Swindon Town 3 Stevenage 0: Get Ready for the Play Offs…
Swindon Town mathematically secured their position in the League One play-off positions with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Stevenage in the Wiltshire sunshine. Two Aden Flint goals sandwiched between a Gary Roberts strike and a red card for Dani Lopez ensured Swindon saw off a physical Stevenage side with very little to play for, writes Lee Clark.
Prior to the game, Swindon fans were aware that Crawley, Leyton Orient, MK Dons, Tranmere and Walsall were all waiting on Swindon to make a mistake to take advantage and take the hunt for the play-off positions down to the final day. Stevenage started the game brighter, breaking up a lot of Swindon’s play, pressuring high up the pitch and getting in and amongst Swindon’s central midfield pairing.
The first chance of the match came to Stevenage, and Swindon could consider themselves lucky not to fall behind. Stevenage had a corner around ten minutes in, and it was floated to the back post where Roberts become the first player this season to out-jump Aden Flint, and his looping header was out of the reach of Wes Foderingham and bounced off the top of the Swindon bar. Graham Westley’s influence on Stevenage was clear to see, as they were well drilled and dangerous from set pieces.
Stevenage continued to cause more problems than the hosts, and only a good block from Darren Ward and a save from the follow up from Wes Foderingham prevented Stevenage from taking the lead. The Stevenage winger got away first from Nathan Byrne, and then shrugged off the challenge from Gary Roberts. He then poked the ball through to Nathan Akins, who on the corner of the six yard area was denied by Ward, but reacted first and then found the body of Foderingham who managed to gather at the second attempt.
It was to prove a pivotal moment in the game, with Swindon taking the lead moments later. A bit of ping-pong in the box saw the ball ricochet off Adam Rooney, and was volleyed into the top corner by Aden Flint from around 12 yards out. The centre half was due a goal, and this was most certainly worth the wait. Most town fans were expecting Aden Flint to end what seems to be an age without a goal with a bullet header, not a volley that Van Basten would have been proud of.
The goal completely swung the momentum of the game. Swindon regained complete control, and started to pass the ball around comfortably. Adam Rooney played in Andy Williams, and he could only shoot straight at the Stevenage goalkeeper. Soon after, Aden Flint almost doubled his tally for the day, as his header was saved superbly from just six yards out. Just as it did on Tuesday night against Crewe, it felt as though the first goal of the game may open the floodgates and give yet another convincing win. What happened in the next few minutes did little to suggest that the result was going to be anything different.
Stevenage had a free kick, and whilst Dani Lopez put his header high and wider, what followed was a much greater talking point. Alan McCormack seemed unhappy with how Dani Lopez had won the ball, and pushed Dani Lopez when he got off the floor. Lopez reacted in a similar way, and unfortunately for him, it seemed that referee Michael Naylor turned around at a bad time and he did not see what had preceded it. The referee brandished a red card to Lopez but nothing to McCormack. In response, the Swindon fans displayed their amusement, with the Town End breaking out into chants of “We always get good refs”. The rest of the first half went by with little incident; Gary Roberts attempted a speculative volley from a tight angle which he could only drag wide.
A few minutes after half time, Swindon had doubled their advantage. Williams picked the ball up on the edge of the area with his back to goal, and whilst he was unable to wriggle free from the defender who was man-handling him, the ball broke to Gary Roberts on the edge of the area, and after he took a touch to his right, he rifled the ball in with his weak foot via help from the post. The goal eased any doubts that Swindon would be competing in the play-offs in the first week of May.
Swindon were turning on the style now, and it was becoming pretty evident that they weren’t finished. Gary Roberts was finally starting to look like he may be paying back his large wage packet, and was getting a lot of space on the Swindon left. Firstly, he had a shot saved by the Stevenage goalkeeper, and then his low cross was only inches from Adam Rooney who was stretching every sinew to slide in and make it three goals in two games.
Flint’s second and town’s third came moments after. Once again, there was more chaos in the Stevenage box, and the ball bounced up nicely for Darren Ward to attempt a volley from the penalty spot. The shot was charged down, but fell to his centre-half partner Aden Flint who placed a scissor kick into the right hand corner of Stevenage goalkeeper Day’s net. Swindon fans were well aware that it was party time, and just like last season, they were going to finish their home campaign with a very convincing victory.
Swindon weren’t content with three however, and brought on more firepower to add to their goal tally. James Collins replaced Adam Rooney, and there was a debut for young Connor Waldon who replaced Andy Williams. The two combined for Swindon’s last chance of the match in injury time. Waldon picked the ball up on the bounce around 35 yards from goal, and lifted a gentle pass over the top of the Stevenage defence for Collins to run onto. With the ball bouncing, Collins could only find Day’s right glove from close range. It was a superb save by Day, who had made some decent saves and is likely to feel that the scoreline did not reflect his own impressive personal performance.
Pre-match, the focus was on securing a play-off position for the third time in nine years. Post-match, Swindon fans will be hoping to beat Scunthorpe next season to go into the play-offs with momentum and possibly finishing fifth, setting up a not as difficult tie against Yeovil, rather than third place Brentford or Doncaster. It looks a whole lot more optimistic than this time last week.
Dates for the diary…
League One Play-Off Semi-Final 1st Leg – 3/4 May 2013 (league position 5/6 as hosts)
League One Play-Off Semi-Final 2nd Leg – 6 May 2013 (league position 3/4 as hosts)
League One Play-Off Final – 19 May 2013 (Wembley Stadium)