Adam Tanner travelled to Huish Park to watch Swindon Town try to gain ground at the top of the League One table…
Heading into the game, the signs were good for Swindon. The team was looking for its fourth consecutive away league win, having managed 10 points from its first five away games. Better still, Swindon had won four and lost only one of seven previous visits to Yeovil. Surely an away win was on the cards…
After several changes were made for the JPT game at Plymouth, the team inevitably returned to something resembling the one which won at Leyton Orient. The only change from that game saw Jon Obika replace Andy Williams, after recovering much more quickly than expected from an injury sustained at Barnsley three weeks ago.
The first half started slowly. Yeovil’s two strikers were constantly pressing the Swindon defence and were getting plenty of joy. Our midfield was making little impression, and misplaced passes throughout the Swindon half were rife. A few narrow escapes were endured. First, after five minutes, an excellent recovering challenge from Nathan Thompson was needed inside the area, after a ball over the top seemed to have beaten our defence. Shortly afterwards, a heavy Wes Foderingham touch briefly left James Hayter in possession six-yards out, but fortunately Yaser Kasim was able to intercept. A close-range Yeovil cross then clipped the top of the bar, before Foderingham made a sharp save to his left from Joe Edwards, who had been left unmarked from a corner. This was all inside the opening 20 minutes.
Swindon’s only serious first half chance came when Amari’i Bell broke down the left and fizzed a low ball across the area, which Michael Smith or Obika possibly should have attacked. Even so, a Yeovil goal was coming, and it arrived in the 34th minute after a heavy touch from Louis Thompson, facing his own goal, cost us possession in a dangerous area. Yeovil worked the ball forward, and eventually squared it for Hayter to score his ninth career goal against Swindon from six-yards. Swindon barely improved during the following 10 minutes, and the half time whistle was welcome.
Andy Williams replaced Jon Obika for the second half, and made a positive impact. More on him later. Within minutes, Williams collected the ball wide on the left and cut across the field with a strong run before pulling a shot wide. Massimo Luongo began to tick and, as is often the case, brought the team’s performance levels up with him. A couple of passing moves involving Luongo ended with Nathan Byrne putting shots wide. Although Foderingham made another good save, pushing wide a firm 18-yard shot, Swindon were generally on top.
Another substitute, Ben Gladwin, came on after an hour and made a useful impact. Playing out of position at left wing back after replacing Bell, he immediately seemed to give us extra width. Gladwin has an excellent touch and a good passing and shooting range to go with a strong physical presence. He has plenty of potential.
An equaliser came after 71 minutes. Jack Stephens collected a Luongo pass and strode down the right. He effortlessly steamed past the Yeovil left back, broke into the box and cut the ball back for Williams, whose excellent first time 12-yard chip crept just inside the far post, giving the keeper no chance.
Swindon smelt blood, but minutes later our chances took a blow when, having been booked in the first half for a cynical foul, Nathan Thompson received a very debatable second yellow, probably for handling the ball as he after being nudged in the back by a Yeovil forward. Perhaps Thompson doesn’t always help himself; lots of referees fall for his party trick of taking a soft tumble and landing on top of the ball (which makes it too awkward not to award a Swindon free kick… so they do), but those with a more cynical eye may evidently prefer to penalise him for obstruction or handball.
In fairness, Swindon didn’t seem at all fazed by the red card, and continued to do most of the running. Byrne’s performance wasn’t quite up to his recent high standards, and a couple of heavy touches prevented him from getting shots away after he had worked himself into decent positions, usually in tandem with Luongo. Michael Smith managed to hit a firm 20-yard shot, which the keeper parried to safety. Yeovil also managed a couple of half-chances from set pieces. But neither team did enough to deserve a second and, on balance, a draw was fair.
Here are my thoughts:
- Andy Williams
I’ve become notorious amongst those who know me for moaning about Andy Williams, so perhaps now is a good time to review and explain my thoughts.
Williams has scored seven goals so far this season; a healthy number. Several of them have been impressive, and in different ways. We’ve seen long runs followed by placed finishes against Gillingham and Crewe, a thunderbolt versus Oldham, a lob at Newport, and Saturday’s neat chip. Some of those that he scored in 2012/13 were also high-quality (ones against Portsmouth and Carlisle spring to mind). He’s making a positive contribution and credit is certainly due.
So where’s the problem? Firstly, when Michael Smith isn’t playing, we should be able to count on Williams, at 6’2″ to deputise as a target man of sorts. He doesn’t do it. He’s partnered Connor Waldon twice this season, versus Coventry and Plymouth, and has offered Waldon nothing at all. His aerial ability is incredibly poor for a guy of his size. In his Swindon career to date, spanning 67 games, he has only scored two headers. To put that into context, Jon Obika (who isn’t as big) scored two headers in his first four appearances this season.
Perhaps an even more striking stat is that Williams, a tall striker of decent build, has never scored from a set piece, of any description, during those 67 Swindon games. Obika did it three times in his first two. Something isn’t right.
The answer? To score lobs, chips, long-range screamers or solo efforts, you have to be a good footballer, and Williams is. To score headers, or scruffy set piece goals, perhaps, above all, you need to be brave, and willing to take the occasional whack for the team. And Williams isn’t. Until that changes, and until we get some bread and butter to go with the champagne, my opinion of him isn’t likely to shift.
- Centre Backs
If Raphael Rossi Branco isn’t fit to play on Tuesday, it will be interesting to see who Cooper selects as our third centre back whilst Thompson is suspended. The most likely call is probably Bell, who apparently has experience of playing there, but interesting alternatives in the sweeper position would be Kasim or Gladwin. Kasim already spends a lot of time collecting the ball and playing it from very deep areas, and I would be in favour of giving him a try there.
- Away Form
Last season, the thought of five consecutive away games would have caused most fans, including me, to break into a sweat. But times have changed, and seven points from nine, plus one win from two in the cups, is an excellent record, relatively speaking. We’re now on 11 points from six away games, which is more than we had managed after 15 away matches last season. Full credit is due to the players and management for such a drastic improvement.
Now, finally, it’s time for a couple of home games. We’ve always been good at those, and we could definitely do with some momentum ahead of a really difficult run which follows them. Roll on Tuesday.
Follow Adam Tanner on Twitter @Adamtanner87