Crewe 2 Swindon 0: Successive away defeat cuts Town’s lead

Swindon Town’s quest for the league title suffered a setback Saturday, as they suffered their second consecutive 2-0 away defeat. The defeat makes a seemingly unassailable lead, slightly less unassailable as a Torquay victory closed the gap to four points. Rosie MacGillivray was at Gresty Road to report.

Paolo Di Canio – ever predictable in ensuring his team selection is anything but – rung the changes once more. The return of Aden Flint saw Oliver Risser moved into midfield, with Jonathan Smith making way. There was also a first start for loanee Jonathan Tehoue, who replaced Billy Bodin, while Callum Kennedy also started.

It was a slow start for Swindon, much like it has been in recent games. This slow start could have been punished as the much-sought after Nick Powell took advantage to find Byron Moore on the edge of the box but was unable to test Wes Foderingham in the Swindon goal.

A laboured performance and sloppy defending was ultimately punished on 28 minutes. Winger Ajay Leitch-Smith was able to ease into crossing territory and his cross fell to Powell, who was unmarked and his volley beat Foderingham via the crossbar. Nick Powell was often found ‘in the hole’ and it was a struggle for Swindon to make out who was to mark him.

While Alan McCormack converted to central defence like a duck to water, he has found the move to right-back somewhat more challenging. He was unable to replicate Paul Caddis’ forward runs often enough. The stand-in captain did one surging run and provided a weighted pass for Tehoue but the striker was flat-footed.

Lee Holmes joined the fray to make his second debut at the break, as Luke Rooney made way. Rooney had his poorest game in a Town shirt thus far, as he failed to make an impact and was often found drifting inside.

The introduction of Holmes had a positive impact, as he provided a creative spark that had been so badly lacking first-half. Having a left-footed winger playing on the left made us less predictable and consequently, his pace and trickery ensured he was able to provide several crosses.

In spite of our initial second-half dominance and a host of half-chances, it was Crewe who were to score the game’s second – and last – goal and effectively, put the game to bed. Slack marking from a corner made it all too easy for Ashley Westwood to knock home past a hapless Foderingham from close-range.

The goal prompted Di Canio to make another substitution and an alteration in tactics. Callum Kennedy was replaced by Ronan Murray – much to the frustration of the travelling support, who chanted Alan Connell’s name. While Town have been able to turn around a one goal deficit on several occasions this season, we have yet to savage even a point after being two down.

Crewe’s crossbar was hit twice in as many minutes and it confirmed it just wasn’t to be Swindon’s day. A speculative effort from Simon Ferry from outside the box had beaten Steve Phillips before a close-range header from Paul Benson also bounced off the bar.

The absence of Paul Caddis showed his importance to the team and Matt Ritchie, in particular struggled without him. He let out his frustration late on, as he tried a first-time volley was an obscenely acute angle. A rest must surely be in order on Tuesday for the winger.

Soon after, Phillips was spotted off his line by Tehoue, but his afternoon was summed up by him slipping before being to get a shot away. A sub-standard performance from the on-loan striker prompted all too familiar knee-jerk reactions.

A frustrating afternoon in Cheshire for Swindon and it does add pressure for tomorrow’s game. In recent weeks, while we have been picking up results, it goes without saying, performances haven’t been what they were. It does that appear that a heavy schedule has taken its toll but with fixtures now lighter, confidence should still be high.

Hopes are high that Caddis will be fit for our clash versus Torquay but should he not be, a switch round is a must in defence. Neither Devera or Flint have sufficient experience without McCormack marshalling them along. Devera – who often played at right-back for Barnet – should play there with McCormack moving back into the heart of defence.

Image Copyright Andrew Smith and  licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

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