Aldershot 2 Swindon 1: Shots keep Town on the brink
Swindon’s promotion champagne is still very much ‘on ice’ after a 2-1 defeat at Aldershot. On a frustrating and emotional night, the occasion never lived up to the promotion party hype and left many supporters wondering what might have been, writes Tom Otrebski.
The manager made four changes to the starting line-up. Post-match revelations and rumours about player conduct off the field perhaps explained why Paolo Di Canio had unceremoniously dropped Jay McEveley, Aden Flint, Simon Ferry and Lee Holmes to the substitutes’ bench. Their replacements in the starting eleven were Callum Kennedy, Alan McCormack, Jonathan Smith and Luke Rooney.
Before kick-off, the minute’s silence in memory of Di Canio’s late mother deserved more than just a simple mention in despatches: both sets of supporters impeccably observed the moment of reflection.
Right from the first whistle, Swindon were on the back foot and were behind with just twelve minutes on the clock. After Danny Hylton’s shot was kept out by Wes Foderingham, Guy Madjo was on hand to put the hosts in front. Like many people 5 foot 3 and under, a packed terrace is never the best place to fully appreciate a game of football, so it was left to the cheer of the home crowd to signal that someone had poked home the loose ball.
Just short of the half hour, Joe Devera was forced off with a knock and was replaced by Aden Flint, whose presence appeared to stabilise the visitors after their shaky start.
Disappointingly, Swindon created very little in front of goal in the first half and were undoubtedly hindered by their inability to put pressure on the Aldershot defence from set-pieces: nearly every corner or free-kick failed to beat the first defender. Raffa De Vita came closest when his header looped back across goal but landed on the roof of the net.
Roared on by the away support in the second period, the Town began with a renewed sense of purpose with Lee Holmes replacing De Vita on the right wing. Barely ten minutes into the second half, Peter Vincenti handled a bouncing ball inside the area leaving the referee with no choice but to point to the spot.
Skipper Paul Caddis stepped up to level matters, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way. Swindon now appeared to be in the ascendency with the travelling support sensing another goal. However, any hopes of Town going in front were extinguished minutes later.
Flint’s attempt to shepherd out a long ball over the whitewash went catastrophically wrong: tumbling to the turf under pressure from Madjo, the referee waved play on allowing the Aldershot man to play the ball all the way across the box. Hylton raced onto the pass and slammed it past Foderingham into the roof of the net to make it 2-1.
Looking for a way back into the match, Swindon’s play settled into the pattern that has characterised their recent performances: plenty of long-ball and huff and puff but with ultimately very little end product. It seems a lifetime ago when Di Canio’s men were playing neat, passing football befitting a team in a higher division than League Two. Even the introduction of Simon Ferry could do little to stop the mis-placed passes, aimless cross-field balls and lack of cohesion in the final third.
With time running out, the familiar long-ball created half-chances for Ronan Murray and Jonathan Smith while Luke Rooney skewed a shot high and wide. Holmes’s free-kick from a promising position was easily saved by the goalkeeper.
Despite a lot of evident frustration from supporters and from the manager over the performance and the result, Swindon’s position has essentially not changed. A point at Gillingham on Saturday will still guarantee promotion back to League One at the first time of asking and if the Town better Shrewsbury’s result then they will leave Kent as League Two champions. Finally, it’s crucial to remember that it’s simply not the Swindon Town way to keeps things simple.