Morecambe 0 Swindon 1: Ugly and hard-fought, yet a vital victory…

Swindon battled manfully to an ugly, hard-fought 1-0 win over mid-table Morecambe, thanks to a trademark half-yard poke from Paul Benson, writes Benjamin Beaumont. It wasn’t pretty, but who cares..? It was three more vital points as Town edge closer to promotion.

The first half was a disjointed mess. Town lacked energy and ideas, and most of their passes ended up on Morecambe beach. The Shrimpers broke up Swindon’s rhythm admirably, but barely threatened themselves. It was sub-standard League Two tripe. A highlight was when their Tommy Mooney look-a-like’s shorts fell down in front of the Town fans, to reveal a fetching pair of green pants with red piping. Yup, it was that bad. This was one hell of a long way to come for a pile of old crap.

There were a couple of hairy moments for Town, which at least reminded the fans that there was a game going on somewhere. One Morecambe breakaway was cut out by some brilliant last-ditching from Jay McEveley. Then, as half-time approached, Aden Flint threw all his tattoos in the way of a goal-bound header from Curran. Inbetween, Town barely strung more than two passes together.

As you might predict, without Caddis and Ritchie, we lacked a bit of width and balance. Rooney was having a right old ‘mare, and was subbed for Holmes by an exasperated di Canio before half-time. Up front, Connell was outmuscled, while Benson seemed determined to end up in hospital by hurling himself repeatedly at their brick-ouhouse net-minder Roche. But it was all to little effect.

Ferry tried manfully to get us playing football, and fashioned a couple of half-openings, but that was just about as good as it got. At least with Holmes on the pitch we looked a bit more like we were playing football, rather than a game that involved kicking the ball repeatedly into the crowd. And, with Risser growing in confidence in the middle, we could but dream that the second half would make the four-hour drive worth it.

Sure enough, after refuelling on the best pies in the League, Town scored within a minute of the restart. On the right flank, De Vita put an indifferent first half behind him to fire in a lovely far-poster for Holmes, who nodded back across the goal for Benson to do what he does best – prod home from one yard when the ball was probably going in anyway.

Cue pandemonium among the 850 Town fans behind the goal. Special mention to a beaming Benson for clambering over the hoardings and then celebrating with a huddle of inebriated folk in fancy dress.

The goal seemed to be just what Swindon needed, and for the next 20 minutes they dominated. Wee little Murray came on for the ineffective Connell, and immediately his running and eager-beavering gave the reds some much-needed urgency. De Vita woke from his slumber, Holmes jinked and jived and put over some textbook teasers, Murray went close from a corner – and for a while the difference in quality between the two sides was clear.

And then, as the game wore on, it was all about Oliver Risser. His travails this season have been well-documented – losing the captaincy, indifferent performances, filling in at centre back, and then that own goal at Wembley. But he’s kept going, and no fan could ever fault the lad for effort. Today, he got his reward.

He was everywhere – winning umpteen headers and tackles, but also setting up attacks with simple, accurate passes. He was unlucky not to score after a neat one-two with Ferry, and was an immovable mountain at the back as Morecambe pressed for an equaliser. Determination seeped from his every pore. He collapsed in a heap at the final whistle, and I’m not surprised.

There were heroes elsewhere, too. Benson bashed his skull, crushed his ribs and crumpled his shoulder, but somehow soldiered on – sunken-eyed, zombie-like – till the bitter end. The back four held on brilliantly, with some powerful biffing and bashing from Flint, McCormack et al. And McEveley’s beginning to grow on me, too – he’s got a lovely first touch, a cool head, and lovely fluffy blonde hair. What’s not to like?

As the game neared its close, Morecambe inevitably threw bodies forward, but with little apparent logic or plan. There was lots of head tennis, but no real creative spark. Even so, Town were a little fortunate that one looping header deflected on to the post and away to safety as the clocked ticked down. And there was still time for Benson’s zombie legs to fluff an inviting cross from the irrepressible Ferry in the dying seconds, but that was just about that.

This was not vintage Swindon by any means. But after a dog’s dinner of a first half, they showed real character to come out after half-time and impose themselves on the game. Once they got in front, they dug in magnificently – they really wanted this win. What’s more, Di Canio was able to have a positive impact on his players, and get them to fight for the points when things weren’t quite going to plan.

Team: Foderingham, McEveley, McCormack, Flint, Devera, de Vita, Risser, Ferry, Rooney (Holmes, Thompson), Connell (Murray), Benson

Ground: Smart but titchy, with nothing more than a step all along one side of the pitch. Naming it The Globe ‘Arena’ was pushing it a bit. Mind you, it was a reminder that many of the clubs in this League operate on a very different budget to Swindon’s. The Morecambe fans seemed a nice bunch, and the away end had a nice low roof to help the Town fans make a racket.

Pies: Homemade, delicious.

Town fans: Magnificent. Big numbers, good humoured, noisy. Made you proud.

Di Canio: Flapped and huffed and gesticulated throughout, and said he wasn’t happy with the effort of five or six players. He was right, of course, but at least they responded with a bit of grit in the second half. He also made sure the players stayed at the end to thank the fans.

Follow Benjamin Beaumont on Twitter @beaumo

2nd pic courtesy of Gary Rose

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