Swindon 5 Tranmere Rovers 0: Merry Christmas Town fans

Swindon fans can go into Christmas Day with smiles after a thumping 5-0 win v table topping  Tranmere at The County Ground. The win cements The Robins place in and around the playoff zone and Adam Johnson was there…

‘‘All I want for Christmas is you’’ was the choice of song before kick-off and we all know the obvious cheesy Christmas pun that I’m going for so let’s move onto the game quickly…

It was a much easier affair than anticipated v top of the league Tranmere and was majorly helped by the worst defence to visit The County Ground this season. Swindon have to be given credit for dominating the game but this time added goals to make sure the hard work paid off.

The midfield controlled the tempo and pulled the strings to cause most of the damage as the continued striking partnership of Williams and Martin worked hard with the former claiming two goals, his fourth and fifth in the league this season.

Town’s defence, marshalled by the ever improving and calming influence of Darren Ward, were rarely threatened and youngster Nathan Thompson continued to be a more than solid option at right back.

Tranmere 1

It was an unchanged line up from the 2-0 victory at Oldham on Saturday and it was to prove fruitful once again as Town, with no one in particular standing out amongst the rest of, worked hard and played as a whole unit.

Tranmere lined up; guess work here, in a 4-4-1-1 with Andy Robinson playing in the hole behind their danger man Jake Cassidy. However, the frontmen would struggle to be involved in this game.

Di Canio’s side started in their traditional on the front foot style, even against a top of the league side, but this time they weren’t going to be left ruing missed chances.

The game was high in tempo but not in quality as a scrappy start led to the opening goal. Only four minutes in and a poor clearance from Tranmere captain Ian Goodison gave Town their first corner. This was the sign to reveal the beginning of the table toppers defensive nightmares.

The cross found the head of an unmarked Joe Devera but his effort was cleared, so Tranmere thought. A cross came back in from the opposite side and this time Danny Hollands was there to pick up the ball in loads of space and drill a deflected shot looping over the Tranmere No 1.

As quickly as you could say ‘well, that’s a good start isn’t it? Only four minutes have gone and we’re 1-0 up’’ Swindon were on the attack and only having to wait another 2 minutes and 57 seconds to score their second.

Seven minutes were on the clock and Raffaele De Vita, the second best winger in the country behind Gareth Bale on current form, was to continue his left wing dominance.

Firstly, an Andy Williams run was cut short but it was only half cleared to Thompson who won the ball back to strike fear into the Tranmere defence by feeding the raging horse of De Vita. The Italian ran at the defence, cut inside, and with the help of a deflection got the ball past Owain Fon Williams. 2-0 up in seven minutes, this is what happens when we take our chances.

Tranmere showed glimpses of what they are capable of with some possession and a few long range efforts but this as good as it got for them in the first 45 minutes as Town would put the game beyond doubt.

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21 minutes in and Williams got his first goal in just over a month to make it 3-0. A cross found the front man who had space to turn and shoot low into the corner. Awful defending to get the former Yeovil man a goal, which is richly deserved.

Then, just after the half hour, Matt Ritchie continued his good season in front of goal by getting Town’s fourth and his tenth of the season, equalling his total for last season. It was a deserved goal just for the skill in the build up by De Vita. A long ball cross field picked out De Vita’s whose sublime first touch on the volley took him past the full back to give the ball to Williams whose shot was saved but the rebound found Ritchie, who was cool under pressure, to slot home for 4-0.

The half time whistle blew and a standing ovation ensued, which is a rare sight at The County Ground this season.

Swindon had ripped Tranmere apart with De Vita and Ritchie being given the freedom to run at the backline as Danny Hollands and Simon Ferry pressured and won the second balls to keep up every piece of momentum. The pace of Andy Williams had the Tranmere centre defenders constantly worrying and Chris Martin added to the attack with his movement and work rate but went about his business in a more subtle way.

The second half begun with Owain Fon Williams doing a goalie warm-up in front of The Town End and you could say it worked (spoiler alert!) with him only conceding 1 goal in the second half and saving a penalty. Ian Goodison would not emerge though after a shocker of a first half and was partly given the blame for the first half with his half time substitution.

It would only take Town five minutes of the second half to make it 5-0 and turn the score psychologically from a good win into a thumping.

Matt Ritchie won the ball again in midfield and was allowed space and time to run at the defence, his pass then sent Andy Williams, whose pace left the defenders behind, into the area to shoot across the keeper into the side of the net for his second and Town’s fifth.

The only negative of the night was a missed penalty in the 62nd minute as Chris Martin was brought down in the box and awarded a penalty by referee Tony Bates. From my angle, which was in line with the incident, it looked a clear penalty with the Tranmere defender coming in late by a mere millisecond.

Confusion set in over who would take the kick as Williams took the ball in search of his hat trick. However, the message coming from the bench asked for Chris Martin to take the kick and score his first goal for the club.

Williams offered the kick to Martin who refused but Williams was to make the situation a little awkward by missing. His run up didn’t look convincing and he failed to find the corner as Fon Williams guessed correctly to palm the ball away. It’s not a big deal in a good night’s football under floodlights but Town are yet to score a penalty this season in three attempts.

I could write more about the second half but would like to give note to Tranmere’s best chance as Wes Foderingham has to be mentioned at some point. A long range effort was deflected and looped over the Swindon keeper but bounced back off the bar. The End.

It finished 5-0 and The Robins were worth their win and even the score line. Swindon dominated the game and it was quite like several other home performances but instead of wasteful shooting making the build-up seem pointless, Town were more accurate with 13 shots on target out of 17.

For Tranmere, a top of the table side, this was shocking. They looked rattled by Swindon’s tempo, something you assumed would have been scouted beforehand as it seems to be an often occurrence. They lost the ball in the midfield to many times which put the defence under unexpected pressure too often.

The man of the match award was given to Alan McCormack, but as I said before this performance showed more about the team rather than individuals. They worked as a unit, closing down in pairs and working the ball in their little units. Everyone was involved with 4 different scorers scoring in their own individual style. Again though, to keep feet on the ground and not to put a downer on Swindon’s performance, this was 50, if not more like 70%, because of Tranmere’s defence.

This result cements what we already knew about Di Canio’s side but had little proof of, until now. I’ll say it; we should now be looking at a top 6 finish. Expectations need to be kept in check and other things not said too loud as there’s a long way to go but if the team can find consistency, this league is there for someone to grab as not many, if any, will go on a long decent run of results.

Here’s to a good Christmas period in the league and I hope all you Washbag folk have a good one too.

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