Swindon 3 Rotherham 2: Is the Sky is the limit again?
Alex Cooke reports on a second win of the League Two campaign for Swindon Town.
Two red cards, five yellows, two missed open goals, one clear penalty, a rumpus in the dugout, an ex notching twice and redemption via the first touch of a substitute. As a game, Swindon 2 Rotherham 3 had everything.
And if Sky were looking for the antidote to a weekend of technical, tactical international football, this was it: a glorious shambles that Town deserved to win, but always looked like they could lose.From the first minute the tone had been set when former Swindon loanee Alex Revell’s slid into Paul Caddis long after the ball had gone. Referee Carl Boyeson, perhaps wrongly decided against a booking on that occasion but later waved cards for a variety of minor offences, making the final act twist of a sending off almost inevitable in such a robust game.
Again Di Canio had adjusted his line up. The tall but surprisingly delicate Lukas Magera started up front with the talented but often blinkered Kerrouche, who once managed to be offender and victim, seemingly targeted for numerous strong challenges but also depriving their keeper of an incisor in an early collision.
Paolo also dropped both of his left wingers completely and put Raffa De Vita into an unfamiliar position out on the flank ahead of Kennedy. Rotherham had clearly scouted Town’s weakness on that flank and made sure the muscular Revell started up against the poor Kennedy, beating him with ease on the deck and on the air.
With the game resisting settling into any kind of pattern early on Town fell behind to poor defending at a set-piece when a free kick resulted from a misplaced Flint pass. The chipped ball was turned into a goal when Rotherham won two free headers inside the Swindon box through poor marking by Magera and Comazzi. While Revell’s goal might not have reflected the run of play but its sloppy nature certainly did demonstrate why Swindon’s season has gone the way it has so far.
Aesthetically Town’s response wasn’t vastly better. Matt Ritchie was clearly Swindon’s most creative outlet and combined throughout with the ever-willing Paul Caddis. And when the fullback’s shot won a corner it was the Millers’ turn to seem distracted in defence. Kerrouche’s cross was deep but still found Ritchie at the back post. Without a marker, the former Portsmouth man was able to drive the ball into the mêlée and into the net off the legs of the Miller’s fullback.
If only Ritchie had shown the same composure after the break Swindon could have been two up. De Vita, struggling manfully despite looking lost out of position, still managed to wriggle free and pick out Ritchie at the back stick. Seemingly torn between taking a touch and hitting a snapshot, he fluffed his chance to make it four for the season.
Lukas Magera then created an opportunity that looked out of place in such a disjointed game. Under close marking at a throw he flicked out a pipecleaner leg and pivoted in one movement, hitting a left footed shot, from the far right corner of the box, against the far upright. It was a moment of sublime technique and proves that while Magera isn’t going to chase balls over the top he will once fully fit offer a real threat.
Magera was less impressive two minutes later when the Czech striker’s failed to follow the busy Revell as he header in a free kick from the left. And while it was a good connection from the former Orient man, it again showed that Town’ marking lacks proper organisation.
A quick break from Kerrouche ended with a nasty foul from the otherwise impressive Schofield, whose second yellow meant Swindon had an extra man and a corner, earnt by another shot from Ritchie. Again a good delivery from Kerrouche was aimed towards the back post but this time the newly arrived Alan Connell showed aerial power and astute positioning to slam in a close range header.
Comazzi then came close to giving away a penalty as his lack of pace was exposed. The mobile Grabban skipped past him easily in the box ready to cut the ball back across the six-yard box. Comazzi slide through the Rotherham man with a challenge that collected only Grabban’s ankles. It was a lucky escape for a player already booked and a Town side who were looking dominant.
The let-off proved crucial as Connell again proved himself more than capable against Rotherham’s own defence, slipping perfectly between two markers and attacking the cross in exactly the way Swindon missed last season. Again Ritchie was the provider with another excellent whipped ball with his left.
If that wasn’t enough drama for Sky a scuffle in the dugout added drama before Comazzi delivered on the promised story. An innocuous ball from the Miller’s midfield looked to have been dealt with by Flint, but Comazzi gave the ref an easy chance to level up the numbers with a cynical obstruction. It was his second yellow, the first being earned for exactly the same reason in the first half, and naive from a player meant to be showing experience.
Cibocchi, who had already been brought on for De Vita, took Comazzi’s place at the heart of the defence and coped well but the defensive unit was now playing just as individuals.
With the game degenerating further the Rotherham keeper must have been dreaming of his new dentures as his screwed clearance fell straight to Kerrouche some 25 yards out. For some reason the Algerian decided to bend his shot with the outside of his dayglow boot when a sidefoot would have been enough to reach the empty net and set the seal on a much-improved performance for Swindon, and one that offered a tantalizing glimpse of entertaining, if volatile, performances to come.
Your Man of the Match: 1st Matt Ritchie 66%, 2nd Medhi Kerrouche 15%, 3rd Alan Connell 12%
Having watched the game, and the highlights, on TV only, I wouldn’t have been quite as negative in my report. Yes, for a while it looked like a familiar plot–we make all the running and concede silly set-piece goals–but we showed the heart and skill to overcome that. If we start taking more chances and marking better things will improve quickly. As for Magera, he did win the first header on the first goal, which left him out of position as Revell ended up in the right spot for the second. Flint was standing there covering nothing, so maybe he should have helped out, or someone on that second ball. Magera did have a few other big defensive clears, and almost scored twice. He’ll come good.
My question Jim is why is Magera the man to mark Revell? And why, just as with Constable, is he not being marked front and back – or more correctly goalside?
And as for Comazzi’s marking for their second header on the first goal, he wasn’t within five yards.
We still conceded two at home and this is only our second win of the season, so I wouldn’t say negative, I’d say there is still work to do.
Clearly the instructions for marking at set peices come from the management and their instructions following analysis of scouted matches. So either Di Canio isn’t detailed enough in his instructions to the team, or they are just ignoring him. Either way it needs to be sorted, and quick.