Swindon 1 Stevenage 0: Sexy football needs a quality striker
Swindon secured their first 3 points of the 2013/14 season in a match in which the phrase “a game of two halves” was very appropriate. Just like the Capital One cup tie against Torquay in the week, Swindon played well for just one half and it was enough to dispatch a Stevenage side who now haven’t won a league fixture since the start of April. Lee Clark reports.
Swindon almost got off to the perfect start as they earned a throw in between the Don Roger’s and the Excalibur stand, and Massimo Luongo played the ball across the box which Andy Williams was running in on. With just a Stevenage defender and goalkeeper Steve Arnold in front of him, the former Yeovil man was unable to show the composure to put Swindon in front and instead Swindon had to settle for a corner.
The Robins continued to press for their first league goal of the season, and the lone striker, Andy Williams, had a second chance to double his tally for this season in league and cup. After neat work in the midfield, a tidy pass was threaded through but once again Williams was only given a corner for his efforts. This time however, he was denied by a smart stop by the Stevenage goalkeeper rather than the body of a Stevenage defender.
The home side were well on top. Stevenage only threatened through set pieces, and despite Swindon’s obvious height disadvantage, they were well organised enough to fend off the threat from Stevenage’s big strikers and centre-halves. Town also looked more dangerous themselves from set pieces, as Darren Ward had a fantastic chance to open the account when he was found unmarked from a Ryan Harley corner. Swindon’s new captain was only able to head over when he should have scored.
Five minutes later and Swindon had taken the lead. A passing move started off by goalkeeper Wes Foderingham ended up with Massimo Luongo smashing the ball into the left hand-side of the net from twenty yards. After plenty of passes amongst the defence, Wes Foderingham played a delightful but risky chip over a Stevenage forward to Grant Hall. The ball was ultimately worked out to Tijane Reis, who under pressure, managed to turn out on the right hand side of the pitch, and work it back to the edge of the area. The Spurs loanee made no mistake and scored his second Swindon goal in front of his parents who were watching him play competitively for the first time in the United Kingdom.
Stevenage tried to force an immediate response. Oumare Tounkara, the big striker, managed to create himself some space by turning on the edge of the area. From around twenty two yards, the Frenchman stung the palms of Wes Foderingham, who smothered at the second time of asking as Jordan Burrow moved in on the loose ball. In reality, it was Stevenage’s best chance in a half which they created very little. The remainder of the first half was largely both teams probing, with the exception being a Darren Ward clearance from a cut back across the six yard area. Swindon went into the dressing room at half time with a large degree of control.
The first ten minutes of the second half was very flat. Stevenage had managed to regain an element of control, getting tighter to Swindon and attempting to isolate Swindon’s midfield three, without threatening the Swindon goal much themselves. The Stevenage manager Graham Westley recognised this, replacing Jordan Burrow who had offered very little with Dani Lopez who left the County Ground pitch in April early after being sent off with an alteration with Alan McCormack. The substitution seemed to improve Stevenage. They started creating chances and looked like they may be able to force an equaliser.
Borough created the first chance of the second half around twenty minutes into it. After a mazy run by Tounkara, the ball was pulled back and the Stevenage attacker could only shoot over from a fantastic position. It was a sign of things to come- Swindon had started to make poor decisions and their passing had become sloppy and lazy. The Swindon fans started to become frustrated, as the majority of Stevenage’s territory was gifted to them by Swindon.
Stevenage’s greatest chance yet came as they desperately tried to force an equaliser to give them their first point of the season. After gaining some space down the right, a cross came in at waist height. The ball was attacked by the substitute, Dani Lopez, but his diving header could only be glanced past the post from close range. It was a let off for Swindon, as any sort of clean contact would have left Wes Foderingham with little chance from close range.
Swindon survived one last scare. A bouncing ball in the box was controlled well by a Stevenage forward. Under pressure, he turned, and from 12 years fired a half volley towards the Swindon goal. The net rippled, the Stevenage fans briefly celebrated. After a split second, they realised that they were still behind and the striker had only found the side netting. Town fans let off a sigh of relief, and Swindon comfortably saw off give minutes of stoppage time.
After a very strong first forty five, there were signs of concern for Swindon in the second half. However, the brand of football is exciting when played in the attacking third. The omens are good that this side with an addition of a quality striker could have a comfortable season in what will no doubt be a transition period for the club. The midfield trio worked well together and the central defenders showed they have the potential to be a great partnership.