STFC: An away story of two halves

After a week of detailed statistics as part of our League Two Rankings, Adam Johnson puts them to use with his view on Swindon Town’s away form, a story of two halves.

Many promotion hopefuls get to their lofty position based on home form, ‘win your home games and you’ll do well’ is the usual logic to follow. However, picking up valuable away points can lift you from the playoffs to title contenders.

Paolo Di Canio has made it no secret that he wants promotion this season and knowing the Italian’s enthusiasm he won’t want third place or even a runner’s up medal. To get this ambition Swindon’s away form is going to be crucial as well as our form at SN1.

So far the crucial stats of our away games read played 9, won 4, drawn 0 and lost 5. This automatically creates the word ‘inconsistent’ in our minds but actually that wouldn’t tell the whole story. As we like to do here on The Washbag, let’s get to the root of the issue and see the stats that matter.

A Solid Defence

Over the last month we’ve all been amazed at our league run of five games without conceding a goal. The stats however go even further to show how much of an accomplishment this has been away from home as Town are ranked the most efficient defensive outfit away from the County Ground.

Firstly, Swindon are ranked number one in the average amount of shots against them per game with only 7.3. So, it’s not just that Wes Foderingham and his reliable defence have blocked all that have come their way but they’ve been closing down their opponents consistently, limiting the amount of shots to trouble the Crystal Palace loanee.

The goalkeeper obviously deserves praise for keeping clean sheets but actually the whole defence deserve huge credit. Alan McCormack has moved to a new position and made it his own at centre back, Aden Flint has burst onto the scene this season and then with the energetic full backs of Liam Ridehalgh and Paul Caddis, Paolo has struck an effective and winning combination.

Its simple logic that if you limit the shots on your goal, then your opposition is less likely to score. However, it’s not just that which shows our growing strength in defence. We even limit the opposition to the amount of possession they have.

It’s very rare for an away side to dictate play but, according to the stats, we have limited our opponents to an average of 47.2%, the third best in the league. This will help prove my point when looking at the attacking stats but for the defence, the possession and shots stats show the defence and high work rate ethic of the whole side.

A defence and its goalkeeper will always get the blame for a goal going in but the midfield actually plays a crucial role too in these stats being in our favour. A midfield can keep possession and block attacks before they become a real threat. The often central midfielder pairing of Simon Ferry and Jonathan Smith have been a high working, tough tackling duo and these stats also show their quality as well as the backline.

Defensive rankings away - Click image to enlarge

A Sloppy Attack

But, and in life there is usually a but, our front line haven’t been backing up these defence heroics with consistency in our attack efficiency, ranked 16th overall on our travels. We have won away games in recent weeks by the slimmest margins and yes a win is a win. However, just one goal away from home will usually not be enough to win a game.

Our frontline has been chopped and changed several times with Raffaele De Vita, Billy Bodin, Mehdi Kerrouche, Lukas Magera, Alan Connell, Jake Jervis, Christian Montano and um…oh yeh, Leon Clarke all being participants of our wayward frontline. Well, that’s what the stats suggest anyway.

Away we have one of the worst shots on target percentage rating in League Two and that may not be a shock to many of us but I think it should be. The strikers on our books are more than capable and this may answer why Di Canio is continuing to search for another loan striker when we seemingly haven’t been all that bad in front of goal.

To put it plain and simple, we have an average of 10.3 shots per away game away, which isn’t bad at all and links into our very good away possession percentage of 52.7%. However, with these 10.3 shots on goal, we are only likely to put 43% of these on target.

Many of these sloppy stats will come from early away disappointments at Cheltenham and Dagenham for example and we have come a long way since those early days in August.

At the start of the campaign we won only one in six away games and in that run we scored four, with three of those being in the only win at Crawley. This has obviously affected the stats in a huge way but the positive can be that we have been consistently creating chances. This hard work is now coming to fruition as in our last three away games we’ve scored five goals, which at nearly two a game, is a good away goals ratio.

To put it simply, looking over the course of the season, we create the chances but we aren’t clinical enough with them. Paolo Di Canio has said how wherever we are playing, home or away, we won’t change how we play. We will play on the front foot, trying to dictate play and play attractive football. The stats all suggest we do but we are only just getting the right rewards consistently enough.

It’s hard to criticise Town when these stats for the defence have been so good, meaning we have been unbeaten away from home in recent weeks. These victories though have been by the slimmest of margins and our goal won’t stay shut all season.

Away attacking rankings - Click image to enlarge

1-0 to the Swindon Town!

So to sum it up, we may be taking Arsenal’s favourite and most famous chant on the road for the rest of this season but this isn’t a bad thing.

We are – by our efficiency rankings – unofficially the ninth best away side in League Two. When you add up all these facts and figures and we can be proud of our efforts as we have seen with wins at Crawley, Accrington Stanley, Plymouth and Port Vale.

Going away from home is a totally different mentality in football, however much you try to put into practice what you do at home, it never quite seems to work or feel the same. It’s still a pitch, the same players, same tactics but the atmosphere of a different ground plays such a big difference.

To win 1-0 away from home will always leave me happy, however it comes, but this side is definitely capable of turning their dominance into bigger away victories. At the end of the day three points is three points but the stats show that we are a good side away and we should be comfortable on the road.

Before I said how ‘inconsistent’ isn’t the right word as we have gone from a run of away defeats to a run of away wins. I’d say a more suitable word is ‘improved’. It’s a simple word but we have improved away from home in being more clinical to claim the three points.

So this nicely leads us onto Saturday and a trip to AFC Wimbledon for the first time in the club’s history. The stats say that with Swindon’s recent upturn away from home plus Wimbledon’s home attacking and defensive frailties we could see the bigger away victory that our stats indicate.

Of course, I’ll take 1-0 any day.

League Two Away Rankings – combined defensive and attacking scores:

Click to enlarge image

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