Swindon Town surviving the drop: 1975/1976

The second story in the series following Swindon Town successes of avoiding the drop, this time I take a look back to 1975/1976 in Football League Division Three.

After almost bouncing back at the first time of asking the season before, when Town finished just in 4th place, just 2 points shy of automatic promotion, the contrasting fortunes a season later sounds strangely familiar to today.

Town, managed by former hero Danny Williams, architect of the League Cup victory in his second spell at the County Ground, had raised fan expectations of swiftly returning to the second tier, yet the season couldn’t have started any worse.

The first eight league games yielded just a solitary victory (over Sheffield Wednesday) and 2 draws. The 4 points meant Town were sat at the bottom of the table.

By the turn of the year Town had only picked up 15 points and were firmly embroiled in a fight to avoid the drop in 23rd position, 4 points (then 2 wins) away from safety and 10 points away from 3rd place. Any promotion aspirations were gone. Sound familiar?

Also any cup aspirations of a good run to ease the financial problems associated with the Arkells Stand were gone, as Town fell to non-league Tooting & Mitcham United in a replay. Again…a cup exit at the hands of non-league opposition…does this sound familiar?

After defeat at Gillingham in the first game of 1976, Town found some form and secured an unbeaten run of 5 games including 4 wins and a memorable 3-3 draw at Crystal Palace, rising to 17th.

Yet this run couldn’t be continued as for the next month Town fell back to 22nd after 4 defeats and a draw.

Perhaps the following draw, a 1-1 home encounter with Rotherham United in March, which started an improvement of form was because of one man…

Don Rogers had returned to Swindon as part of the deal that took Peter Eastoe to QPR for £100,000. Rogers now 30 was past his prime, but a legend all the same.

Rogers’ return doubled the normal gate and gave a new impetus to the fading team. He even scored on his début, taking a flick-on from David Syrett, Rogers rounded his defender before drilling a shot into the Rotherham net.

How much could we do with a returning hero today?…

Results post Rogers’ return improve, however the 4-0 defeat a fellow relegation battlers Chesterfield resulted in Frank Burrows taking over first team training as Town were still in the relegation zone.

The change worked as the next six games saw Town win 4, draw 1 and only fall to defeat once. Following the 5-1 home victory over Walsall Town were 19th and 1 point clear of the drop and ended up avoiding relegation with a game to go following other results before the final game, a 2-2 draw with Wrexham.

In the end 40 points was enough to ensure Town finished 19th, 1 point clear of relegation. Halifax, Southend United, Colchester United and Aldershot fell to the Football League basement, whilst Hereford United took the Division Three Championship and were joined by Cardiff City and Millwall in Division Two.

So this second successful season avoiding the drop, like 1972/1973, followed relative success and high expectations. Perhaps this bodes well for today’s relegation fight?…

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