeping possession throughout, shot wide, the opening goal arrived. Luongo’s 20-yard shot was weakly tipped away by hulking goalkeeper Sam Walker, and as per paragraph four of the unwritten striker’s handbook “Good forwards are there to follow up”.  Ajose thumped it in and made it 1-0.

One of the few advantages Colchester did have was height for free-kicks and corners, an area where the absent Nile Ranger was missed defensively and offensively. Thompson was impressively acrobatic as he twisted mid air to clear Craig Eastmond’s header from one corner off the line, meaning a 1-0 lead at the break.

A second goal arrived within two minutes of kick-off. More keeping possession, and Harley’s low cross was finished off by Dany N’Guessan at the far post.

At this point, the otherwise inert home support moved their volume up to grumble. Colchester lumped it forward with big striker Jabo Ibehre adding his muscle up front. Town waited and picked them off – with frequently one good ball forward enough to scare them. Walker came out to head one of those away, and from a minimum 35 yards Luongo attempted the first-time lob, which bounced off the angle of post and bar. When Ajose finished off N’Guessan’s cross after play continued, he was given offside. Not certain about that.

Needless drama arrived with 11 minutes to go. Defender Magnus Okuonghae stayed up front for Colchester, and scored completely unmarked, with a header from a right wing cross as whatever plans they had became lump it up front towards the big men. Hall and Ward mostly dealt with the the threat.

But by most standards, the closing stages weren’t that tense.  Alex Pritchard, who dropped to the bench, should have got a third as he was clean through, and then couldn’t quite decide the most flamboyant way to beat the keeper. Caught almost between some Pele style dummy where he let the ball run and just hitting it, he attempted a first time chip that spooned wide.

One final word for Colchester central defender Cian Bolger, who managed, within 30 seconds, a miscued header, a clearance from it that went straight up in the air, followed by him mis-controlling the ball as it came down, and then, to finish with style, conceding a foul for a free-kick.

While Colchester weren’t up to much, the unorthodox 4-6-0 system put together by Mark Cooper and Luke Williams exploited their weakness and made for a very enjoyable away day at one of the least inspiring venues in the league.

JPT Report: Swindon Town 2-1 Wycombe Wanderers

Johnstones Paint Trophy 1 1

Swindon Town never like to do it easy do they? Calvin Hothi was at the County Ground on a cold night as the Robins managed to scrape through to the Southern Area Semi-Final at the expense of an impressive Wycombe Wanderers side, courtesy of a Nicky Ajose brace.

A Swindon team that featured two changes from the side that found themselves on the wrong end of a 4-0 hammering to Macclesfield the previous Saturday. Nicky Ajose came in for Nile Ranger with Louis Thompson replacing the injured Ryan Mason, who is likely to face another lengthy spell on the sidelines.

Town started the game attacking the Stratton Bank end. The game took off slowly with neither team managing to grab much of a foothold in the game. Dany N’Guessan fired over in the 7th minute after good work down the left from Massimo Luongo. The first clear cut chance arrived after a good touch from Alex Pritchard sent Massimo Luongo through, the former Tottenham mans ball across the box should have been met by Nicky Ajose had he thrown himself at it. Swindon continued to pass the ball around well, keeping on top of possession but with a lack of killer instinct. A few Pritchard corners failed to beat the first man as Town pressed for an opener.

Luongo, who had seen a lot of the ball already, had the chance to open affairs when his shot at the back post was well blocked for a corner. The Australian then exchanged passes with Alex Pritchard with the former then sending his shot wide. Soon after Yaser Kasim was hacked down outside the box offering Pritchard the chance to test the Wycombe ‘keeper. Pritchard however sent a well struck shot narrowly over as the home side looked the more likely to break the deadlock.

Nathan Byrne then managed to send a deep cross in to Jay McEveley and the Scot really should’ve done better than to send the header into the side netting. The Robins then went tantalisingly close to getting a lead when they broke quickly and a well made pass from Massimo Luongo threaded Alex Pritchard through, a powerful shot from the winger struck the far post with the ‘keeper beaten.

Town continued to retain possession and press for a goal before the deadlock was finally broken on just before half-time. A mix up at the back allowed McClure to retain possession in the box following attempted challenges from Darren Ward and Grant Hall and the Wycombe man managed to turn the latter before firing home past Tyrell Belford. A lead Wycombe hadn’t really deserved to find themselves in.

That signalled the end of affairs in the first half. Town had been playing the ball around well but lacked a killer pass. An unlucky mistake at the back resulting in the two center backs tangled on the floor allowed Wycombe to take an undeserved lead. In truth Town should have really been in front already had Pritchard and Ajose been able to take full advantage of their efforts.

Mark Cooper made one half-time change with Ryan Harley replacing Yaser Kasim. Two minutes in Belford had to be on hand to stop Craigs header before Town came back into their swing. Then, double attempts from Harley and Ajose were kept out before Pritchards drilled shot was blocked. The first cautions of the game went to Dany N’Guessan and Nathan Byrne before Mceveley saw his effort drift over the Townend. Kortney Hause offered a rare attack from Wycombe, sending his shot well over. Efforts from Dany N’Guessan and Luongo once again failed to find the back of the net for an evidently increasingly annoyed Robins side. 

Town’s second change of the night saw Dany N’Guessan replaced by Mohamed El Gabas on 73 minutes and the away side swapped Craig for Dunne. It wasn’t long until Swindon finally found a leveller on 76 minutes. Ryan Harley drove a free-kick into the box and after a flurry of deflections it fell to Nicky Ajose to bundle in for the deserved equaliser.

Jo Kuffour made way for Billy Knott in the 85th minute before controversy struck. Kretzschmar’s shot crossed the line but Morgan was deemed to be interfering with play and is flagged offside. Morgan didn’t touch the ball and Kretzschmar had ran from an onside position.

The winner for Swindon came very late. After good work from El Gabas, the Egyptian did well to win the ball in the middle of his own half and after good work managed to force through until hacked down by Dunne just outside the area. The Wycombe man picking up a booking for his efforts. Jay McEveley sent the free-kick into the box where it found Pritchard’s head, the ball bounced around and fell to Nicky Ajose just in front of goal and he did well to swivel and beat the ‘keeper. Town left it late with the goal arriving in the 94th minute.

The game in truth was a fairly average game for Town. They played the ball well with Luongo and Pritchard seeing a lot of it, but frustratingly lacked a cutting edge. They again required Ajose to come to the rescue and once again firmly put himself into the manager’s mind for Saturday.

As for the JPT, Swindon will face either Peterborough United, Newport County or Stevenage in the Southern Area Semi-Final. I’m hoping for Town to be drawn against Newport at home and Stevenage to pull off a wonder against Peterborough.

Man of the match goes to Massimo Luongo. The midfielder was involved heavily and linked up play well with surging runs and good passing. He was less effective in the second half but still managed to cause a problem for the Wycombe back line.

Next up is the trip to Colchester this Saturday with the Robins aiming to steady their away form and get a grip hold on the play off places.

COYR

Rotherham United 0-4 Swindon: Town crunch the Big Apple to the core

Rotherham United 3

Adam Tanner was at the New York Stadium, Rotherham to spread the news and be a part of it as Swindon Town put a sledgehammer to their troublesome away form with a 4-0 win.

Since the previous away game, a defeat at Preston North End, both Mark Cooper and Luke Williams had spoken of the need for Town to be more tactically flexible and astute away from home. Their response was to start with a 3-5-2 formation. Few were surprised to see that Wes Foderingham had shaken off his mystery virus to reclaim his place in goal. Jay McEveley joined Darren Ward and Grant Hall at centre back, Nathan Thompson pushed up to play at right wing back opposite Nathan Byrne on the left, Alex Pritchard hovered in front of Yaser Kasim and Massimo Luongo in midfield, and Nicky Ajose partnered Nile Ranger up front.

The onus really was on Town to avoid conceding one of the early goals that had not only severely blighted their away form, but had also crept into recent home games against Bristol City and Plymouth Argyle. Although this objective was achieved, the opening 20 minutes were hard going to say the least. Swindon were overpowered in both midfield and defence, and several genuine Rotherham United chances came and went.

Firstly the strange case of Alex Revell, who seems to score more goals against Swindon than against everyone else combined, was given a clear sight of goal when he was left unmarked at the near post from a low cross. Fortunately, his clumsy lofted finish over the bar brought back memories of his time playing for, and not against, Town.

Rotherham’s next chance was an even better one, and Ben Pringle should have done much better than shoot wide after he ghosted through the middle far too easily and ended up one-on-one with Foderingham. The same player lashed a shot over shortly afterwards. Finally, from one of United’s many early corners, a brilliant fingertip save from Foderingham was just enough to push a Pablo Mills headed onto the bar, and the ball was scrambled clear. Whenever the ball did break upfield, Town lacked directness, and never really managed to penetrate the Rotherham defence. Relatively tame efforts from Pritchard and McEveley were as good as it got.

After those early scares, Town did begin to settle, and a period of calm followed. On 32 minutes, Pritchard took the ball and, for the first time, ran with purpose at the heart of the Rotherham defence. It had coped comfortably until that point with Town’s passing game, but suddenly it looked unsettled. The Tottenham loanee drew a clumsy foul to win a free-kick. He got up and beautifully curled the ball over the wall and into the top left corner.

The goal seemed to subdue Rotherham and Town began to take a grip of the midfield. Just before half-time, Pritchard once again drove at the defence. Again, they were mesmerised and forced to commit the foul, right on the edge of the box. This time his free kick sailed over, but it demonstrated how Pritchard’s dynamism and skill had changed the complexion of the game.

There was still time for a major twist in the tale before the whistle. Town worked the ball down the left, allowing Massimo Luongo hit a hopeful shot from just inside the area. The ball took a big deflection off a defender, which carried it beyond the keeper and into the far corner. Swindon had established a two goal lead which had looked so improbable 15 minutes earlier.

A two goal half-time lead represented unfamiliar territory for Town, and talk at half-time focused on how the team would cope with this situation which, frankly, didn’t reflect the pattern of the game. We needn’t have worried. The second half was magnificent. Town played composed, controlled football to which Rotherham had no answer.  The sting was taken out of the game, and the hosts barely threatened; they certainly didn’t get anything on target. The game began to fizzle out until, on 77 minutes, the third goal arrived. On the counter, Nathan Byrne released Pritchard, who sailed unchallenged down the left and delivered an immaculate low cross which he made look beautifully simple. NIcky Ajose couldn’t miss, and the game was won.

One great feature of this Town squad is its love of the game, and the players certainly didn’t seem keen on settling for three goals. What would have been a special fourth goal nearly arrived when a move of around 25 passes (at a guess) culminated in a superb flick from Ranger releasing Pritchard, who shot narrowly wide with only the keeper to beat.

The fourth goal came in stoppage time, when Louis Thompson released Dany N’Guessan who, not for the first time in a Town shirt, showed real composure to gently stroke the ball into the corner of the net. I wasn’t alone in thinking that he looked well offside; in the sorry absence of a Football League Show, it’s hard to tell for sure. Perhaps it was just our day.

Here are a few thoughts:

1. Two-goal leads

There was an odd parallel with the Crewe Alexandra game six weeks ago, in that Town went 2-0 up on the stroke of half-time through a fortunate Luongo goal. In fact, these games represent the only occasions on which Town have taken a two goal lead in the League so far. In both games Town had been pretty uninspiring for the first half an hour, but went on to take a lead out of nowhere, before doubling it in fortunate circumstances. And in both, Town went on to totally dominate the second half, racking up more goals in the process. We clearly thrive when holding a comfortable lead, as opponents are forced to attack, and the team is so adept at exploiting gaps and pouncing on the break.

It’s a shame that the team hasn’t established more two goal leads so far. In both of the home games during the previous seven days, Town played pretty well prior to going in front, but then seemed to lose a lot of urgency and impetus, which allowed a couple of poor sides opportunities to snatch results that should have been out of the question. To be fair, we’ve held on for the win on both occasions, but we can’t assume that will always be the case. The team certainly has plenty of attacking prowess, so let’s see whether it can build on the confidence gained from the current good form and make life more comfortable for itself where possible.

2. Forwards

Over the course of the last three seasons, effective Town forwards have been few and far between. Paolo Di Canio’s favoured option appeared to be Andy Williams; say no more.

By contrast, Cooper’s attacking signings have been superb. Although Ranger had no real sight of goal yesterday, he was, as usual, tireless and totally unselfish. There is still a huge contrast between our goals record with and without him on the pitch, and that is no coincidence. No midfield can be as prolific as ours (Luongo, Pritchard and Mason are all well on course to score 10-15) without genuine support from in front. Meanwhile, N’Guessan is averaging a goal every 108 minutes and Ajose one every 125 minutes, and it’s pretty hard to argue with those ratios, especially when we consider that they both spend a lot of time out wide.

The early signs are that Mohamed El Gabbas will be a decent option, and he was unlucky not to score on Tuesday. Between the four of them, they also offer pretty much the full range of attributes, as they are so different. What Ranger cannot offer, Ajose can, and vice versa.

3. Wing-backs

Finally, I think both Nathans – Thompson and Byrne – deserve a mention for their excellent performances at wing-back. Thompson achieved so much on his own, and put in countless tackles and blocks, not to mention running what must have been about 20km. Byrne is in his element further up the pitch, and provided some excellent support and cover for Pritchard, who regularly drifted out towards our left. Between them, they play a big part in making 3-5-2 a very feasible option moving forward.

I hope we eventually look back on yesterday as a milestone. Although it was far from plain sailing, the management showed some tactical nous which was eventually richly rewarded with a terrific result. There is still plenty of scope for progress, and we’ll never know how the game would have panned out had Rotherham’s early dominance led to a goal. But we got the bit of luck that had eluded us in other away games, and went on to demonstrate, once again, what a bit of Premier League quality can do in the third tier. On the back of three wins, we now have a further two home games coming up, which I suppose will measure how seriously we can start looking at the top six. Bring ‘em on…

Neither TheWashbag or the contributor are responsible for the video

Swindon Town 2-1 Plymouth Argyle: A step closer to Wembley…

Johnstones Paint Trophy

Swindon Town came from behind against a lacklustre Plymouth Argyle to progress to the last sixteen of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. Goals from Jack Barthram and Nicky Ajose cancelled out Andre Blackman’s early deflected strike, in a game in which three Swindon players made their professional debuts. Report by Lee Clark.

Swindon used their maximum allowed changes and one more, as Jack Barthram, Raphael Rossi-Branco, Mohamed El-Gabbas, Louis Thompson, Nicky Ajose were all among the starting line-up. Tyrell Belford also started, as Wes Foderingham was a late withdrawal due to him suffering from a “stomach bug”.

The 2012 finalists, Swindon, started the stronger, but it was the visitors who took an early lead. After five minutes, Andre Blackman had time to pick his spot when bearing down on goal. He opened up his body, and his shot was destined for the far corner. As Belford dived, the shot took a wicked deflection towards the near post off of a Swindon defender. Belford was wrong footed and the ball rolled into an open goal.

Despite falling behind against the run of play, Swindon continued where they left off. Nathan Byrne found space on the left-hand side, and his low cross evaded the first defender and from six-yards out, Mohamed El-Gabbas failed to react and the ball bounced off of him and comfortably into the arms of Plymouth goalkeeper Jake Cole.

Mohamed El-Gabbas continued to search for his first goal in Town colours. A bobbling ball on the edge of the Plymouth area fell to him, and his first time half-volley crashed against the left-hand post with Cole beaten. Swindon had created more chances in the first fifteen minutes than they did in the whole 90 minutes on Saturday against Tranmere, but still found themselves a goal behind.

The breakthrough came just a few minutes later. Grant Hall, who was playing on the left-hand side of a defensive three, picked the ball up on the half-way line. He launched the ball towards the right-hand side, where Jack Barthram had made a run beyond the Plymouth left back. The shortest player on the pitch expertly planted his header into the far corner to give Swindon a much deserved equaliser. The header was Barthram’s first professional goal.

Around five minutes later, Swindon were desperately unlucky not to take the lead. Swindon had been causing Plymouth problems with set-pieces throughout the early stages, and yet another corner kick caused havoc amongst the Argyle defence. Alex Pritchard’s corner from the right came to penalty spot where El-Gabbas was waiting. The Egyptian planted his header towards the top left-corner of the Plymouth goal, but El-Gabbas was denied by a superb save by Cole. El-Gabbas was having a very promising full debut, and had done everything but score.

Before the half time whistle, Swindon and Barthram had another chance. Hall played an almost identical long pass through to Barthram. The youngster had once again got around the Plymouth defence, but when bearing down on the ‘keeper, his volley from around nine yards out crashed against the bar and Plymouth cleared the danger. It was to be the last meaningful action of the first half.

Swindon’s momentum was not stopped by the half-time whistle. Five minutes into the second half, they took the lead. Alex Pritchard, who was present in everything Town did, stole the ball off of an Argyle midfielder. After sidestepping a defender, he played in Nicky Ajose, who cut inside a Plymouth defender and curled a lovely shaped shot into the right-hand corner for his third goal for Swindon.

As the second half started to fizzle out, Jack Barthram, who had been superb, went down holding his torso. After some treatment, it was decided that he was not fit to continue and sadly had to leave the pitch on a stretcher. The full back had been Swindon’s biggest goal-threat throughout the night, despite seemingly playing in a wing-back position. He was replaced by Dany N’Guessan, with Ajose dropping back into a right sided midfield position.

Plymouth started to go in search of an equaliser, and started to come more and more into the game with around fifteen minutes remaining. Lee Cox, a second-half substitute for Swindon, misplaced a pass in the middle of the pitch. Reuben Reid ran at the Swindon defence with Darren Ward and Hall backtracking, and released a powerful drive that stung the palms of Tyrell Belford.

While Plymouth were on top as the game entered the final minutes, they created very few chances of note. Belford did flap at one cross on what was a very nervy night for the debutant. Swindon ran down the clock professionally, and Ajose missed a chance in the fourth and final minute of injury time to remove any doubt once and for all. Ajose wasn’t made to rue that miss however, as Swindon progressed into the last eight of the Southern section and the last sixteen of the competition overall.