JPT AFC Wimbledon: Phil Smith saves the day to send Swindon closer to Wembley

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Swindon squeezed through to the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Area Semi-Final last night thanks to a welcome return to action, and form, by goalkeeper Phil Smith. Matt Davies reports.

Paolo Di Canio made six changes to the team that beat Port Vale. Phil Smith, Joe Devera, Oliver Risser, Rafaelle De Vita, Alan Connell and Mehdi Kerrouche all returned to the starting XI.

Swindon started the game slowly and were trying to feel their way into the game, struggling to keep hold of possession meant they often gave the ball away and really lacked composure. Luckily AFC Wimbledon were also experiencing a similar problem, meaning that the opening 20 minutes had passed by without any shots on goal for either team.

This all changed when Town finally managed to get a hold on the game and push the Dons defence. After winning a free kick roughly 30 yards away from goal Caddis smashed the ball goal bound to see his strike head narrowly over the crossbar.

Despite the majority of possession, Swindon weren’t really doing anything productive with it and seem to lack creativity going forward. All of a sudden the game picked up after the Town fans begin to show their frustration, as Swindon responded by securing good amounts of possession, but still failed to really test the opposition ‘keeper. Wimbledon then began their own fight back, getting back into contention when pacey winger Christian Jolley’s surging run saw him wriggle past three town player before the ball being bundled out of play for a goal kick.

Swindon were starting to lose their grip on the game and Wimbledon were beginning to build momentum as we edged to half time.

A couple of minutes later Swindon won a free kick on the right hand side of the pitch after De Vita was fouled. The delivery was towards the near post and was hit with pace, but was then headed back out towards the right-hand side where Kerrouche then crossed another dangerous ball into the box, this time Connell managed to get his head on it and turn it goal bound forcing a good save.

Moments later a smart through ball from Simon Ferry put Kerrouche through on goal only for him to have a tame shot saved. Both teams then phased out as they wait for the half time whistle. Swindon have the edge as they go in for half time, had possession for large periods of time but failed to anything with it.

The second half started how the first had ended. Good play from De Vita saw him find a cross that picked out an unmarked Kerrouche in the penalty area only for him to shoot wide, really should’ve done better. The game has opened up as Swindon begin to build pressure as they win a corner following great persistence from Kerrouche. The resultant corner was taken quickly and the whipped into the box with pace but with no one on the end, it was easily cleared.

Eager to make the difference, Town made a substitution with Matt Ritchie coming off for Etienne Esajas. It nearly paid off immediately as Esajas made beat his defender before striking a well hit shot only for the ‘keeper to smother. Soon afterwards Swindon made another substitution as Kerrouche made way for Lukas Magera.

Town then had a penalty shout turned down as a bounce catched out the Wimbledon defender who is being hassled by Alan Connell. The defender went down after blatantly handling the ball and the Dons were very lucky to get away with it.

After a quiet spell when it looked like no goal would come from either side, the ball fell to Oliver Risser who unleashed a vicious half volley that flew into the top corner, not giving the ‘keeper a chance. With echos of the Namibian’s goal on the opening day against Crewe, the game needed a superb individual effort like this to spark the match into life.

Swindon then pushed for a second goal and for a while Wimbledon were all over the place.

Connell’s persistence in chasing down lead to a mix up between the goalkeeper and defender, resulting in the former Grimsby man gaining possession only to shoot from an extremely tight angle and wide.

After only ten minutes on the pitch, Czech striker Lukas Magera was then replaced by Lander Gabilondo after suffering a reoccurrence of a recent injury. A big disappointment seeing Lukas had been just getting into the game, so hopefully he’ll be fit for Saturday. The chance meant Di Canio had to quickly switch things around with Gabilondo sent out to the left and De Vita moved to play up front alongside Connell.

Being in the lead, Swindon were now on top of their opponents as Esajas rattles the crossbar with a thunderous effort that would have topped Risser’s goal.

It wasn’t long until Town became complacent in possession and allow Wimbledon to get one on one with Phil Smith. Smith tries his best to save but ends up getting a leg to it that pushed it towards and unguarded Swindon goal and Yussuff gets the final touch that puts the ball into the back of the net in the 81st minute.

With the late equaliser all of the momentum is with Wimbledon as they look to score another. With the match picking up and going end to end, neither side manages to sneak the late winner to send the match straight to penalties.

Wimbledon chose to go first in the shoot out. Phil Smith saved the first penalty as he dived to his right hand side and got a strong hand to it. Then it was Swindon’s turn and Connell is the taker, runs up and its it hard into the top left corner of the goal to put Swindon in the lead the Dons goalkeeper couldn’t get near it.

Wimbledon’s next penalty was also saved by Smith who pulled off a great save to deny them a goal as he dived to his left hand side and made good contact with the ball. Swindon’s second penalty was taken by Oliver Risser, who also hit his hard into the top left corner of the net leaving the ‘keeper nowhere near the ball.

The pressure was then on Swindon after the Dons scored their 3rd attempt at goal. Smith was sent the wrong way as the ball was slotted into the left hand side of his goal to make it 2-1 to the home side. Esajas calmly dispatched his and Swindon’s third into the top right corner of the net.

With it now 3-1, AFC Wimbledon needed to score their next penalty. Phil Smith pulled of his third great save, to his left hand side, to put Swindon through to the Area Semi-Finals. A welcome return to the starting XI and form for the long serving Swindon goalkeeper.

In the end, Swindon were poor in the first half of the game and really didn’t look like scoring. The second saw a massive improvement, but relied on a moment of genius from Risser to give them any chance of progressing. Thereafter, failure to push hard enough for a second goal that would’ve killed off Wimbledon allowed the south London side an unlikely route back into the game.

With Town through to the Area Semi-Final they could face either Southend, Barnet or Brentford when the draw is made on Saturday. If we draw Brentford we’ll be reunited with ex Captain Jonathan Douglas and want-away loanee Mike Grella.

Swindon v Oxford: Constable returns to haunt Town

Completely ignore what was written in the build-up to the A420 derby about the history, passion and desire; as that’s exactly what I’m having to do, coming to terms with a deflating first home defeat since 1973 and a sea of yellow and blue celebrating on the Stratton Bank. All this is despite an vastly improved Swindon performance. With the minutes ticking by to the final whistle I was dreading the prospect of writing this post match review and typing Swindon Town 1 – 2 Oxford United. There I’ve got it out of the way at the start…Continue Reading

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

A Season in Stats: Part 3 – Who is the better goalkeeper?

David Lucas

A bull... no it's Phil Smith

A position where the players divide opinion around The County Ground like no other. Who is the better goalkeeper? Is it the Town no.1 David Lucas or no.13 Phil Smith?

2009/2010 was a year of domination for David Lucas, Smith could only make 7 league apppearances and was truely the backup.

That’s in contrast to this season as Phil Smith featured in the majority of games, making 26 starts compared to Lucas’ 20, mostly due to Lucas suffering a back injury, but also because the goalkeeper position like all of the Town team has suffered from managerial indecision and tinkering.

Fortunately as both have played a fair share of the season each the statistics collated on them both provides a fair assessment of their ability.

Oh…and before anyone asks, these stats to take into account the Peterborough and Sheffield Wednesday games when the starting keeper was substituted, so Lucas has made 21 appearances to Smith’s 27.

Contribution to result: 

Keeper Apps Won Drawn Lost Points Won P/G
Lucas 20(>1) 4 (19%) 7 (33%) 10 (48%) 0.90
Smith 26(>1) 6 (22%) 7 (26%) 14 (52%) 0.93

Very little difference between the two keepers in their overall contribution to the match result. Phil Smith made a marginally better contribution to points won per game this season, however Smith still contributed more to a losing side.

Goals conceded:

Keeper Minutes Played Conceded Con P/G Mins per conceding Clean Sheets Clean Sheets P/G
Lucas 1718 32 1.52 53.69 4 5.25
Smith 2422 40 1.48 60.55 5 5.4

Phil Smith wins this round, again marginally, with less goals conceded per game, keeping the ball out of the net for an additional 7 minutes per opposition goal and has a better likelihood of keeping a clean sheet.

Shots faced and saved:

Keeper Shots on target Faced Shots OT Faced  P/G Mins per shots OT Faced  Shots Saved Shots Saved % Shots Saved P/G Mins per shot saved 
Lucas 95 4.52 18.08 63 66% 3 27.27
Smith 114 4.22 21.25 74 65% 2.7 32.73

David Lucas has faced more shots (defined as opponent shots on target) at a rate of every 18.08 minutes, compared to every 21.25 minutes for Smith. This could be because Smith organises his defence better to close down the opposition attacks. When faced with a shot on target Lucas is more likely to save, achieving an average of 3 shots saved per game compared to Smith’s 2.7, also reflected in the minutes per shot saved.


Does Lucas catch the ball...?

The contribution of each keeper to match results is very marginal, Smith will go for longer without conceding, however Lucas performed better in terms of the overall number of shots on target he has faced and saved.

The closeness between the two in nearly all statistics highlights why we’ve had no outstanding no.1 goalkeeper all season who deserves an unbroken run in the side. No wonder the managers have tinkered and given both their fair share of opportunities to impress.

So who is the better keeper?…Perhaps Phil Smith may just nudge it judging by these statistics, however he still doesn’t fill me with confidence, although come to think about it… do either of them? It’s a shame both have contracts for 2011/2012 as a new senior face could do wonders for our rebuilding towards a promotion at the first attempt.

A Season in Stats:

Part 1 – Relegation

Part 2 – Slow out of the blocks

10 reasons why Swindon failed in 2010/2011

Phew…this season has finally finished and on a high note with the 2-0 victory at Tranmere Rovers.

Before we start to look forward to hopefully a single season in League Two (before a promotion, not in the other direction…) I just want to run the final rule over 2010/2011, with the 10 reasons why I believe we failed, been relegated and finished bottom of the league.

1. Sold best players and not replaced them – Is probably the most frequently heard and ultimately the real reason why we failed. You just can’t disagree with the ramifications of failing to replace Greer, Paynter, Ward, Austin and Morrison.

That’s not to say these could be replaced, as of course quality footballers don’t come cheap and everyone is after them. Having said that, I don’t believe the effort was really made to replace them.

New permanent signings arrived in other positions and their actual ‘replacements’ Frampton, Pericard, Ball etc were miserable failures.

Avenging the play-off defeat couldn't be forgotten

2. Believing our own hype – The monkey on the back that was the Play-offs couldn’t be forgotten. Avenging the defeat last May was paramount and blinded everyone throughout the season. Even in the new year with the dismal run in full swing, Wilson continued to believe a play-off finish was still possible.

His deluded view persisted until the 3-0 defeat at Leyton Orient in early February, by which time we’d slumped to 21st and 13 points off 6th place. This mindset obviously rubbed off on the players, still believing their own hype and failing to realise the  situation were were falling into.

3. Goals, or lack of them… – We got less points than anyone else because we couldn’t score goals. 50 goals all season masks the fact that since 12 (league) goal Charlie Austin walked out in January we only scored a further 4 goals at home and 9 away. So that’s 20 games in which the whole team scored only 1 more than Austin managed in his 21 appearance in the first half of the season… now that’s relegation form.


4. Fitton didn’t sack Danny Wilson in November – Back in November 2008 Andrew Fitton did the right thing and sacked Maurice Malpas, yet two years later Fitton went against his earlier instincts and stuck with Danny Wilson. This was despite Wilson having an almost identical record to Malpas’ in both league and cups (17 points from 14 games and early cup exits). Fitton later admitted giving Wilson the benefit of the doubt and time because of his play-off achievements was a massive mistake.

5. Relegation fighters? – Wilson assembled the squad with only promotion in-mind. So does it come as a surprise that a bunch of players motivating themselves for promotion fails when faced with the opposite? The problem was that this ‘promotion squad’ couldn’t even get that task right, as they failed to make any impact on the top half of the table.

Many of the new signings had turned down moves to Championship or ambitious clubs to be part of a great new challenge. Prutton turned down Brighton, Dossevi and Rose a few Championship clubs and they ultimately couldn’t give a toss when the club form dipped.

Having gone through the squad only two had previous relegation experience in their careers. Those being Rose with Stockport (although he was on-loan at Norwich) and Prutton in his days at Southampton. The lack of vital experience meant that we were only going to come out on the losing side in the relegation dog fight.

6January transfer window – With Wilson given a final chance to put it right and make purchases in January where were the replacements and experienced fighters? Instead we were treated to signing players we already had (Ritchie), signing a non-league defender with promise but no League experience, an injury prone young defender from Celtic who probably is never going to play for Town and a League Two striker who is again one for the future…

7. Loan failures – After the failure of the January transfer window weren’t we told experienced loan players would arrive and make the difference… Frampton isn’t anywhere near as good as Greer or Morrison, Obika couldn’t give a shit, Grella lost interest, Andrew had spent too much time with Pericard learning how not to make any effort, and N’Diaye was ineffective and looked lost.

Paul Hart = Big mistake

8. Appointing Paul Hart – Yes hindsight is a virtue, however the appointment of Paul Hart clearly did more harm than good. With his history of disenfranchising the dressing room, lack of time and options available to bring in new faces all meant he was on a hiding to nothing. Bodin knows the players and I’m sure would’ve got more out of them, to at least ensure we would’ve gone down fighting.

9. Individual mistakes – Haven’t there been loads of mistakes this season… Phil Smith’s distribution versus Hartlepool, Scott Cuthbert being caught in possession against Notts County… etc. etc., I’ll even go so far as criticsing Jonathan Douglas for shooting too often from distance in desparation for his first league goal with little sucess (1 goal from 43 shots in 39 games). The point is all players can shoulder part of the blame for our failures.

10. We haven’t won at home in 2011 – That’s 12 games, a potential 36 points where we have taken just 7 points from draws in 2011. If you can’t win your home games then you just don’t deserve to stay up.

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!

2010 STFC Review: February

A busy month with six games and we remained unbeaten, taking the run to 13 games in the league without losing.

February started with goalscoring revelation Charlie Austin ending speculation and putting pen to paper on a new contract. Now less than 12 months later, with new speculation the Town No.32 is set to leave, Town are again trying to secure the former Poole Town striker to a longer deal.


Charlton Athletic again reminded us to play to the end of the match with a second late injury-time equaliser (after the 2-2 draw at the Valley) with a 93rd minute Nicky Bailey goal to secure a 1-1 draw, after Kevin Amankwaah put Town 1 nil up.


Next up Oldham came to the County Ground midweek. After Town went 4 nil up we suffered more late goal madness with 2 Oldham goals, including a Phil Smith howler failing to deal with a simple ball into the box, to finish 4-2. Despite the scoreline this was the worst 4-2 game I’ve ever seen and proves goals doesn’t necessarily equal a good game.

February was a month when the forward line of Paynter, Austin and Ward really started to be taken seriously in League One. Another 8 Town goals flowed against Huddersfield, Carlisle and Stockport. Goals seemed easy to come by with 5 for Paynter, 3 for Austin and 3 for Ward over the month, although in the final game of the month at Leyton Orient we played out our first goalless draw since MK Dons on 15th August.


Still… with Town sitting 5th with 60 points and now catching the fading Leeds and Charlton, what can go wrong?