Swindon 3 Crawley 0: We make it six nil on aggregate…
After Swindon Town’s emphatic 4-1 win at Southend, it was time to face another early table topping team Crawley Town. The West Sussex side sought to enhance their ‘Champions Elect’ tag as the bookies’ favourite to win League Two… or would they become another victim on Swindon’s seemingly unstoppable run, writes STFC007.
In the build-up to the game, Crawley’s coach Steve Evans had for a second time in quick succession declared his admiration for DiCanio, by stating “I love his way and think he has been fantastic for League Two”. This was in sharp contrast to his comments about ‘the Di Canio circus rolling into Town’ when both sides met at the Broadfield Stadium in the reverse fixture on September 13 last year.
On this fine Valentine’s Day night, our ‘Romeo’ Evans unfortunately was unable to woo his Juliet, as Di Canio, seated in the stands, would not come down into either technical area, following the FA’s ridiculous ‘waving arms’ charge which resulted in a touchline ban.
There was a strange atmosphere just before kick-off which continued into part of the first half. Perhaps this was caused by a certain level of trepidation going into the match, knowing that a win would bring us level on points with Crawley, but a loss would see the gap with them widen again to six points.
When the game kicked off, Swindon were out of the blocks very slowly, in fact it seemed they were still looking for them as Crawley started much the brighter. Town were unable to keep the ball mainly due to inaccurate passing and early Crawley pressure high up the pitch. This nearly paid off for the visitors as in the 2nd minute a wayward cross from the left somehow managed to hit the bar well out of Foderingham’s reach.
Crawley were well on top in the early part of the match and it was therefore rather strange to see their goalkeeper Kuipers taking every opportunity to slow the game down; ultimately playing into Swindon’s hand allowing them to settle into the game.
The anticipated side show did commence, but it took longer than expected. Around the 15th minute, Evans, still in his technical area, made his displeasure of an innocuous foul on one of his players known to both the referee and the 4th official in no uncertain terms. This intimidation had a clear effect on the referee in the first half, manifesting itself in some very strange decisions. Caddis was clearly held back but the free-kick was awarded against him; Smith was clearly pushed over at the edge of the box but the referee allowed play to continue; and various other fouls were either left unpunished or given the other way.
The referee’s decision not to send the Crawley player off after he cynically tripped up Bodin – who was seemingly unhindered through on goal – was not completely unexpected. The lack of communication between the linesmen and the referee showed, judging by the large amount of time between a raised flag and acknowledgement by the referee.
This started to affect the confidence of the crowd in them. The usual chants of “You’re not fit to be a referee!” and “You don’t know what you’re doing!” were sang out loud by the home crowd. This played into Crawley’s hand, as they seemingly were more focussed on expressing their displeasure on the performance of the referee and Evans’ antics rather than getting fully behind the Swindon XI.
The game had passed Ferry by for most of the period and the ill midfielder – who in hindsight perhaps shouldn’t have started – was replaced by Cox; making his debut in front of the Swindon Town faithful.
The introduction of Cox steadied the midfield reducing Crawley’s ability to dictate play and allowing Rooney more time on the ball in attack. Swindon, who up till then had been limited to only one real chance on goal through a looping header from Benson, were rewarded a free kick. Cibocchi, who had a very good game at left back stepped up and rifled the ball against the crossbar well out of Kuipers’ reach. The ball bounced back into play where Rooney was able to control it and direct it into the bottom right hand side of the goal.
His run across the front of the Arkells stand to celebrate his first goal in front of the home support – as he later explained in his post match interview – was to try to catch a glimpse of his family, who were out in force to support him. He couldn’t see them so instead the players’ celebrations took place more or less in front of the visitor’s dug-out, much to the displeasure of Evans.
The goal livened up the County Ground and a feeling of anxiety and frustration was replaced with relief and belief. The turning point in the match came just before half time. Crawley were starting to apply pressure once more and had several corners, but two world class saves from Foderingham made sure Swindon would go into the break with a 1-0 lead. In particular, the second save where he had to not only dive low very quickly, but also put a steady hand to parry the ball away was worthy of the standing ovation he received.
The second half saw a different Town team altogether. The atmosphere was also different compared to the start of the first half and somehow strange forces must have been at work as the referee had a much better game in as well.
Swindon were much more confident and this time it was Crawley who were chasing the game. Strangely, they continued to waste time through lack of urgency in bringing the ball back into play and through simulating injuries. Crawley are a good, well organised side but it seemed they did not have a plan B. The recent departure of Tubbs is clearly a huge loss to them as the half chances they had were wasted. The fact they only created half-chances was mainly down to Devera and McCormack who are starting to form a strong centre back pairing in the absence of Flint.
The game became more open as Crawley was trying to put more men forward, but Swindon continued to be in control of the game. Bodin, who had worked hard up front but had been just too late or just in the wrong place a couple of times, demanded the ball from a throw in from Caddis in front of the Don Rodgers stand. He let the ball run across his body towards the box and from the bounce struck it very sweetly indeed, flying well out of reach of Kuipers into the top left corner. Caddis ran the width of the pitch with his arms wide open in true simulating airplane fashion to join the group of players celebrating Bodin’s wonderful strike.
The game had its circus slapstick moments as well, providing some laughter for everyone in the stands. There were a couple of airshots and a trip over the ball by a Crawley player, but Kuipers, whose confidence seemed affected after some poor clearances, got the most laughs by allowing the ball bounce off his chest a couple of times; and was very lucky the ball ended up on the outside of the post when he somehow fumbled a shot.
The win was secured following a very good move. McCormack found room in midfield and continued his run. A well worked one-two with Bodin found him at the by-line allowing him to pull the ball back where Bodin’s shot towards goal was met by Benson who from close range couldn’t miss.
The game was up and the 268 visiting Crawley supporters – around 10% of their home support which isn’t bad at all – were left making their preparations for the trip back on the M4 accompanied by the usual ‘cheerio’ chants.
Not only did Swindon Town despatch confidently with two of League Two title contenders in quick succession, according to the bookies The Town are now favourites to win League Two, confirming what Di Canio has said all along and what we had hoped.
Looking at the bigger picture though, it’s the upcoming fixtures against Cheltenham, Shrewsbury and Torquay that will define our season as being good or consolidating our league position with a serious chance of becoming League Two title winners.
When reading and listening to the post match interviews on this Valentine’s Day night, I could not help but think about John Mason’s quote from the movie ‘The Rock’: “Losers always whine about their best. Winners go home and f#@k the prom queen!”
Next stop: Hereford…
Man of the Match Result: 1st Alan McCormack 32%, 2nd Wes Foderingham 25%, 3rd Billy Bodin 18%