Swindon v Bristol City: Town reap the rewards

Adam Johnson reports on Swindon’s excellent 1-0 victory at Bristol City in the Carling Cup 1st Round.

Passion, skill and energy, they’re the three main characteristics we were told Di Canio would bring to Swindon and last night we finally saw it in full flow. A 71st minute winner from summer signing Raffaele De Vita sealed a great night at Ashton Gate and booked a deserved home tie with Southampton in the second round.

It was a performance that many of us knew would eventually come. We saw glimpses of it against Oxford but this time, even though we still struggled to find the back of the net, we got the result too. We’ve been saying it will take time and it looks like that time is over.

Paolo Di Canio has chopped and changed his side for every game this season but he has created a winning formula with this starting eleven. Alan Connell finally started in the place of eventual goal scorer De Vita and Etienne Esajas was replaced by Spanish winger Lander Gabilondo.

Swindon started on top and should have been ahead with the first effort on goal as Matt Ritchie shot wide from inside the box. That didn’t put Town down though as they continued to play football the way you can tell Di Canio wants.

Chances for Clarke and another for Ritchie further cemented Town’s dominance and were only put under pressure when Brett Pitman beat centre defender Joe Devera but could only fire wide across Phil Smiths left hand post.

During the first half you watched and wondered of the possibilities this season if we continue to play to this standard. We were witnessing good football on the ground, quick passes to create counter attacking football and Bristol City not being able to their own half. The team played with a fluidity we hadn’t seen in other matches and linked up all over the pitch, much like our league one playoff final reaching team, albeit not final itself.

The second half didn’t live up to the same level of energy as the first but Swindon once again dominated the proceedings. The introduction of David James at half time came along with a renewed optimism of a goal and it was Di Canio’s men who looked favourites to claim victory.

Town continued to lack that killer instinct in the final third but in the 71st minute, we finally carved out a chance and a goal. A ball cross field found Gabilondo whose attempted cross was blocked but instead of letting it go for a corner, the winger found the city defence in pieces as his pin point cross found De Vita, who had all the time and space in the world to head past James in front of the 1,400 travelling supporters.

Even though De Vita initially sent the Town fans into a manic frenzy it had to turn into a silence as we had to eat our own words. He hasn’t impressed in his starts this season and at Ashton Gate didn’t show more potential but he scored and at Ashton Gate. Therefore he goes into the ‘STFC goal scorer at Ashton Gate folklore’ with Alan Reeves, Darius Henderson and Aaron Brown.

Swindon went in search of a second and had a few half chances and opportunities but it was a calm end to the game as City barely threatened Phil Smith as a deserved victory over our local rivals was sealed.

It was a great team performance to behold but stand out praise has to go to Simon Ferry. Once again he showed what we missed out on last season as he bossed the centre of midfield with great touches, movement, energy to track back and get forward to support attacks. He never seems to stop running and wants to be involved in every play. He is a continual outlet to keep possession and is a great passer of the ball.

The rest of the midfield though also performed well with Matt Ritchie showing creativity along with Gabilondo who was also a lively spark on the wing.

It was a memorable night with many positives but without trying to take the gloss off a near perfect performance, we still lacked a real cutting edge in front of goal.

Leon Clarke and Alan Connell both did everything possible except score but with game time, the unfortunately abbreviated CAC, which isn’t as catchy as SAS, will start to get the goals. Clarke and Connell have the potential to create a formidable partnership and with Magera, De Vita and Kerrouche in support, the problem with scoring goals should soon end.

Lukas Magera, the most recent of Di Canio’s signings, got fifteen minutes to show us what he can do and early signs show promise. He’s a big man who was skilful with the ball at his feet and also liked to drop back into midfield. It’s very similar to Wayne Rooney, who likes to drop back into the midfield to help support play to later go and join.

So a top night at Ashton Gate was had by all as fans got a victory at least over one local rival, Paolo Di Canio got the reward for his work and the players got to taste a win which was deserving of their play after the disappointment against Oxford.

Next It’s Shrewsbury where the players have now set themselves high standards which, and try to  not get carried away, could lead to a memorable season.

Follow @adamdjohno

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