Swindon vs Brentford: Que Sera Sera, whatever will be, will be…
It’s been an emotional rollercoaster on and off the pitch this season and now Swindon’s footballing future could be settled in the next few days. Adam Johnson has a look at Town’s playoff chances against 3rd place Brentford…
‘‘Whatever will be, will be’’ is the usual terrace cry during the playoffs but it doesn’t encompass the true feelings of a fan during those nervous playoff semi-finals. However, for Swindon this year, it could very well be the truth.
After a long season with many emotions and events, that we know and don’t need a recap of, a lethargic attitude going into the playoffs wouldn’t be a shock. It’s not that fans don’t want success but with the events of the last few months in particular, it’s unrealistic to expect promotion.
But, we are in the playoffs and the old cliché ‘it’s all about what happens on the day’ comes into play. With a season’s worth of stats though now readily available, we can still ponder where Swindon’s best hope of victory may come from.
If Swindon want to play at Wembley on May 19th, the home leg is the obvious key to unlock the passage to Wembley way and towards the Bobby Moore statue. It’s a shame that for Town, it might not be that simple.
The County Ground hasn’t been the rock behind a stable promotion push but with the season over and now having a new goal, we can look at it as Swindon being unbeaten in their last five, winning two, at SN1. Not all doom and gloom.
Swindon will need goals in the home leg, however simplistic that may sound I hope you are getting my underlying point. With an average of 11.8 shots on goal per game and the best strike rate in the league at 16.3%, but a poor shots on target % of 46.9, you’d wonder what all the fuss is about if you were an outsider.
The problem is that the goals come in packs of 4 and then run out of stock for a few weeks but in the playoffs we can’t afford to not take our chances. We shouldn’t expect a goal blitz but we need to take our chances. It may be the difference as it could have already been this season.
However, Brentford in the stats are a good away side which could strangely work in Swindon’s favour. Teams that sit back against Town often get a reward for it as MacDonald’s men struggle to break down opposition at times.
Brentford are able to win the possession battle on most occasions with an average of 52.2% and threaten regularly with it. The issue with The Bees is that they struggle to convert those chances. Sounds familiar doesn’t it?
They have 11.4 shots on goal per away game but have one of the worst strike rate percentages in the league with it. Swindon in defence though are good at limiting their opponents to an average of 5.7 against per game and against a side who are known to breach the resistance put in front of them, we’ll need Darren Ward and Co to continue this stat in the playoffs.
Then, Town make the trip to South West London and Griffin Park. Swindon have played some of their best football away from the pressure and tight knit affairs of The County Ground with the likes of Stevenage coming to mind.
As Brentford are no shmucks away from home, neither are Swindon. The simple stats say we’ve won the same amount of away games as at home, but lost more, and accumulated more points than our opponents, 35 to 30, on our travels.
As an away side we are the highest ranked in League One with an average of 12.2 shots per game on goal and 58.2% of our shots are on target which is 2nd best in the division. Our strike rate majorly lets us down with only 10% but we can create chances away from home which is of huge importance in one off games.
The possession stats also show that Brentford don’t dominate games as you’d expect with an average over the season of 50.5% but do create 14.8 shots per game. The playoffs are typically tight until those final moments when goals are in desperate need. I don’t expect this to be any different but with these stats, and if Swindon get a precious lead at the County Ground, we may get an open away leg.
All these stats try their best to set us up for what is to come but the playoffs are a unique concept in a long season. It’s usually a tactical battle of give and take to see who in those two legs can win the game of chess…or football in our case.
However, Swindon and Brentford in one sense come into these playoffs with similar yet very different feelings, emotions and moral. This could be the catalyst to an intriguing playoff semi-final. This isn’t just 3rd v 6th but a penalty away from promotion Brentford against a Swindon side that may have had a slump but over two games have an ability to get to Wembley.
The Bees are being billed as the side that are low on moral after the final day drama and Uwe Rosler shared his thoughts, he said: “We were nervous and some players didn’t want the ball. We should have shown more bravery as a team to get the ball down.”
A week may have helped to heal those wounds but the nature of the Brentford side in pressure situations seems to result in nerves. Footballers are human but if these feelings rise to the surface once again, it may be a battle of who can keep their calm when it matters.
Swindon’s best hope for victory over two legs is the home leg but also it could well be putting Brentford on the back foot early. If Swindon can get an early goal, say within the opening 30 minutes, the team’s two positions and previous form may be forgotten about.
We have seen on several occasions this season Swindon taking the game to their opponents early in games, wanting to be on the front foot and take early control. 17 goals is the exact number Town have scored at home in the opening 30 minutes. Another one of them could prove crucial for the psychological side of the game.
The home leg is going to be real nip and tuck contest with the likelihood being that it’ll result in a low scoring game such as 1-0 or 1-1. I’m fairly confident we should create chances but still worry about us actually getting the goals. We can’t afford to go into the second leg without a lead of some sort, that’s the first hurdle to overcome.
The trip to Griffin Park is hard to predict other than being tight, due to the cramp feeling in that away terrace. I sense Brentford will get a goal but I don’t completely rule us out of getting one ourselves, but it’s easy to picture a second leg of missed chances.
Our performance in the 2-1 defeat on March 12th was only ruined by a crazy 5 minutes. It was also a place where MacDonald’s 4-5-1 flourished. Town were the better team for the majority so we can go there with those positive thoughts and not ones of worry.
I think the two games will be tight and not full of goals but sadly, trying not to be pessimistic but realistic, it’s tough to see Swindon at Wembley. Brentford are one of the sides that have ‘had our number’ as the phrase goes and coming into the playoffs our form is two wins in eight.
Even though Brentford come into the playoffs on the back of their own problems with the penalty miss v Doncaster, I think they’ll know they still have a great chance. They could very well have low moral as I don’t have an ear near the dressing room but I expect The Bees to come out fighting and wouldn’t underestimate them.
So, my attitude going into the playoffs really is ‘‘whatever will be, will be…’’ We can’t expect a place in the final but as long as we give it a good go after a season that feels like eternity, we can be proud we’ve come this far.