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.
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.