Macclesfield Town’s four goal margin of victory in the FA Cup 1st Round was Swindon Town’s heaviest post-war defeat to a ‘non-league’ side. Daniel Hunt has the uneviable position of writing the match report…
Let’s get one thing clear straight away, this wasn’t a cup upset at Moss Rose. Mark Cooper’s Swindon Town were the victims of a good old fashioned cup walloping at the hands of superior opponents. So before we begin the Swindon post-mortem, let me lavish praise on the classy Silkmen, as good an advert as any for the strength in depth of English football on FA Cup 1st Round day.
How did a side 14th in the Football Conference, five points ahead of the drop zone and eight points behind Salisbury City in the final play-off place, go about dismantling a Town side 7th in League One? Marshalled by the experienced former Oldham and Chesterfield man Danny Whitaker, Macclesfield kept things simple and sprung attacks with pace, repeatedly over-running a slow Swindon back three in a scintillating first half display.
The left side pairing of Danny Andrew and Peter Winn were too hot to handle for makeshift right wingback Massimo Luongo – not through lack of effort from the Australian youngster but through a lack of positional sense and lack of support from his team-mates. My old man and I made it three times that a simple one-two between Andrew and Winn cut the Swindon defence apart. Only a mixture of poor finishing and Tyrell Belford meant that the lead was restricted to one at half time.
By leaving Jack Barthram on the bench and accommodating Ryan Mason and Alex Pritchard as two of the central midfield three, Swindon lacked the defensive guile and grit to counter the Silkmen’s inspired attacking performance. Pritchard cannot be faulted for lack of effort but the attacking midfielder is inhibited by his small stature. Coupled with Ryan Mason’s dis-interested display, which ended in injury once again, and the returning Yaser Kasim had a job too big even for Claude Makelele in his pomp.
Nile Ranger and Dany N’Guessan cannot be absolved of blame either. The Macclesfield central defensive pairing of Carl Martin and Steve Williams won the battle quite simply – they were monstrous on the floor and in the air. The redeeming feature of a hopeless first half display was the continual trampoline-esque chest control from Swindon’s two front men. The distribution from the back by Grant Hall and Jay McEveley in particular wasn’t bad, but the ball wasn’t sticking up front and this allowed Macclesfield to begin terrorising the Swindon defence all over again.
For me, the only positive that can be drawn from this defeat is that it was so bad that hopefully it will be a landmark defeat. Landmark in the sense that hopefully Mark Cooper will shelve the 3-5-2 formation and Swindon will begin their search for improved central defensive cover. It sounds incredibly simple but a return to a flat back four with McEveley and Nathan Thompson as the full backs would make me feel so much safer as a supporter. By way of a new recruit at centre-half, he needs to be one of two things (or both ideally);
- Experienced in League football – so that we have the option of replacing Darren Ward if necessary. I’ve been one of Ward’s biggest fans in his time at Swindon but should we be in a position where a player is undroppable? What pressure is there on the skipper to perform?
- Pacy – so that we can avoid another debacle like at Moss Rose yesterday. The lack of pace across the back three of McEveley, Ward and Hall is becoming chronic.
I find myself drawing parallels with another landmark defeat from the 2003/2004 season under the happy-go-lucky tactical stewardship of Andy King. The date was the 18th October 2003 and Swindon travelled to Saltergate to take on a winless Chesterfield side, bottom of League One, without a win in their first 13 league games. Town had started the season steadily, buoyed by the impressive goals return from the newly formed Sam Parkin/Tommy Mooney partnership. Even after Chesterfield had seen off an abject Swindon Town 3-0 for their first win of the season, King’s troops found themselves on 23 points, in touching distance of the play-offs, sound familiar?
That sunny day at Saltergate in 2003, a Town back three of Adrian Viveash, Alan Reeves and Matt Heywood were made to look so slow and so inept by soon to be journeyman striker Marvin Robinson (who scored two goals by the 19th minute), that Andy King vowed in his post-match interview never to play the three of them in the same team again. I fear that similarly drastic action is required by Mark Cooper if he is to emulate Andy King in 2003/2004 and turn a decent start to the season into an actual assault at the play-offs.
I never thought I’d look back at King’s reign so fondly but cigar smoking maverick took decisive action and three weeks later, he managed to convince Watford into sending Jerel Ifil to the County Ground for a third time on loan. Our Jerel was no Sol Campbell but he added much needed pace and verve to a defence that was so lacking in those attributes. Mark, Lee or Jed, whoever is in control of recruitment, please go and get me a central-defender…
You’ll appreciate that I’m being very liberal with the facts relating to the match but that’s because I don’t want to talk about it. It’s my ball and I’m going home as it were! Watch the goals for yourselves and draw your own conclusions…
Follow Daniel Hunt on Twitter – @dphunt88