STFC Podcast: Episode 25 – Does a Wembley final await..?

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Episode #25 of TheWashbag.com Swindon Town FC Podcast is now available to download…

Host Ron Smith is joined by Town fans Daniel Hunt and Iain Watkins.

What is it about Swindon Town? Previously dominant as hosts and we could expect at least two goals per game, but now games against Oldham and Colchester have seen Town goalless and only one point to the good. On the plus side, the away form has improved and, of course, we are potentially 90 minutes from a trip to Wembley for the JPT final…

The three review the goalless draw with Colchester, the impact of Nile Ranger’s injury and a lack of striking options, they ask can Town build on that fantastic comeback versus the Posh to ensure a third trip to Wembley in four years? Also they look at the implications of a raise in season ticket prices.

The next podcast returns in a few weeks…

Get involved with the podcast, please submit your questions by emailing thewashbag[at]gmail[dot]com or tweet @thewashbag

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Daniel Hunt’s take on the Adver’s County Ground ban

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Our very own Daniel Hunt has made the news for his part in a bizarre move by Swindon Town Chairman Lee Power, who banned the Swindon Advertiser over Sam Morshead’s Nile Ranger Tweet. Here is Dan’s view on the situation that he’s embroiled in…

On Saturday 11th January, I took my Dad (a Town supporter since the mid 1960s and the very reason I’m a Swindon supporter myself) into the Sponsor’s Suite hospitality at the County Ground for the League One match against Peterborough United. We both had a great day and the football club couldn’t have been more hospitable – I want to make that clear from the start.

Former STFC left back Phil King was an excellent matchday host. He led a group made up of half of the hospitality guests on a stadium tour before we all sat down for our pre-match meal. We took in the boardroom, the home changing room and then the dugouts in that order.

We were told that the normal protocol was for the tour to take in the away changing room but that Peterborough United had objected – meaning that the home changing room became our destination for the second part of the tour. It was immediately visible that Nile Ranger’s kit was laid out ready for him to use that day – something that King touched on in his entertaining pre-match patter.

At no point were hospitality guests asked not to take photos on the stadium tour, in fact it was encouraged. I took several pictures including the token ‘pretending to be a manager in the dugout’ shot and the now infamous Ranger shirt shot. All part of the fun.

At 12:35 I tweeted that Ranger’s kit was laid out in the changing room and later at 13:57, I tweeted the picture of Ranger’s kit which I had taken earlier on the stadium tour. In the meantime, Nile Ranger had himself posted an image on Instagram at approximately 13:15 proclaiming that he was back!

With Ranger’s involvement in the match day squad becoming public knowledge through Twitter/Instagram, I believe Swindon Advertiser journalist Sam Morshead was correct to take to the ‘Twittersphere’ and confirm what he already knew for the benefit of the Swindon Town fans he serves daily.

If Darren Ferguson is to be believed (his Dad was one of the master exponents of mind games after all), Peterborough United caught wind of the Ranger developments on the internet and adjusted their team accordingly – something that worked a treat as Ranger glanced Swindon into the lead in the 28th minute…

If you ask me, Peterborough changing their team at the last moment was a massive compliment to STFC and would have been disruptive to their preparation – perfect start to the day for Cooper’s men.

What transpired on Monday afternoon – Swindon Town F.C. banning the Swindon Advertiser from covering press conferences/home games/etc – was a highly unfortunate culmination of events. As far as I’m concerned, Sam Morshead did everything by the book on Saturday and should receive the fans full backing. Once again it calls into question the much debated subject of who needs who more…

Local football club or local newspaper?

A subject complicated by the backdrop of ever increasing social media usage by clubs, media and supporters alike. The matchday experience has changed – Twitter/Instagram/Facebook are vital tools for information hungry football fans to gather and share information ahead of 3pm on a Saturday.

Hopefully this whole mess can be resolved very quickly for everyone’s benefit. For my part, I feel genuinely sorry for Sam Morshead and the Swindon Advertiser.

Honestly yours,

Daniel Hunt

(Don Rogers Stand Season Ticket holder)

Bradford City 1-1 Swindon Town: Was this Pritchard’s final goal for Town?

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The Alex Pritchard show may be entering its final series at Swindon Town but with such stellar performances over the Christmas period, which Town fan in their right mind could begrudge him a switch to the Championship in January? Writes Daniel Hunt.

Where the on loan Tottenham youngster was denied several times by his former youth team-mate David Button at Griffin Park, Bradford City were powerless to stop Alex Pritchard tip-toeing his way from the right hand touchline into the box before placing neatly into the bottom corner to equalise in the 63rd minute. It was a magnificent goal worthy of winning any game but an open second half would result in neither side going on to seal the three points.

With the charitable Nile Ranger spending his hard-earned wages helping to keep a Bristol nightclub in business on Boxing Day evening, Dany N’Guessan struck down with a virus and Mohamed El Gabbas seemingly out of favour pending his inevitable release in January; Mark Cooper put out as attacking a side as he could with Nathan Byrne and Pritchard playing either side of the lone front man – Nicky Ajose. Miles Storey and Ryan Mason had to be content with places on the bench with Louis Thompson and Yaser Kasim supporting Massimo Luongo in central midfield.

I just want to congratulate Cooper on the set-up of the midfield as it caught Bradford out slightly. Luongo played as the deepest central midfielder and I think this improved Swindon’s link up play between defence and attack. This allowed Kasim to play as the most advanced of the three and he’s actually a very good footballer as he showed in the first half. Perhaps it was a result of his recent virus, but Kasim faded in the second half and was replaced by the towering Ben Gladwin – who definitely looked more assured than he did at Brentford on Boxing Day.

Bradford City were combative opponents, backed by the most vocal support I’ve encountered in League One so far this season. They carried twin threats, little and large, in 15 goal Nakhi Wells and the returning target-man James Hanson. For the 28 minutes that Wells was on the pitch before going off injured, Town’s defence were given a difficult time dealing with his intelligent movement in either channel. Former Swindon loanee, Mark Yeates, replaced Wells but barely made an impact on the game as Town’s task became much simpler.

The Bantams started with quite a rigid 4-4-2 formation that allowed Alex Pritchard the freedom of Yorkshire to get on the ball ‘between-the-lines’ (feel dirty saying that phrase but hey, this is ‘modern’ football) and repeatedly terrorise the home defence. The first chance of the match was a Pritchard shot that went narrowly over the bar and the midfielder would twice more go close to scoring before half time – forcing McLaughlan to parry a low shot in the 37th minute and curling a 20 yard free kick just the wrong side of the upright two minutes later, following a strong run from Jay McEveley.

Left winger Kyel Reid was the most impressive player for the hosts but he was well shackled all afternoon by Nathan Thompson – who looked noticeably fitter and stronger than in recent displays, suggesting that ‘Nasty Nath’ has fully recovered from his injury troubles. Swindon would shade the first half but went into the break a goal behind courtesy of one of Bradford’s main strengths, set pieces.

I remember Rory McArdle well for a towering headed goal against Aston Villa in last season’s marvellous League Cup run and sure enough, he was at it again in the 16th minute. A left wing corner was flicked goalwards at the near post by McArdle and with the assistance of the underside of the crossbar, Bradford were ahead. The Swindon response to falling behind was measured and if Nicky Ajose had brought his shooting boots, Town could have found themselves at least level before half time.

In the 26th minute, a heavy second touch meant that Ajose fluffed his lines when one-on-one with McLaughlan following a neat through ball. As if that wasn’t frustrating enough, a similar move in the 34th minute saw the on loan Peterborough striker pull out of challenging the keeper when through on goal again. Although the incident was at the opposite end of the pitch from where I was sat, it looked like Ajose bottled the challenge I hate to say.

I’m as yet unsure whether Ajose is eligible to play against Crawley Town on New Year’s Day – the terms of his loan deal expire on the 1st January – but I hope he gets the chance to sign off in better fashion. He’s done very well during his time at the County Ground and deserves a good send off. An injury to Jay McEveley would mean that Miles Storey, Swindon’s only other striking option in the match day squad, made it on to the pitch in first half stoppage time. I worry for McEveley from what I saw from the away end, as he slumped to floor to receive treatment from Town physio Paul Godfrey, the left back looked very resigned to his fate. Hope it’s not a reoccurrence of his long standing knee injury for his sake.

Storey provided a good outlet for Swindon in the second half, particularly as the game became stretched and Bradford defenders tired in the Yorkshire cold. Unfortunately for Miles, he didn’t capitalise on the breaks that came his way and several promising moves broke down before an effort on the Bantams goal could materialise. By comparison, fellow youth team graduate Louis Thompson got stronger and more influential as the game went on – a significant feat given how few sets of 90 minutes the youngster has completed in the first team.

Two lovely Louis Thompson moments I’d like to call out for different reasons;

1. Early in the second half, Louis was felled by Mark Yeates, a foul which drew a yellow card from referee Oliver Langford. Brother Nathan was on the scene quick as a flash to defend his brother’s honour, squaring up to Yeates – reminiscent of a tag-team wrestling pair! Genuinely touching in a funny way.

2. As the second half was drawing to a close, Louis still had bucket loads of energy to chase back and harry one of his Bradford opponents into a mistake on the half line. Once he’d stolen the ball, he knocked the ball past another player and ran on to his own ball forward in a lung-busting, breathless piece of play. The move fizzled out moments later but with every passage of play that passes, Thompson junior is looking more and more like the brilliant midfielder we all hope he’ll become.

With Byrne already switched to left back covering for the injured McEveley, the defence would be further de-stabilised by an injury to Grant Hall in the 53rd minute. Hall had twisted an ankle and manfully tried to play on before being replaced by Raphael Rossi-Branco – an unused substitute sixteen times this season. The final straw came when Hall tried to challenge Hanson in the air but luckily for Foderingham, Hanson’s header was straight at the Swindon keeper.

Rossi-Branco had some early shaky moments but brushed these off to deputise well alongside captain Darren Ward. Promising signs from a defender who Cooper had himself described recently as ‘not being ready’ for League One football. With two tall members of the back four now in the treatment room, Wes Foderingham drew praise post-match from Cooper for his efforts in coming out to punch the numerous crosses which rained down upon the Swindon six yard box. This trait was noticeable during the second half and it certainly helped ease the pressure on an inexperienced backline.

The play switched from end to end in an exciting second period and Foderingham had to be on his mettle to keep out a swerving Doyle shot in the 81st minute – it may have been going wide but Foderingham made sure. At the other end, Alex Pritchard continued his excellent game by inducing a trip on the very (and I mean very) edge of the eighteen yard box with six minutes to go. Pritchard struck the free kick into the wall and from the resulting short corner, Nathan Byrne dribbled across the box before curling agonisingly wide of McLaughlan’s left hand post – it was close.

Roared on by approximately 350 Swindon fans in the top tier of the away end, Swindon smelt blood but the two final chances fell to Miles Storey who could only force the ‘keeper into one save when it fell on his right foot on the right side of the box. A draw felt about right at full time but you get the sense that Town will come away disappointed they didn’t go on to win the game.

I was personally very critical of how Mark Cooper set the team up (the much discussed 4-6-0 formation) for two winnable away ties at Crawley Town in November and Sheffield United earlier this month. My biggest issue with that approach is the message it sends to the opposition – we’re here not to concede and nick a one goal victory at best. Full credit to Swindon Town though for the way they’ve approached two daunting away games over Christmas, despite only gathering one point in six.

Brentford are a very good side at this level and we’ve given them one of the toughest home games they’ll have all season, while Town created many chances to win the game at Valley Parade. The approach has been much more positive and it’s resulted in two entertaining games that have been well worth the trip for our loyal away followers. I feel that Swindon are so close to turning the corner away from home, I just hope that Cooper retains a positive approach because with so many pure footballers in the side, it’s a shame to play any other way but positively.

There’s going to be a few changes at the club in January, some that we may not like at first but all I ask of my fellow fans is that we also keep a positive approach to how Swindon cut their cloth accordingly…

Cheers Pritch! Thanks Nicky! Don’t go Wes! Oh, and don’t let the door hit you on the way out will you Nile?

Happy New Year from all at ‘The Washbag’!!

Follow Daniel Hunt on Twitter – @dphunt88

STFC Podcast: Episode 22 – A winning early Xmas present…

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Episode #22 of TheWashbag.com Swindon Town FC Podcast is now available to download…

Host Ron Smith is joined by Andrew Steele-Davis, Iain Watkins and Daniel Hunt.

We are getting excited here, it’s nearly Christmas and Swindon Town have started the festive fixtures in perfect form, coming from behind for the second time in 2013 versus Coventry City to register another 2-1 win.

The four reflect on Saturday’s victory and the weekend’s League One results; we ask are Alex Pritchard and Wes Foderingham potential movers at Town in the January transfer window; and we look at some of the better moments of a busy 2013.

The next podcast returns in a fortnight so speak to you in 2014…

Get involved with the podcast, please submit your questions by emailing thewashbag[at]gmail[dot]com or tweet @thewashbag

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Macclesfield Town 4-0 Swindon Town: A Steaming Pile Of…

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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);

  1. 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?
  2. 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

STFC Podcast: Episode 19 – The crisis is over and we’re back on track…

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Episode #19 of TheWashbag.com Swindon Town FC Podcast is now available…

Host Ron Smith is joined by Daniel Hunt and Adam Tanner.

Following successive defeats, apparently the crisis is now over and we’re back on track after beating Port Vale 5-2 pushing Town up to 7th… After being stuffed by Walsall and Oldham how surprised were you by Town’s emphatic victory?

Elsewhere in the past fortnight, we take a look at the effectiveness of three at the back of Town’s defence and ask why, after much talk, are Town now right to reconsider their investment in a new training facility in Calne.

The Port Vale game was Ron’s two-year-old daughter’s first Town game and his first experience of the County Ground as a dad. If you’ve got any suggestions to enhance the County Ground experience for families then contact @STFCFamily on Twitter.

The podcast will return in a few weeks after the Leyton Orient game with a review of whatever else happens between now and then…

Get involved with the podcast, please submit your questions by emailing thewashbag[at]gmail[dot]com or tweet @thewashbag

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Podcast Episode 14: Mark Cooper’s Red & White Army…

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Episode #14 of TheWashbag.com Swindon Town FC Podcast is now available to download…

TheWashbag PodcastFor this first podcast of the 2013/14 season, Ron Smith is joined by TheWashbag writers Daniel Hunt and Lee Clark.

The three discuss Mark Cooper’s appointment as the 33rd permanent managerial appointment of Swindon Town, ask what support team should Cooper build around him at the County Ground and whether Andy Williams’ loan move to Yeovil was the right deal for Town. They also review of the 2-2 draw with Gillingham and question the value of the Win a Pro Contract Competition…

The podcast will return in a fortnight and will continue as a regular feature throughout the season.

Get involved with the podcast, please submit your questions by emailing thewashbag[at]gmail[dot]com or tweet @thewashbag

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Daniel Hunt’s 2013/14 Hopes and Expectations

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TheWashbag contributor Daniel Hunt is the first to look ahead to the 2013/14 season…

What are your hopes and expectations for Swindon in 2013/14?

I hope that Swindon Town can go through the 2013/2014 season comfortably in mid-table but as I pen these notes six days before the first game of the season, I fully expect Swindon Town to have a long struggle this season – possibly ending in relegation.

Who has been your signing of the summer at the County Ground?

Alex Pritchard on a year long loan deal. I’m basing this purely on what I saw in the friendly against Tottenham Hotspur when Pritchard looked like a real live wire. He’s small, tricky and always thinking about scoring or creating a goal, reminiscent of Sammy Igoe in build and style.

Who will be the key player for Town?

It’s my belief that Town’s key player hasn’t arrived at the club yet. We desperately need a striker to replace the goals of James Collins and Adam Rooney, otherwise it’s going to be a tough year. Currently I’d say the key player in 2013/2014 will be Darren Ward at centre-half. I hope he’s installed as captain by whoever takes the manager’s job because his experience in a young back four will be absolutely vital.

In what position will we finish?

I’ll stick my neck out and say 18th, securing our place in League One with one game to spare. It really depends on how the new manager and our raft of loanees bed in. Grant Hall looks a steady type and he should benefit from playing alongside Darren Ward, we know we’re getting a footballing central midfielder in Massimo Luongo but will the flair players, Ryan Mason and Alex Pritchard, roll their sleeves up when things get bumpy?

Which teams will be promoted from League One?

Wolverhampton Wanderers and Brentford automatically and Bristol City through the play-offs (unfortunately). It appears that the top end of League One will be a lot stronger this season compared to last season. Perhaps I’m foolish to write off Peterborough, they’ll definitely be in the mix as well – a very well run club with a progressive chairman. Not envious at all…

Which teams are set to be relegated from League One?

Stevenage, Shrewsbury Town, Carlisle and Tranmere at a guess. Notoriously difficult thing to predict but I fancy three of the four promoted sides to go well (Bradford City, Gillingham and Rotherham).

Follow @dphunt88

Sheffield United 2 Swindon 0: Town on verge of losing play-off place

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Rejuvenated by the departure of former Swindon manager Danny Wilson, Sheffield United deservedly took all three points to all but book their play-off place and leave Town anxiously looking over their shoulder at the chasing pack from 6th position in League One. The Blades are a bullying, bruising team and they quite simply battered Swindon in a breathless first-half display that fully justified their decision to hand over the reins to Chris Morgan in midweek following defeat to Crawley. Writes Dan Hunt.

Miraculously, Town made it to half-time with only a one goal deficit to make up and a much improved second-half performance gave the 1,248 travelling reds something to cling on to – until Dave Kitson put the game beyond Swindon in the 82nd minute. Credit to Kevin MacDonald where it’s due, his team selection and tactics showed attacking intent from the start but the eleven chosen players need to take responsibility for an error strewn first period. Over and over again, Town’s defence were carved apart with ease by their steel city counterparts.

In converting to the much debated 4-4-2 formation, central midfielders Alan Navarro and Dean Parrett made way for Raffa De Vita and James Collins. If he wants to make it as a lower league footballer, Mr Parrett would do well to look at the committed efforts of Nathan Byrne and Massimo Luongo since arriving from White Hart Lane. For now, Swindon are better off without a young Premier League diva, even if it means that the substitute’s bench was populated by two Youth Team forwards in Connor Waldon and Mark Francis at Bramall Lane.

Central midfielder Kevin McDonald had already shot over from a Jamie Murphy cross before Sheffield United landed their first meaningful blow on the Swindon goal in the 3rd minute. A Tony McMahon free kick from wide on the left, curled towards the back post, got a slight touch from (I think) Dave Kitson before striking the left hand post – much to Wes Foderingham’s relief. In between the chaos, Massimo Luongo tested George Long from 20 yards but the young ‘keeper was up to the task in the Blades’ goal.

Almost immediately after Luongo’s effort, excellent goal-line blocks from Aden Flint and then Nathan Byrne kept the scores level. A simple long ball over the top was allowed to bounce by Darren Ward and Chris Porter outmuscled the former Millwall man to strike on goal from the right edge of the box. While Porter’s effort was cleared by Flint, the follow up opportunity was by far the better chance and Nathan Byrne did fantastically to bravely dive in and block Dave Kitson.

With barely ten minutes on the clock, Swindon were on the rack and lucky not to be two goals down. Twice more Wes Foderingham had to be on his mettle to deny a low Jamie Murphy shot and then a weak Chris Porter effort after being played through on goal. His strike partner Dave Kitson was waiting for a tap in at the back post if Porter had only looked up. Repeatedly, Sheffield United targeted Nathan Byrne’s lack of height on Swindon’s right hand side and it was a clever ball over the Spurs loanee that led to the Murphy effort.

The Blades had gone four home games without a goal before the visit of the Robins and my only forlorn hope from a terrible opening period was that the home fans were getting that familiar, “the ball just won’t go in”, feeling! Undeterred, the United players continued to press and the impressive Murphy tested Foderingham’s handling skills with a stinging right foot drive in the 13th minute. Perhaps the best chance of the half was still to come though.

The referee, Eddie Ilderton, was not endearing himself to the Town faithful with a series of trivial free kicks awarded to the home team. While Swindon were complaining about a Darren Ward ‘foul’ in the 20th minute, the Blades should have taken the lead through Doyle following a clever Dave Kitson quick free kick. Doyle inexplicably rolled wide of the far post though and Town’s incensed players surrounded Ilderton once more to protest until their faces turned the colour of the away strip!

Ill discipline seems to be a recurring theme since the departure of Paolo Di Canio as manager. Not only did Swindon pick up seven yellow cards but previously reliable players like Foderingham are now regularly partaking in ill disciplined activities – such as trying to dribble around centre-forwards when receiving back passes. Luckily for the former Crystal Palace ‘keeper, Chris Porter failed to punish his mistake in the 33rd minute.

Strangely, Sheffield United took the lead following Town’s best spell of the first half, culminating in a James Collins rising shot tipped over the bar by Long and a couple of over hit corners delivered by the left boot of Gary Roberts. Another contentious free kick award by Ilderton on the right wing led to the straw that broke the camel’s back. Despite claims that McCormack and then De Vita had been fouled, the free kick went United’s way and McMahon’s precise delivery found Porter who bundled home to send the home fans wild.

The half time lead could have been extended but Ryan Flynn’s burst through on goal was cleared off the line by McCormack, who proceeded to give away a free kick on the edge of the box in the melee. McMahon curled the resulting free kick against the woodwork and somehow a shell shocked Swindon went in to the break one goal behind.

The interval definitely benefited Kevin MacDonald’s men and the second half performance was a vast improvement on the first. The Blades didn’t have a clear cut chance until thirty minutes in but Town’s major failing was not turning territory and possession into shots on target.

Nathan Byrne shot wide from distance following good Swindon pressure in the 48th minute but the next significant chance didn’t arrive until Adam Rooney entered the fray just before the hour. After collecting a Gary Roberts cross from the right, the Birmingham loanee could only scoop over the crossbar from 12 yards.

The introduction of Luke Rooney, replacing Roberts on the wing, was a popular move with supporters and it was from a Luke Rooney corner that Ward nodded wide at the back post with twenty minutes left. The header was clearly deflected wide off a Sheffield head but alas, the officials saw otherwise in their infinite wisdom.

A misplaced Ferry pass almost put a goal on a plate for Dave Kitson but great tracking back from Ferry himself denied a shooting opportunity for the experienced forward. With 77 minutes on the clock, good work from Ferry at the right end of the pitch offered Luke Rooney the chance to drift inside and shoot but his right foot shot was dragged wide of the near post.

A minute later, a smart Andy Williams turn in the box was stopped unfairly according to Williams but the referee disagreed and promptly booked him for diving. My personal view was that it was neither a penalty nor a dive, simply a coming together. The immense frustration caused by failing to breakthrough was compounded by the head of Dave Kitson as he expertly diverted another sublime McMahon cross from the right into the ground and into the roof of the net.

The goal killed the game and all that was left to cling onto was the promising performance of debutant, Mark Francis, who adapted well to being asked to play on the left of a four man midfield following his entrance in the 72nd minute. Francis even became the Swindon man to get a shot on target in the second half after being fed by Ferry on the left hand edge of the box with minutes remaining. His low effort was well struck and forced a smart save out of Long.

Let’s be clear, this was a fully deserved victory for Chris Morgan’s men but a more potent Swindon side could have left this game with at least a point on the second half showing alone. Shot-shyness has become a worrying trend under Kevin MacDonald and one goal in the last five games tells its own story. What also tells a story, are the results over the entire nine game period during his tenure. See table below:

2013.04.13 League One Table Since Kevin MacDonald Joined

Above - League One table based on results since Kevin MacDonald took over as manager of Swindon Town on 28th February.

Under MacDonald, Swindon are the 18th best performing side in England’s third tier. My own personal view is that he’s not up to the job but we may have to wait until fifteen games into next season before Jed McCrory and Co. admit their mistake. I don’t care if this makes me a doom-monger; I want what is best for Swindon Town.

As much as you can after nine games, you get a gut-feeling about a man, and my gut-feeling is that MacDonald is too much of an apologist, too inherently negative, to be a successful football manager. Years of coaching youth and reserve teams where results are not important seem to have condemned Kevin to accepting mediocrity and once again, this isn’t good enough.

Two home games against mid-table sides with nothing to play for await, Swindon’s fate is luckily still in their own hands. Prove me wrong Kevin…       

Follow Daniel Hunt on Twitter – @dphunt88

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Yeovil Town 0 Swindon 2: Town back on track for promotion

Huish Park - Yeovil 4

Televised penalty specialist, Adam Rooney, and second half substitute, James Collins, scored crucial late goals to take Swindon back up to third in the League One table. Daniel Hunt gives his view from the sofa…

The 0-2 score line didn’t flatter a Swindon Town side who dominated the second half on a cut-up Huish Park pitch. Kevin MacDonald’s red and white army gave a poor Yeovil team far too much respect in a dire first period that failed to live up to the pre-match billing of being a promotion chasing clash.

Glovers’ manager, Gary Johnson, had the luxury of signing two new players on loan in advance of the match, while Town had to make do with handing places on the substitute’s bench to Youth Team scholars, Alex Ferguson and Connor Waldon. Luckily for the 546 travelling supporters, Swindon’s unchanged eleven from the Brentford game were still comfortably too strong for, now 7th placed, Yeovil.

The dangerous Paddy Madden and James Hayter aside, I was really disappointed with our west-country hosts. I suppose it’s another sign of how poor England’s third tier is this season and why it’s so important that the transfer embargo is removed soon to allow a strengthened push for automatic promotion. This may be an opportunity too good to pass up.

In a frantic first minute which saw man-of-the-match Nathan Thompson clattered by a high boot, Andy Williams passed up a good opportunity of his own – shooting tamely at Stech from a low Adam Rooney cross. Neither side could make an impression on the game as the half ticked by and Yeovil’s best chance fell to former Bournemouth striker, James Hayter, in the 17th minute. Hayter controlled a Madden cross with his head before volleying wildly over to the relief of an under worked Wes Foderingham, who kept his first clean sheet since February 5th.

Darren Ward will also be pleased with the return of a clean sheet but he should have been celebrating his second March goal, two minutes before the break. A deep free kick from the left wasn’t cleared properly by the Glovers’ defence and the 34 year old defender’s stabbed effort was deflected agonisingly wide for a corner.

The half-time whistle came as a relief to anyone watching at the ground or on television. I can’t help but feel that by playing a 4-5-1 formation, MacDonald showed far too little ambition in the opening period. I would love to see the return of two genuine wingers and two strikers to the line-up for Saturday’s tie with Notts County, if Town are to consolidate their position as a top two contender.

The start of the second half was much much better from a Swindon perspective as Andy Williams, playing against his former employers, sparked the game into life with several piercing runs. That almost every surge he made was ended, by a callous Yeovil foul, showed the viewer how much respect his previous team mates still hold for him.

McCormack fired over from the edge of the box in the 51st minute before Gary Roberts was denied a goal by the Referee’s whistle three minutes later. A deep free kick from the right found its way to the left winger via Ward’s flick on but Referee Stroud adjudged Roberts to have shoulder barged his opponent before lashing home past Stech in the Yeovil goal.

Town were well on top at this point but were failing to convert pressure into goals. After 57 minutes, Andy Williams ran half the length of the field before attempting a cross that just eluded Adam Rooney six yards out. Just after the hour mark, Adam Rooney did manage to get on the end of a Gary Roberts cross, only to see his clever right foot flick smartly parried by the goal keeper. Replays suggested that his effort would have struck the left hand post but for Stech’s intervention.

In response, Yeovil’s best two openings of the half both fell to twenty goal striker, Paddy Madden, but Nathan Thompson displayed his fantastic powers of recovery each time to foil the Irishman. With neither Flint or Ward blessed with natural pace, it is crucial that Thompson covers from right-back as he did in the 61st minute to deny Madden being clean through on goal. The second block was even better defensive work as Thompson’s flying tackle stopped a certain goal in front of the home end when the scores were still level midway through the second period.

Thompson’s rise to important first team player has been so smooth it’s easy to forget that this is his breakthrough season in the Football League. If Paul Caddis hadn’t fallen out with Paolo Di Canio in pre-season, we may still be wondering about Thompson’s merits as a professional footballer… Instead, we are blessed with the best and most aggressive tackler I’ve ever seen at the County Ground. I bore my friends by saying it but Thompson just doesn’t miss. Almost every time, he wins the ball cleanly. It’s so refreshing to see defending in purest sense (i.e. see ball, win ball) in an era where so many players are afraid to tackle.

Eventually the Swindon pressure did tell, helped by the 70th minute introduction of top scorer, James Collins. The ex-Shrewsbury man looked sharp as he almost broke the deadlock four minutes after coming on with a left foot curler from 18 yards. An opportunist long ball forward by McCormack was seized upon by Roberts who duly took the contact from ‘keeper Stech before tumbling to the ground for the penalty. As the Sky Sports commentators touched on, it wasn’t the first time big Czech Republican got his judgement wrong in the match.

The ‘ginger assassin’, Adam Rooney, expertly placed the penalty in the corner and the Reds finally had the lead their play deserved. With the exception of a wasted Madden chance with nine minutes remaining, choosing to shoot immediately rather than take it on when well placed, Yeovil mustered very little by way of pressure in the closing stages. Town’s much vaunted defence, the best in League One by four goals, was looking back to its uncompromising best.

The five minutes added on time felt like an hour and as I was shouting at the Referee to blow-up (not literally), Alan McCormack burst clear on the counter-attack and fed James Collins on the right. Like all good selfish forwards should, the Villa graduate shot for goal himself and with the last kick of the game, made it 2-0 to Swindon. A lovely icing on the victory cake!

It was Collins’ seventh goal of the season from the bench – has a Swindon player ever scored more in a season after coming on? Get to work Trivia fans… I know the answer!

James Collins – impact substitute.

James Collins - Impact Sub

On the second half performance alone, Town fully deserved the three points. The only negative from the evening was the five yellow cards picked up by an already thin squad. Let’s hope this pleasing win puts Swindon Town back on track for League One promotion. I think Kevin MacDonald will be content with seven points from his first four games in charge but it could so easily have been twelve with stronger finishes to the Walsall and Brentford games.

With promotion rivals dropping points all over the place, can Swindon be the side who put that strong run together and force their way to the top? Two consecutive home games against Notts County and Oldham Athletic will be the acid test.