Swindon Town 5-2 Port Vale: Five star town return to winning ways
Swindon Town ensured they got back to winning ways in emphatic fashion by thrashing Port Vale 5-2 in a game that had more action than a James Bond flick, reports Andrew Steele-Davis.
Both teams were going into the game experiencing different veins of form. Swindon Town had lost the last two and were desperate to put an end to the ‘crisis’ that was apparently hovering around The County Ground. While Port Vale were victorious in their previous two encounters and headed to SN1 looking to extend that run.
Manager Mark Cooper made two changes to the side that slipped to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Oldham Athletic the weekend before; bringing back Jay McEveley after his suspension and Dany N’Guessan was handed his sixth start of the season with Yaser Kasim missing through suspension and Jack Barthram dropping to the bench. Those two changes were to pay off massively for Cooper and Town.
Port Vale got proceedings underway with Swindon defending the Town End, with the extreme wind that had been present in the build up to the game hindering both teams and stifling the quality of play on show somewhat. It was a scrappy opening five minutes and Swindon’s aggressive pressing early on caused Port Vale’s goalkeeper Chris Neal to miscue his attempted clearance out for a Town throw.
It was to be Port Vale who had the first opening on goal, however as with seven minutes played last season’s leading scorer in League Two, Tom Pope collected the ball and lashed a vicious effort into the side netting past an outstretched and rather relieved Wes Foderingham.
The visitors were looking to frustrate their hosts from the off with Vale’s two frontmen Pope and Ben Williamson pushing forward to prevent Town from playing it short, meaning Foderingham had to resort to sending it long. However, Town did find a way of playing their natural free-flowing passing game eventually and carved out their first opportunity of the afternoon on 14 minutes. Jay McEveley created some space for himself before driving a powerful effort on goal but Neal had it covered and smothered the ball.
Referee Andy Woolmer endured a torrid afternoon and he made his first mistake of the afternoon with fifteen minutes gone. After Alex Pritchard was hacked down he awarded the free-kick instead of playing the advantage with Ryan Mason surging into space and with options aplenty with the goal looming. However, Town had to settle for the free-kick but Mason could only smash his effort against the wall.
Tom Pope was proving to be a handful. He nearly caused the Swindon defence more headaches when a slick passage of play looked to have put the frontman through on goal but Grant Hall stole across and nicked the ball away to prevent Pope from pulling the trigger.
Rain started to fall which made conditions even more difficult for both teams but Pritchard nearly gave Town the lead with an effort from 20 yards which Neale did well to palm away and Vale cleared before Nile Ranger could pounce on the rebound.
However Town did get the breakthrough with 23 minutes played. Swindon were awarded a free-kick for a foul on Dany N’Guessan on the left hand side of Vale’s penalty area and McEveley who had been having a superb afternoon whipped in a sumptuous delivery for N’Guessan to rise unmarked and power home Town’s opening goal of the afternoon.
The goal gave the home side a massive boost as they began to click through the gears and find their natural rhythm. It could’ve been two just minutes later when a delicious through ball from Mason sent N’Guessan galloping clear on goal but Neal was equal to the effort and Vale cleared their lines before any Town players could pounce on the rebound.
That missed opportunity presented Vale the chance to get back into the game and they had three decent opportunities in the space of ten minutes. Firstly, Ben Williamson drifted in front of the Town defence to flick an effort just wide before Foderingham caused panic around The County Ground when he surged out of his box to break up a threatening Port Vale attack.
Tom Pope enjoyed the best opportunity of the half for Vale however when he capitalised on some sloppy defending but his volley creeped just wide of the post.
The first booking of the game was awarded to Vale’s Carl Dickinson for hauling down Pritchard but McEveley blazed the resulting free-kick well over, a feat he would repeat just moments later. That was the last action of the first half and Town went in a goal to the good at the break thanks to Dany N’Guessan’s header.
If the first half was cagey, the second was anything but as Town flew out of the traps looking to notch that all important second goal. And Swindon got their wishes just five minutes into the second period when the sensational N’Guessan waltzed his way through the Vale defence before whipping in a cross for Nile Ranger to power home with a superb header for his 6th goal of the season.
Chris Lines was the next man to be put into the book for kicking the ball away and his ill-judged decision was to prove costly as Town soon hit a third. After Vale couldn’t clear the initial free-kick Nathan Thompson played in Massimo Luongo who cut inside and unleashed a ferocious shot which Neal got a hand to but it wasn’t enough to prevent the ball from nestling into the net.
Swindon seemed in control but a decision to bring on three fresh players by Vale boss Micky Adams proved a masterstroke. Lee Hughes, Daniel Jones and Jennison Myrie-Williams all entered the fold and it wasn’t long before Vale pulled a goal back.
Despite the distraction of a melee in the dugouts which Lee Hughes was heavily involved in and controversially escaped with a booking – when Fraser Digby was sent to the stands – the visitors kept their concentration and a defence splitting pass put Tom Pope clear through on goal who rounded Foderingham before slotting home.
Town then made two subs in quick succession, Nathan Thompson was stretchered off and replaced by Jack Barthram whilst minutes later Ryan Mason made way for Louis Thompson. However, fresh legs wasn’t enough to prevent Town from conceding a second goal and as a result giving Vale a clear opportunity to notch an equaliser. Louis Dodds was given time and space to whip in a cross which eventually fell at the feet of Lee Hughes who had the simple task of prodding home. Game on.
Or so Vale thought. Town managed to find another gear and just two minutes after Vale had seemingly fought their way back into the contest Town had doubled their advantage again. Nathan Byrne who had a fairly quiet game cut in off the left flank before curling a sublime finish into the far corner which whistled in. A simply sensational goal which summed up Town’s overall attacking prowess in the second half.
Mohammed El Gabas was the final change for Town coming on for the outstanding Dany N’Guessan with 85 minutes gone and with six minutes added on, it wasn’t long before Town put the gloss on the afternoon’s proceedings. Similar to his first goal, Luongo bamboozled the Vale defence before firing home an exquisite angled finish to wrap up the scoring.
There was to be no further action as Town bounced back from two straight defeats in some style as they reminded the rest of the league that they are still a team to be feared.
Mark Cooper’s young side can now look forward to a break from the league as they travel to Macclesfield next weekend for FA Cup 1st Round action.
Good report of a good game.
Not sure I would call the triple substitution a “masterstroke” though – it was more desperation after a shapeless hour that went before. If only all teams played with such a defensive 442, we’d have no trouble at all.
Yes, they got the goals back with the extra width but it also lead to them being so massively open that we could go and restore the three goal lead with limited effort.