Andy’s Angle: Tactical masterclass..?
Andrew Steele-Davis reflects on Mark Cooper’s tactical masterclass, looks ahead to the visit of Leyton Orient and suggests why England’s recent squad inclusions means good news for the lower leagues…
Eventful is the word best used to sum up the last two weeks at SN1 with games now coming thick and fast and the hectic Christmas schedule just around the corner. After the feelings of anger, humiliation and just downright disbelief that the FA Cup humbling at the hands of Macclesfield Town brought, it feels good to be writing this on the back of two straight wins. Two victories that are hugely significant in their own unique way.
Progression through to the Southern Area Semi-Finals of the JPT at the expense of Wycombe Wanderers last Tuesday evening has everyone connected to the club dreaming of yet another date with Wembley, and a chance of lifting some much coveted silverware. Now wouldn’t that be nice?
Town were utterly dominant against Wycombe. I know I wasn’t the only one that was left bewildered by the fact that the visitors went in at the break a goal to the good. Despite Swindon being rampant in the second half, for a while there was that horrible feeling floating around the County Ground that Town were facing the prospect of two cup exits in a matter of days. Step forward Nicky Ajose, who has been in lethal form of late, to score a late brace to ensure that Swindon’s name would be present on a card ready for the Soccer AM crew to make the draw. Stevenage will be the team standing in Swindon’s way of the Area-Finals, but with the game being played at the County Ground expectation levels are understandably high.
We all know that Town’s away form this season has been rather hit and miss so the prospect of a trip to Colchester last Saturday, would hardly have raised cheers among the travelling Swindon faithful ahead of the journey. Mark Cooper deserves a large chunk of the plaudits after his side secured a vital 2-1 away win, as it was his tactical nous that proved critical in taking the three points back to Wiltshire.
Lining up in a 4-6-0 formation, Cooper’s young side were tight and compact and enjoyed near total control for the majority of the game. It was a display that certainly warmed the cockles of the traveling Town support on what was a typically cold Essex afternoon. The in-form paring of Nicky Ajose and Dany N’Guessan got the all-important goals and despite the hosts pulling one back Town held out to secure a rare enjoyable away day. This was a victory which will hopefully signal a change in fortunes for Swindon’s away form.
It’s nice to see N’Guessan and Ajose hitting the back of the net with regular frequency and with Nile Ranger’s absence it is vital that the in-form duo continue to deliver the goods. Both have been revelations since joining the club and both offer different quality’s to Town’s attacking hub. N’Guessan brings sheer power and brute force to the table while Ajose is a menace in the box as well as being influential out on the flanks. Dany has bagged six goals in eight games now, whilse Ajose has three in his last two outings. There has been a clamour of support for Nicky Ajose’s loan from Peterborough to be made permanent in the January Transfer Window, a move which I consider to be both necessary and vital to Swindon’s promotion hopes this season.
It was also good to see Ryan Harley return to the starting line-up against Colchester after a couple of outings off the bench following a lengthy lay-off. I marked Harley as a key figure for Town at the start of the season. While his season has been ravaged by injuries so far he was at his influential best on Saturday and was pivotal to Town’s second half comeback against Wycombe. Hopefully Ryan’s injury problems are behind him now and that he can kick on and establish himself as a key component in this Swindon side.
Leyton Orient are the visitors on Saturday and their stunning start to the season has been good news for The Football League. Orient don’t have the biggest budget in the league and their current side have been together for a number of years now with that continuity now paying dividends. The most pleasing factor of their impressive season so far has been Russell Slade in the dugout who has been given time to gradually build a side and create his own blueprint and philosophy. At a time when managers are discarded with at an alarming rate Slade and Orient’s successes should lift the hearts of every football fan around the Country.
To finish off then I don’t think I am the only one when I say that the recent inclusions of Adam Lallana and Jay Rodriguez in the England squad should bring hope to talented footballers currently plying their trade in the Football League. Both Lallana and Rodriguez, along with Rickie Lambert, all displayed their talents in the lower leagues before being invited to dine at the top table of English football. Lambert’s, Lallana’s and Rodriguez’s recent exploits on the international stage should inspire the likes of Alex Pritchard and Ryan Mason, as well as the vast array of young potential stars that currently litter the Football League. They need to know that combining talent with hard work and determination, whilst getting the experience of regular football at a lower league club, can pay off in the long run.
Until Next Time…