Swindon v Millwall Preview: The Final
Last season Town secured their League One status in the penultimate game of the season and eventually finished a deceptivly reasonable 15th, 4 points clear of the drop.
Despite a renewed optimism around the Robins, the club was brought back down to earth as 2009/2010 started with a 5-0 demolition by Gillingham on the 8th August.
So after 49 games, 23 wins, 16 draws, 9 defeats, 76 goals, 60 conceded, 2 red cards, 30 yellow cards and most importantly 5 converted penalties against Charlton Athletic, Swindon Town play Millwall on Saturday in the final game of the season, a winner takes all encounter, for the right to play in the Championship.
“Surprise package”, “underdog” and “plucky” are a few terms that have been used to describe our assent into the top six and push for promotion this season. This isn’t going to change going to Wembley, with Millwall firm bookie and media favourites.
This wider and misguided view of the team doesn’t bother me. We all know the team have found a new confidence this season. Whether this is because of pressure on our opponents or because they really have nothing to lose is questionable, but we can’t really be using that “nothing to lose tag”, for this is a Wembley Play-Off Final.
Swindon do have the neutral support. Who is going to support Millwall, as they say themselves, “We are Millwall, no one likes us, we don’t care”.
So with Millwall being put under pressure and expected to banish memories of their 3-2 defeat by Scunthorpe at Wembley last season, can Swindon capitalise and enjoy the day?
I rightfully want to put some pressure on Town. We have an unbeaten Wembley record of 3 appearances and 3 wins (1969, 1990 & 1993) as well as an unbeaten record in the Play-Off Finals (1987, 1990 & 1993). To win and secure promotion is of course a great achievement in-itself, but perhaps equally will be to defend and extend our illustrious records.
Whereas much has been made this week of Millwall’s wretched record in the Play-Offs of 5 appearances, 4 semi-final defeats and 1 final defeat before this season. This is of course compared to our 5 appearances, 2 semi-final defeats and 3 final victories, including 10 game wins along the way. Swindon have the history behind us and I think that’s a good an omen as any, as well as provide a mental advantage.
As much as Swindon Town have history behind us, our manager, Danny Wilson, has yet to sample a Play-Off Final victory, after having missed out by losing the 2004 final with Bristol City. So lets hope managerial game 801 for Wilson is memorable for the right reasons.
Captain Gordon Greer gave the referee no option but to give a red card for his challenge and is likely to be the only missing key player on Saturday. The club is being cautious over the remaining fitness questions, perhaps with the hope of surprising Millwall when the team sheet is published before the game, but with the long gap since the semi-final all the players have had the chance to recover, so expect to see Sheehan, Lucas and Paynter.
The final provides several potential player permutations…
- Can Jonathan Douglas finally and deservingly score his first goal in a Swindon shirt, the winning goal in the 92nd minute?
- Will Vincent Pericard come of the bench and score 15 goals in the match to keep his promise?
- Can JP McGovern take his assist tally for the season to an incredible 20?
- Does Lescinel Jean-Francois play and guide Swindon to victory, in doing so capping off a season in which he has demonstrated great professionalism despite personal tragedy?
- How will the five loanees of Ward, Darby, Ferry, Nouble and Sheehan help shape the victory. Also can you recall when Town secured the loan signings of five quality players as well as them adapting so well into the team?
- Is there another Paul Bodin, who will step up and rise to the occasion?
And of course, the fairytale…
- By only appearing at Wembley in the League One Play-Off Final, Charlie Austin will fulfil an astonishing rise up the football pyramid after starting this season with Poole Town of the Wessex League. But, can he finish it off by scoring the winning goal or a hattrick to send Town up?
With a few days to go I’m getting more excited, more nervous and more tense. If I’m feeling like this now, let alone on Saturday, goodness knows what it’s like for the squad!
To give me some comfort and reassurance, I will be wearing my lucky socks and lucky Swindon training top, despite the fact I will be hot and bothered in these winter clothes. But I can’t break with ritual now, despite how pathetic and probably futile these rituals actually are on affecting the result!
So then, here we go, it’s all come down to this… one match, to Wembley, 30,000 plus Swindon Town fans in our lucky west side, to win, to win on penalties, I don’t care how, keep the record alive, keep believing, Come On You Reds Up The Football League We Go!!