Walsall 0 Swindon 2: Town keep up impressive form away
Swindon continued their impressive form away from the County Ground, as goals from the prolific Matt Ritchie and the not-so-prolific Simon Ferry clinched a comfortable 2-0 win at Walsall to climb into the play-off places, writes Rosie MacGillivray.
Having had the embargo lifted last week, Paolo Di Canio surprisingly never took advantage to add a midfielder to his depleted squad. Although what wasn’t know is that Tottenham loanee John Bostock was available and consequently, replaced young Louis Thompson.
It was John Bostock’s midfield partner and stand-in skipper, Simon Ferry, who got Town off to a flying start after 57 seconds. Good movement from Gary Roberts was followed with an equally good cross, which having bypassed both Andy Williams and James Collins fell to Ferry – in what the midfielder may describe as ‘nosebleed territory’ – to volley past Walsall keeper David Grof.
The goal provided an excellent platform to control the game against a side lacking confidence. Collins had the best chance to double the lead in the first half, with only a brilliant last-ditch block Richard Taundry denied the former Shrewsbury man a goal from six yards.
However, after a promising start, a combination of a solid Town defence and a strike force still lacking chemistry meant there weren’t too many more clear-cut chances from either team and the first-half went flat and fizzled out.
If there was to be one criticism of the performance, it was the partnership of Andy Williams and James Collins. While the pace and skill of Williams and hold-up play of Collins may have impressed individually, stray knock downs and passes showed they have yet to work in tandem to complement one another effectively.
Sensing that the Saddlers were there for the taking, Town appeared to step up another gear with greater attacking urgency. A cross from Williams was right on tee, but for the fact Matt Ritchie and Collins got in one another’s way. Judging by the ear bashing Collins received from Ritchie, it was the winger’s ball.
Although within sixty seconds, the tables turned, when the home side had their first worthy chance. Wesley Foderingham showed his pedigree, adjusting his feet to push wide a Malvin Benning deflected shot. The keeper also did well to keep out a Jamie Paterson free-kick in the same spell of play.
Shortly after, Collins made way for Swindon’s number 20, or as the away fans put it, England’s number 9, Miles Storey.
It was a during Walsall’s short dominant attacking spell that Town grabbed the second and ultimately, killed the game. Bostock produced a superb cross-field ball to Roberts, who in turn, laid it off to a sprinting Jay McEveley, whose cross was fired in. After an initial scramble in the box, the ball fell to Ritchie who drilled home into the bottom corner.
Given his previous reputation, Gary Roberts hasn’t yet lived up to expectations. Against Walsall, he was given more of a ‘free role’, regularly drifting in from the left flank and he was definitely a threat for the Walsall defence. He was rightly given a standing ovation when Raffaele De Vita replaced him for the last 15 minutes.
It took Andy Williams 80 minutes to have his first decent chance as he anticipated well to snatch possession, but his lack of urgency to take the shot allowed Grof to set himself well enough to block the shot. Minutes later, a poor clearance from the keeper fell straight to Williams, who tried a cheeky chip that looked to be going in until Grof managed to punch away in the nick of time.
On paper, the partnership of Bostock and Ferry may have looked light in the tackle minus the steel of an Alan Navarro or Tommy Miller. The pair, however, with Bostock’s composure on the ball and his ability to pick out the right pass combined brilliantly with Ferry’s constant harassing of the opposition.
The defence provided the platform for the win. While Darren Ward and Joe Devera have their critics, they looked like a partnership that had played two seasons together, rather than two games. Admittedly, they weren’t severely tested, but Ward won everything in the air, while Devera even managed a cheeky bit of showboating.