Another three points for Swindon Town at home to Bradford City just about kept Town in the race for the League One play-offs. However Ron Smith couldn’t watch most of the action so this is light on detail, but fortunately he didn’t miss much…
Swindon Town certainly know how to end a season with a run of five wins from six games in the lead up to the encounter with Bradford City. Peterborough in sixth were tantalisingly close and while a 4-1 victory for the Posh over Carlisle United today ensured the gap would remain four points, with two games remaining anything is possible although a Town finish in the play-offs does look highly unlikely.
For me, kid-a-quid ensured a second visit to the County Ground for my daughter. Now two and a half she already expected watching football involved plenty of goals having watched Town’s 5-2 victory over Port Vale back in early November. Clutching her toy Rockin’ Robin and fuelled by various snacks I diced watching the game with responsibilities of feeding / entertaining / pandering / comforting etc…
Not long after we arrived I needed to add consoling to those responsibilities. Where was Rockin’ Robin and why wasn’t he doing his Haka? It’s strange how a bloke in an oversized fluffy animal costume captivates toddlers and the lack of the pre-match ‘entertainment’ disappointed one little girl. “Where’s Rockin’ Robin? Where’s Rockin’ Robin?” was all I heard until ten minutes into the game. Given that the day was a kid-a-quid it seemed bizarre the mascot wasn’t there. Yes it’s Easter, but surely some tit willing to be dressed up as a mischievous bird for the afternoon could be found at the County Ground. So we had to make-do with Bradford’s Billy Bantam, itself a poor replacement for the ‘City Gent’. In the end I accepted her answer that Rockin’ Robin “had gone shopping”.
So to the game, what I watched of it. Mark Cooper made two changes with former forgotten man Lee Cox replacing Ben Gladwin and Miles Storey took Nathan Byrne’s place in a 3-5-2 / 3-4-1-2 with Alex Pritchard behind the front two. Michael Smith also received a slightly ironic and very loud cheer from the crowd to counter those boos “he’s been the target of recently”.
Amongst the parental duties it was fortunate that I have nothing significant to miss / report on those opening 45 minutes. The pace of the game was slow, Town didn’t have an answer to Bradford’s regimented back-line and even when creative Pritchard found space between the Bantam’s defence and midfield he frequently wasn’t the eventual target of the pass. Jay McEveley also spent the half wandering infield and compacting the already limited space, I guess under specific instructions. Apparently Wes Foderingham’s save from a Gary Jones free-kick was good, although I didn’t see that.
Finally, the second half witnessed Town not just content to play possession. A series of organised attacks, predominantly through the central to right side of the pitch allowed Town to finally make a breakthrough.
That goal came from an unlikely source. Former ‘outcast’ Lee Cox’s recent appearances have arisen following injuries to the five man midfield. In truth, apart from the goal he never looked to be needed as Bradford’s low risk football meant he had little to contend with. As for the goal, Pritchard’s initial blocked shot rebounded to Cox who was composed and alert enough to sweetly curl his shot into the bottom corner.
A captivating game this wasn’t. I was still hardly distracted to respond to the action on-the-pitch with the exceptions of a close-range header from Michael Smith and a few efforts from Pritchard. Away from the goal and as the half drew on, a series of fierce tackles from Bradford’s combative side didn’t even warrant enough attention from usually card-happy referee who was probably bored and was looking forwards to his drive home to Surrey.
At least there was a welcome standing ovation for a returning Rafa De Vita, which marked an innovative way of recognising a returning former Town player judging by recent crowd reactions.
This turned out to be Alex Pritchard’s final home game as the terms of his ‘youth loan’ from Spurs means he cannot play following his 21st birthday – small print I and many others missed. It’s a shame he’ll miss the Rotherham United game, however I’m sure he’ll be in attendance to bag the silver – not to prejudice our own player of the season vote later this week.
After a miraculous turnaround of the early 2014 results, Town have the form but are quickly running out of games to catch Peterborough. So for the remaining two games we can sit back and relax in the knowledge that Mark Cooper can actually manage a winning side and perhaps the youthful approach can match our ambitions for a real challenge for promotion in 2014/15.*
*Caution! – this is dependent on the continuing ownership saga
As we return home and still disappointed the robin wasn’t gracing the pitch, she’ll need to make do with this…