Four things we learnt from Swindon v Stevenage
Alex Cooke gives us a quick run-down of Kevin MacDonald’s adjustments to Swindon’s set up.
Swindon 3 v Stevenage 0 wasn’t a game which swung on a tactical innovation or an adjustment in formation, Town were mostly the superior team, individually and numerically. And although Stevenage manager Graham Westley switched systems time and again, adjusting his increasingly brutal and isolated forward line, Stevenage found themselves undone in midfield were the discipline of Massimo Luongo allowed Alan McCormack to regularly break beyond the central pairing.
1.Town have missed Joe Devera
For all of the speed and toughness of Nathan Thompson, Swindon’s defence has been physically weaker since Devera and Jay McEverley picked up their injuries. While both lack the kind of attack that Thompson and Nathan Byrne offer, or the versatility of Alan McCormack, both are vastly better in the air and in reading, rather than just reacting to threats. In this match, Devera gave the centre-back pairing greater cover in open play and superior marking for Stevenage’s set-piece bombardment. Likewise, when Town had their own corners and free kicks, he was able to threaten.
2. Right-footed left backs can work
Nathan Byrne’s move to left-back has succeeded so far, partly as it has allowed Devera and McCormack back, but also because Byrne seems to understand his limitations. Many right-footed left-backs gallop forward only to find a rival full-back happy to show them down the line. They do this knowing that their rival can’t cross accurately with their wrong foot, or that they will need to stop and turn to get the ball onto their right foot to deliver.
Byrne, though either coaching or thought, negates this problem by running from wide diagonally towards the opposition’s near post. This allows him to dribble into a degree of space, but more importantly to hit diagonal balls with the outside of his right towards the back post. Okay, they aren’t really crosses and they bend out rather than in towards the goal but against Stevenage they were threatening, especially with Adam Rooney alive to the possibilities.
It also has to be said that Byrne’s distribution, and his defensive heading in particular, remain astonishingly bad, consistently yielding possession close to Town’s own goal. Which could be a major worry against the height and power of Sheffield United.
3. Gary Roberts needs space
Where Byrne now undertakes rather than overlapping, Gary Roberts has more room to stay as wide as possible. This seems to suit him as an orthodox winger, as he favours curling early balls into the box rather than dribbling to the byline.
Of course, Robert’s performance must be seen through the lens of the sending off. After all, while Graham Westley tinkering with his forward line and formation, Roberts often had a huge gap to play in as Stevenage’s best player, Luke Freeman, tried to support their solo forward.
4. Swindon can threaten from corners
Town actually seem to have become more threatening from corners and free-kicks lately. This can be attributed partly to the accuracy of Massimo Luongo’s delivery but also a bit of variety in the approach – including scoring from a short corner.
While Luongo drives very good in-swingers for any near-post headers, he seems to also play a longer ball to beyond the back post for Aden Flint and others to nut across the goal. Obviously it worked against Crewe and almost did against Stevenage, it also acknowledges the fact that Flint isn’t actually a very accurate with his heading and hitting an area might be better than always going for goal.