Home comforts hard to find for Swindon

A last minute equaliser from Walsall last Saturday meant it was three points out of twelve in Swindon’s last four home games. It’s a record that has come under scrutiny from sections of Town fans leading our writer Adam Johnson to have a look into the County Ground conundrum…

Walking into The County Ground on a match day is almost like walking into your Lounge. You have familiar surroundings, your own seat; can grab a drink & its relaxing knowing you are in a good place. However for the Swindon players this year, it’s not been the comfy recliner chair experience it was in League Two.

Last season Swindon’s League Two title was claimed off the back of the incredible record at SN1 which included 19 wins out of 23 league games with only one defeat against an unknown team. Anyway, this season The County Ground has been graced to only eight wins out of 19.  The players & new boss Kevin MacDonald shared their thoughts after the 2-2 draw on Saturday with Sam Morshead:

MacDonald: Most teams have a better home record than they do away. The lads aren’t deliberately making mistakes.

McEveley: It’s a bitter blow for us. We don’t try to play any different at home. Our attitude is the same, our desire to win game’s the same.

Ferry: Away from home we’ve been better than home, which is quite unusual. We need to get the home form better.

Ferry: I don’t think you get an easy game in this league. At home people get behind the ball and hit us on the counter attack.

Each of these quotes reveals a different angle to take on Town’s issues at SN1 with the teams’ style of play, opposition tactics and other team’s home records in League One being points of interest.

We start with the stats and new manager Kevin MacDonald’s quote on other team’s home form. Sadly, he isn’t quite right. That statement most times is correct without looking but this season it’s not as simple as that.

Only Brentford out of the top six will be happy with their home form as they’ve lost two out of 19. Table toppers Doncaster have lost 6 in 18 at home, Sheffield United have won only 7 In 18 as Tranmere and Yeovil have both lost 5 at home meaning Swindon aren’t alone in their home struggles but it does mean several things.

Imagine if Swindon had picked up wins in those games gone by such as Doncaster, Hartlepool, Bury and Colchester but rather than think of what could have been, other teams home form has actually kept us in the mix at the top of the league. No one has taken the home initiative and ran away at the top with Doncaster leading the pack due to their very impressive away form of 12 wins from 17.

Swindon can be proud of the fact that they’ve scored the most goals, 36 in 19, and conceded the fewest, 13 in 19, at home in League One but those figures have been helped massively by the 5-0, 5-0, 4-0 wins over Christmas and in early January.

Looking back over the home games you can see that our woes have been in front of goal, which isn’t a big surprise. Town have scored 1 or less in 10 out of their 19 home games and when scoring 1 or less collected only eight points out of 30. On the flip side, when scoring more than one, Town have collected 23 out of a possible 27 points.

The majority of responsibility is sitting on the shoulders of the defence to keep clean sheets consistently as if we do concede a goal we’re unlikely to get that 2nd goal to claim the three points. You can look at it as the strikers need to score more than one when playing at home anyway but with them not doing that, the defence have added pressure to not concede.

Jay McEveley shares an intriguing look into the teams, and former boss Paolo Di Canio’s, tactics. Swindon get on the front foot and assert their presence at home or away from the carpet pitch of The County Ground. This style of play is positive to watch and as a home team should be approaching the game wanting to use the advantage as the away side soak up the early pressure.

The team under Di Canio can’t be faulted for their manner of play as they would often fly out of the blocks and take the game to the opposition looking for an early goal. After looking through the games, there is a pattern to show what effect this plan had.

In games where we have scored in the first 25 minutes, we’ve gone on to claim 19 points out of 27 with no defeats. When we haven’t, we’ve made 12 points out of 30 and our four home losses have all come in these games with a 0-1 score line, again highlighting our issues in front of goal.

Simon Ferry though answers why we sometimes struggle to break teams down and drop points at home. Teams know they can turn up & with our lack of consistent goal threat, can keep us out, catch us on a rare attack forward and grab at least a point for their performance.

The Scots says that away from home they’ve been better and everything in the stats proves his point. In short, Town have claimed 32 points out of 54 with the home form giving us 31 points out of 57.

Part of this is likely to be down to the fact that teams won’t sit back for Swindon when at their ground as it’s meant to be the home side who press. Town aren’t afraid to try and come out of the blocks first in an away fixture resulting in an open game favouring Swindon’s style of play.

Another factor for me about away games is the atmosphere and support. At recent home games people don’t seem to have that spring in their step in excitement. An air of expectancy almost feels the stands and when we struggle to break teams down, frustration and nerves start to build. Whether this transfers onto the pitch I don’t know, but a positive atmosphere is sure to always be a good thing.

That’s plenty of number crunching and looking back seeing where the season could have gone better even though we are still 4th in League One. But, we are in the here and now looking forward to four more home games that will decide whether we push for a late top two spot, cement a playoff spot, or even fall out of the playoffs all together.

These games are all winnable on paper with Notts County, Oldham, Crewe and Stevenage being the visitors and all lie mid table or below. Town will have to be at their best and it’s rare over the course of the season that Swindon don’t play well at home but they cannot afford anymore ‘we were the better team’ answers in the post-match interviews or with fans on Twitter.

Goals are a must and as Howard Wilkinson once said: ‘‘I’m a firm believer that if the opposition scores, you need two to win.’’ You can’t deny that’s fact and it’s almost the problem we have at The County Ground. We concede and worry creeps in that we need two goals knowing it’s a genuine issue. The main problem is taking the chances and all the tactics in the world can’t help that final ball or finish. Find a goal scorer in amongst our current crop in the last month or so of the season and it will make a difference.

It’s time for points and to steal a famous phrase to help the fans relax and support the team until that final whistle on April 27th I say: ‘’let’s make some noise, for the Swindon boys!’’

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