Swindon Town 3-1 Carlisle United: Pritchard spares Swindon’s blushes
Having not won for the last two games Swindon Town looked to get back to winning ways against Carlisle United in game week 19 of the Sky Bet League One. Swindon, who came in to the game off the back of a hard-earned point against now managerless Crawley, were keen to get the three points in order to maintain a play-off push, as Matthew Peach reports.
As Swindon approached the final month of 2013 they were sat in 8th, only a single point outside the final play-off place. Despite this they have had a largely inconsistent start to league, winning eight, losing seven and drawing just three.
Town gratefully welcomed Nile Ranger back into the first team squad after being in an ‘exile’ of some description since that game up in Macclesfield. Swindon also had Jay McEveley back after his one match suspension, however, due to another debatable red card in midweek the former Spurs man Nathan Byrne had to sit this one and the Johnston’s Paint Trophy area semi-final tie with Stevenage out in the stands. Town adopted a fluid 4-5-1 / 4-6-0 formation against Carlisle. This was a variant of what had been on show in the away games against Colchester and Crawley; Nicky Ajose and Alex Pritchard operated wide forward roles with Massimo Luongo supporting them in a withdrawn striker role, similar to that of one Lionel Messi.
The game commenced with Swindon attacking the Town End in the first half, having lost the toss. Within the first two minutes both teams had a corner each that came to nothing. Talking of corners, I can’t be the only one who has noticed the poor delivery of corners by Pritchard and co.? With Ranger, N’Guessan, Ward, Hall and McEveley in the ranks it would be good to see a good corner whipped in so one of these could have a half decent chance of attacking it.
Anyway enough about me ranting on about set-piece strategies, let’s talk about the first real chance of the game, and it came from an unlikely source: Jay McEveley. The left back, who is either hated or loved by the Town faithful (personally I love him), evaded a couple of chances and found himself in the box… what were we to expect? A goal? An assist? A new roof needed for the Town End? Unfortunately none of these. After skipping past the last defender he set himself up on his weaker right side and blasted the ball… high and wide of the goal. Despite this early disappointment Town continued to make chances. This mainly came down the left flank, with Ryan Harley and McEveley creating chances at will.
Swindon’s dominance finally paid off when after great work from Alex Pritchard, dispossessing the Carlisle full-back and playing it into Massimo Luongo who calmly swept it passed Manchester United loanee Ben Amos to get town off the mark. Swindon kept up their dominance until the end of the half, however, Carlisle, who were a threat all afternoon from set pieces, threatened with a looping header from much-travelled Lee Miller. The Scottish striker looped a header onto the woodwork with Wesley Foderingham sprawling in an attempt to push it away to safety.
After most fans got something hot at half-time – it was remarkably cold – Carlisle started the second half. Town were hoping to pick up three points for the first time since the 16th November and send the fans into the festive month with a smile on their faces. They did it, albeit the difficult way. This season Swindon have struggled to complete a ’90 minute performance’. They have very often torn teams apart for 45 minutes, such as Wolves and Crewe. However, doing this over a full 90 minutes has proved to be a struggle. Unfortunately, after playing so well in the first half, Town let their standards slip and invited Carlisle to play their game. After slowly creeping their way back into the game they finally got a break when a free kick was pumped into the Town area and guess who? Sean O’Hanlon headed in to Wesley Foderingham’s far post to drag Carlisle back into the game.
Town needed to get into gear. Who would step up to make the change? Shortly after conceding Town won a free kick about 20 yards out. Swindon needed a bit of magic and up stepped Alex Pritchard to lusciously whip a free kick over the wall and into the top corner. Just what the doctor ordered. Straight after Swindon got back in front a certain Mr Nile Ranger returned to first-team affairs and his presence was felt immediately. After having a ten minute run-about he latched onto a delicious through ball by fellow substitute Ryan Mason and crossed first time for, wait for it, fellow substitute Dany N’Guessan to tap home. Game. Set. And Match. Three points in the bag.
Swindon Town now have a much needed ten day break to recharge the batteries and make a promotion push over Christmas. First we have an JPT Area Semi-final game against fellow League one opposition in the form of Stevenage; a game that Town really should be winning in order to get a step closer to the place that shall not be named.
In the meantime, get in the festive spirit, and see you at the County Ground on the 10th…
Matthew Peach – @MattJPeach
Header image from skysports.com