Swindon 2 Coventry City 2: Sky Blues’ thunder stolen by Reds’ recovery

Swindon recover from going two behind at home to Coventry City to record a unlikely 2-2 draw, writes STFC007.

Paolo Di Canio made three changes to the starting line-up that won away at Bury. The injured Williams was replaced by Benson whilst fit again Roberts replaced Bessone. There was also a rare start for John Bostock – with Collins making way – something the fans had been looking forward to since he showed so much promise towards the end of last season. It was clear even before the start that he had not featured much, as Ferry had to point out to him that Benson could not kick-off on his own.

There was much expectation following the lead-up to this match as a ‘big club’ was about to visit. Paolo had highlighted the quality in the Coventry squad – as outlined in the ‘magnificent seven’ article – racking up not far from 400 Premier League starts and more than 1,000 Championship appearances. Quite impressive and with a good team normally comes a good away support. There was some talk of the Stratton Bank opening up but the numbers were never going to make this viable. Whilst 1,095 away support is well above the 2011/2012 average of 698 in League One, it’s far off from when the likes of Leeds, Norwich and Southampton came to visit the County Ground not that long ago for a League One encounter, each of them filling up the Stratton Bank.

Swindon started brightly and should have taken the lead in the 5th minute. Following some miscommunication between McEveley and Benson, with the latter expecting a long ball rather than the ball in the feet. All was not lost as the Coventry defender slipped allowing McEveley get a cross in. Ritchie’s looping header bounced first in front of – and then against the back post.

The Town End were chanting ‘Whooo the F#@k-ing hell are you?’ towards the away support just as a free kick had been awarded in more or less the same place where Colchester scored their winning goal during the last home game. An inopportune moment to chant that I recall thinking; but surely Town must have learned from the goal Colchester scored. Seemingly not, as the well place weighted kick found the head of McGoldrick whose glancing header nipped in too far for the diving Foderingham.

The goal allowed Coventry to play more freely, with Swindon finding it difficult to create any lasting pressure. The midfield passing game we have seen so little of in the last few games failed to materialise yet again for large parts. And when we did manage to get between their midfield and defence, the composure was missing to convert those opportunities into goalscoring chances.

After some good work from Roberts, the ball fell to Benson outside the area, but his curling shot went well over; another such example came from Bostock who found it difficult to dictate the game for the period he was on for. He took on the defender whilst running with the ball into the box, pretending to shoot but instead cutting the ball onto his right leaving two defenders stranded. Instead of curling the ball with his weaker right foot into the corner, he took too long getting the ball back onto his left foot with the keeper having had enough time to reposition himself to make an easy save at the near post. Benson and Roberts also had chances but their efforts were too weak to cause any danger for the visitors.

Coventry showed why their current position in the table is a false one. As a team and their midfield in particular, are technically very capable, passing their way confidently out of difficult situations. Such combinations earned them a corner in the 35th minute which was poorly dealt with by Foderingham. The ball landed at the feet of McGoldrick whose weak shot managed to find the back of the net somehow despite McEveley standing on the goal-line. He took the wrong option and instead of sticking a leg out, dived trying to head the ball away to no avail.

The game had been relatively equal with Swindon having the better chances, but finding themselves 0-2 down. Frustration crept in with two yellow cards in quick succession. First it was McEveley who received a yellow after kicking the ball away over his shoulder following a foul he did not agree with and then Thompson after a mis-timed tackle.

It was also at this stage that the referee started to show flashes of persistent incompetence. Whilst the ‘2-0 to the referee’ chants were misplaced, he did have overall a poor game with some very strange decisions.

The long ball continued to be used too frequently – especially by Thompson and the CB pairing – despite frequent shorter options being available. Benson upfront won many headers from the long balls – he has great ability to time his jump just right and then stay in the air for longer than his opponent – but no real threat came from his headed flick-ons.

The second half saw Coventry create a couple of clear chances to put the game well beyond Swindon’s reach. The Town defence was outwitted too easily when a Sky Blues attacker received the ball with his back to the goal, turned Flint, but Foderingham had come out to stop the shot, with a second chance falling for Callum Ball who like Bostock in the first half should have used his right foot, instead using his left with the ball going wide of the post as a result.

Swindon never gave up and made all 3 substitutions in the first 15 minutes. Rooney came on for Bostock whose lack of match-time was clearly showing, Benson made way for life-long Coventry supporter Collins and Navarro came on for the invisible Ritchie. All three changes had a positive impact on the game. The fresh legs of Rooney upfront chased every ball, Collins was poised to do well against his childhood team and Navarro was organising midfield.

The turning point came when Coventry #10 Fleck was stretchered off with what later turned out to be a fractured skull. After a seemingly innocuous collision with Thompson, he lay motionless on the pitch and from the gestures it was clear that this was a serious injury. We wish him a speedy recovery. His departure left a big hole on their left as their offensive threat at that side was limited allowing Thompson to penetrate deeper into Coventry territory.

Swindon got the upper hand applying more and more pressure  which seemed to have paid off when Rooney’s shot was stopped by the keeper into the path of Collins who scored, but it was ruled out for off-side. We did not have to wait long, as 2 minutes later, as it was Roberts who initially saw his shot pushed over the bar, but his volley from Miller’s headed flick-on from the resulting corner gave some hope. The Swindon crowd started to believe and spurred the team on.

Four minutes later, Swindon scored the equaliser. A long ball into the box from McEveley was not dealt with by the Coventry defence, allowing Ferry to kick the ball over his shoulder to set up Collins whose thunderous volley hit the back of the net. His shirtless celebration with his team-mates in front of the Coventry fans earned him a yellow card.

Swindon had several good chances to score the winner, but it would have been harsh on Coventry had they left empty handed. The game ended with Navarro being stretchered off what seemed to be a knee injury. Initially some people near me thought he stayed down to escape punishment from a high footed tackle, but when the stretcher came on it was clear he was seriously hurt. I hope the injury is unrelated to the one which saw him miss many games while at Brighton.

When the final whistle came, there was a sense of relief and taking into account the half-time score, clearly a point gained for Swindon – with only the over-optimistic one’s focussing on the missed chances at the end, whilst those making their way back to Coventry may well feel they lost 2 points.

Next up is another home game, when former left back Kennedy and in-form Swindon outcast Clarke will visit the County Ground. After Burnley and Colchester, surely not again a former player scoring at the County Ground….

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