Port Vale 0 Swindon Town 2: Town came, Town saw, Town took home all three points
Swindon recorded their fourth win in five games with a 2-0 success at Port Vale thanks to a debut goal from Lukas Magera and a penalty from Mehdi Kerrouche. The Town were in control from start to finish and managed to frustrate and restrict their hosts in an impressive and textbook away display, writes Tom Otrebski.
Paolo Di Canio made two changes to the starting line-up at Vale Park, both arguably unforeseen and somewhat surprising: Czech striker Lukas Magera was restored to the side in place of Mehdi Kerrouche who dropped to the substitutes’ bench. There was no place in the matchday squad for Raffaele De Vita whose place on the left side of midfield was taken by Lander Gabilondo.
The manner in which the visitors started however was in stark contrast to the way Mickey Adams’s men would end proceedings with an early effort striking the foot of the post.
Despite the early pressure, Swindon did begin brightly with Gabilondo in particular wasting no time in proving to the bench why he should be starting every game on the Town left.
Making his presence felt on the flank, the Spaniard’s first contribution immediately stimulated the away support into a burst of appreciative applause. Cutting in from the left, his vicious, right-footed effort brought a smart save from the home goalkeeper.
It was Gabilondo’s influence that would provide the breakthrough for Swindon just short of the half hour. Taking up a similar position on the left wing and declining the opportunity to cross, he drifted infield before caressing the ball into the path of the onrushing Lukas Magera. From the edge of the penalty area, the Czech striker addressed the lay-off with the confidence and precision of a forward at the top of his game and watched as the ball whistled past the goalkeeper and nestled in the bottom corner of the net.
Cue scenes of jubilation in the away end and particularly on the visitors’ bench. The remainder of the half seemed to pass by without incident as the fine football being played by both sides disintegrated into a kick-and-rush style befitting a Fourth Division encounter. Jake Jervis had a fairly quiet first half and appeared none too pleased to be chasing the long balls played forward. It was no surprise when the Birmingham loanee was replaced at half time by Mehdi Kerrouche.
The Algerian’s impact was almost instant when he doubled Town’s advantage from the spot barely two minutes into the second period. Magera’s leap to meet a high ball was interrupted by a Port Vale defender who was adjudged to have pushed the Town striker in the back. Mr Sheldrake, the man in the middle, had no hesitation in pointing for a spot kick in front of the travelling support. Kerrouche was first to grab the ball and struck the penalty with conviction, high into the top right-hand corner of the goal.
Having just made a double substitution at the break, the second goal knocked the stuffing well and truly out of Port Vale resulting in the Town enjoying a comfortable remainder of the game. The visitors could have added more to their tally: Matt Ritchie’s trademark cut-in from the right and resultant rasping effort flew narrowly wide before second-half substitute Alan Connell couldn’t quite stretch to convert a cross from the left.
Wes Foderingham kept his fifth clean sheet in as many games. Making a few smart saves in the second half, the youngster on loan from Crystal Palace was never really made to work too strenuously by a toothless home side. Every cross into the area was claimed in a way that must have bred confidence among the back four who were impeccable as a unit once again.
Credit must go to Magera. After a stuttering start to his Swindon career, the big striker played the role of a classic centre-forward almost to perfection: aside from his fine strike, his hold up play, strength on the ball and ability to bring others into play fully justified Di Canio’s faith and decision to start him. Gabilondo must also be singled out for a special mention. His work on the left complimented Liam Ridehalgh beautifully and gave the Town a much more balanced and well-rounded look.
From back to front Swindon were quite simply exceptional. Crucially, they now have the momentum that will enable them to make a serious assault on the automatic promotion places and are at last starting to show the characteristics of a team that has gelled.
While the cup competitions take priority this week, it would take a brave man to bet against the assumption that the players cannot wait to get stuck into the bread and butter of league action once again when they travel to Wimbledon in a fortnight.