Coventry City 1 Swindon 2: The perfect start for MacDonald
Swindon returned to winning ways with an accomplished performance over play-off chasing Coventry in what was newly appointed manager Kevin MacDonald’s first game, writes Lee Clark. Darren Ward’s 90 minute winner capped a remarkable comeback in the space of 5 minutes, after Coventry midfielder Franck Moussa had fired the home team into the lead within just 64 seconds.
3,000 Swindon fans made the relatively short trip to the Ricoh Arena for the first time to see in a new era for the club. Kevin MacDonald was clearly eager to stamp his authority and wisdom on the team instantly, playing Simon Ferry in a free role and Alan McCormack in an now unfamiliar central role. Nathan Thompson also returned to the team replacing one of either Alan Navarro or Raffaele De Vita.
Swindon started positively, forcing some confusion amongst the Coventry back line which earned them a corner. Typically with Swindon, the corner came to nothing, and Coventry cleared their lines. The ball came to Nathan Thompson facing his own goal, and under pressure he miskicked his clearance. Coventry were now two on one, and Franck Moussa opted to shoot from the edge of the area. The low shot left Wes Foderingham with no chance, and Kevin MacDonald’s reign as Swindon manager had started in the worst possible way.
Swindon responded well however, and started playing some beautiful, passing football that seemed to be missing recently. The next chance came to Simon Ferry, as Andy Williams cut back a low cross on the left, and Simon Ferry forced a superb save from Cov goalkeeper Joe Murphy from the penalty spot. For the next 15 minutes or so, Swindon continued to play Coventry off the park, only be denied by some poor decision making on their part and good goalkeeping.
Not long after the best chance of the half came Swindon’s way. Andy Williams turned the Coventry right-back superbly, and managed to stay on his feet despite the best attempts of the defender to bring him down. As the Town faithful arose expecting him to put the ball past Murphy, he put the ball agonisingly inches past the post. It was an all too familiar site for Swindon fans. Williams had done superbly to get into the position as he does so often, but once again the chance went begging. It started to seem as though it was going to be one of those days.
The next chance also came to Williams, with unsurprisingly the same outcome. A floated ball forward wasn’t dealt with, and in a tangle the ball dropped to Williams around 10 yards from goal. On the half volley and off balance, Williams could only hit the post when it looked easier to score. The ball rebounded to the former Yeovil man and with the goal gaping, Murphy flung himself to block his follow up effort from six yards.
Swindon had done everything but score, and the large numbers of Swindon fans behind the goal had started to become restless. The half time while went shortly after, and whilst Swindon were a goal down, they could take real pride from their performance in the first 45.
As the teams came out for the second half, it was evident that the stand-in Coventry manager Lee Carsley had told his team to press higher up on Swindon; giving them less time on the ball and perhaps forcing them into going more direct and waste possession. Instead, Swindon remained patient with the ball and created the first chance of the half. Alan McCormack played a one-two with Andy Williams, and when in on goal the versatile skipper could only force yet another smart save from Joe Murphy. Just as many a time before this season, the opposition’s goalkeeper was having a man of the match performance against us.
Swindon were still on top without threatening with the same verve that they did in the first half. In response, Kevin MacDonald brought on a string of substitutes. Firstly, he brought on Luke Rooney for Simon Ferry, who had a quiet but accomplished game in a new position for him. Super-sub Adam Rooney then replaced James Collins who had worked hard against his boyhood club, and finally Raffaele De Vita came on for Gary Roberts as Swindon planned a late assault on the Coventry goal as they searched for an equaliser.
Sandwiched in between those substitutes was the turning point of the game. Despite having very little possession, Coventry found some space on their right hand side, and a wicked cross found the head of pantomime villain Leon Clarke. He headed it away from Wes Foderingham, but the ‘keeper still managed to get his hand to it and produce a stunning save. It would prove to be a vital moment in the game, as a two goal lead with 25 minutes left would have been an unassailable margin.
The substitutions made a very positive difference for Swindon. Andy Williams fed Adam Rooney with a low, through ball on the left hand side, and Rooney hit a low shot that Murphy could only parry back into Rooney’s path. His second shot hit the inside of the near post, and Andy Williams responded the quickest to bundle in to equalise. The 3,000 Swindon fans at the opposite end erupted, but things were about to get a whole lot better for them.
Just as Town fans were contemplating the thought of a point and the position it would leave them in the table, Luke Rooney’s low cross was stopped at the source, albeit for Coventry at the expense of a corner. Rooney took the corner, and unmarked in the centre was experienced defender/former joint caretaker manager Darren Ward to head in via the hand of Murphy. The header marked two things for Swindon: the first time we have come from behind to win this season, and the first time we have scored from a corner since what feels like the turn of the century.
Swindon had five minutes of added time to endure, but the result was never in any doubt. Swindon continued there superb away form with a fine performance and result which moves them up into third. Ultimately it is a results business, but the performance would have pleased Swindon fans just as much, playing fast flowing football that has been missing in recent weeks. Kevin MacDonald’s formation and substitutions proved to be the masterstroke which ultimately won Swindon the game and gave him the perfect start.
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