After Saturday’s defeat to Peterborough on the opening day of the League 1 season, all eyes turned back to the County Ground for what was the first competitive home game of the new season. New TheWashbag writer Dan Brown picks through the game, where Andy Williams’ goal was the difference in a hard fought encounter…
There is something different about cup football. The atmosphere in any given stadium during a cup tie is just that little bit more on edge, everyone knowing that just one mistake could blow the chances of cup glory for another whole agonising year. Not least when it is the first round, against lower league opposition – and with a squad with a lot to prove.
After cup runs in the last 2 seasons, the hunger for more cup success is evident amongst supporters (not least in the Don Rogers stand), which meant that Torquay were ideal opponents for the opening round tie in this seasons league cup, on paper at least.
There were yet more encouraging signs for Mark Cooper’s fledgling squad, and the overall performance, although not yet looking like the finished article looked like the better team throughout.
The starting XI for town comprised of most new recruits, with only Foderingham, Ward, Thompson and Williams having any experience of playing in a cup competition for Swindon before. That being said, Swindon’s young side never looked out of their depth, with Ryan Mason and Alex Pritchard looking especially at home in town colours. Tijane Reis occupied the right flank, with Pritchard starting on the left. As he did at the weekend, Andy Williams was the lone man up front. The only other out and out striker town could call upon was Miles Storey, who was on the bench.
Town came out of the blocks quickest, with a smooth passing game being established from the outset. The ball was being kept down, with aesthetically pleasing football being played by the reds in the opening 25 minutes. Some early-season sloppiness was evident in some of the touches, but reassuringly the Tottenham contingent especially looked very settled in possession.
Pritchard looked lively and went the closest for the reds in the first half with a number of close efforts, but it was Jordan Chapell who went even closer for the visitors stinging the palms of Foderingham with a low shot and, former Robin, Billy Bodin whipping a cross into the Swindon box which Foderingham claimed excellently.
Notable in the first half in particular though was the contrasting playing styles of the two sides. Torquay, in a style commonly attributed to that of League 2, were quite happy to pump forward the long ball, whereas Swindon were much happier to pass the ball up the pitch. This is far more encouraging and inventive than last season, and it has to be said that the squad looked to be more than up to the task, despite a period where the game became flat. Swindon looked a lot calmer than they did at times last season. Yaser Kasim was a shining example of this. He got better as the game went on, keeping a cool head and playing some visionary through balls.
At half time, Mark Cooper opted for a double change, with Massimo Luongo coming on for Ryan Mason and Miles Storey coming on for the largely ineffective Reis on the right. Mason had been clutching his left quad as the first 45 drew to a close, prompting the change. Storey, as he is getting a reputation for doing, made a nearly immediate impact, a snap-shot fizzing goal-ward was turned away by an alert Martin Rice in the Yellows’ goal. By this point the pressure was really building, and it felt like anything but a first Town goal of the campaign would be unjust.
Minutes later, Pritchard had his best scoring chance of the night. Picking up the ball from the left, a dinking run led him into the box where he was felled, and referee Andy D’Urso immediately pointed to the spot. Pritchard dusted himself down and took the spot kick himself, but his rather tame effort was easily saved.
Desperate to make amends, soon after he found himself within shooting range, and unleashed a fierce effort that Rice could only parry into the path of Williams, who with the entire goal to aim at saw his effort bundled off the line (much to the dismay of the fans at the far end of the Don Rogers).
The game then experienced a lengthy pause as Torquay replacement (and former Robin) Elliot Benyon was involved in a totally innocuous challenge with Thompson, meaning that sadly Benyon’s night was abruptly ended and he was stretchered off after lengthy treatment. This galvanised the Yellows, allowing them back in the game.
Just as it looked like the game would go on another half an hour, Town struck the killer blow. Storey raced through on the left, and after drawing the keeper out he had the presence of mind to square the ball into the path of the oncoming Williams, who duly tapped the ball home. From that moment on, the tie looked to be in the hands of the reds, who even threw on Alex Smith at the end to see out the game. That they did, and it’s the second round of the league cup again for the Robins.
All In all it was a pleasing performance, and one that when looked at alongside the Peterborough game last weekend looks very positive. Its seems like Cooper, however long he is in charge, will look to instil this calm and collected way of playing, and I for one am a fan. It may work better due the fact that the majority of the team have been coached in a premier league environment, but while that is the case, I along with many other Swindon fans am happy.
The one area which definitely needs sorting is up front. We lack depth and it is clear to see. Playing with a lone striker can work, but against Torquay Williams was getting dragged out to the left far too often leaving no one far enough forward in the middle. There are goals in the team, with Pritchard especially looking like he can chip in with a few, however we can’t rely on just goals from the midfield in this league. Maybe it’s a Tottenham thing.
My man of the match would either be Pritchard or Kasim. Pritchard played well up until the penalty, but then lost his way in trying to make amends. Kasim looked like a calming influence as the game went on, an heir of Dimitar Berbatov about him. Albeit a less lazy one.
In all the side looked good for the most part. Like I said at the start, a cup tie has a certain edge to it, and I’m sure that we have the potential for many more nights like it this season. It will galvanise and give confidence for the league too. Let’s just hope for no penalties given our record of late…