Swindon Town 2-1 Coventry City: Pantomime villains spur Town on to win

It’s panto season, so how appropriate for some of the Jack & The beanstalk cast playing in the Wyvern Theatre to make an appearance at the County Ground. But supporters were in for a treat, as there were not one but two Pantomime Villains! Oh no there weren’t! OH YES THERE WERE!! Writes STFC007.

A frustrating 70 minutes were followed by two great goals in the last 15 minutes with Swindon picking up all three points and leaving lazy Leon Clarke and the Coventry City Crew to ponder how they manage to leave Swindon empty handed. Swindon made three changes to the starting line-up with Ranger starting against a strong Coventry side. Make no mistake, without the points deduction, Coventry would have been in one of the pkay off positions.

Swindon started brightly and the inclusion of Nile Ranger on the team sheet was a welcome change. When he’s in the team he gives his team mates the confidence that there is actually someone playing upfront, keeps the opposition defence on their toes is able to hold up the ball and bring team mates into play.

There were several half chances for both teams in the early stages of the game, Ranger couldn’t get the ball out from under his feet and Clarke first out-jumped Darren Ward at the back of one post and then had a golden opportunity at the other to put Coventry one up but headed just wide. There were several long range shots from both teams with Massimo Luongo, Alex Pritchard and Ryan Mason trying their luck from distance for Swindon and Coventry’s Moussa getting close with a pile-driver. Luongo could have done better when the ball from a corner ended up in front of him, but he snatched at it with his left foot putting the ball on the wrong side of the post.

Luongo showed off some excellent skills at times, on one occasions dribbling past at least four people as if they weren’t there. Coventry’s John Fleck wasn’t able to turn quick enough when he himself was turned by Luongo receiving a yellow card for the weighty challenge. The Ward ‘choke-pull’ action generated some amusement for the people around me as well.

Just before half time, Nicky Ajose – who came short trying to collect the ball too often during the game – received a most blatant push in the back. The resulting free-kick near the byline was wasted when Pritchard took it short to Mason. Not only was the pass inaccurate but Mason wasn’t ready to receive the pass for a shot on goal. It typified Swindon’s first half performance.

Overall in the first half, Coventry were just that bit more aggressive, chased the ball with that bit more purpose and closed down players when defending with that bit more determination. In contrast, some Swindon midfielders where too attack minded and when they lost the ball jogged back rather rather than doing their utmost to win the ball back. This allowed the Coventry team to get between the Swindon midfield and defence too many times.

During half time, some of the panto cast of Jack and The Beanstalk – currently playing at the Wyvern Theatre – were interviewed on the pitch. The pantomime villain Simon Wegrzyn aka FleshCreep with his catch-phrase: “You’re all a bunch of losers”, together with Jack & Jill displayed the Swindon colours in more ways than one and posed for photographs.

At the start of the second half, Yaser Kasim and Jack Barthram came on for Mason and Jay McEveley with a view to neutralise the attacking threat from Coventry’s midfield and providing greater cover in front of the Swindon defence. Five minutes after the restart Coventry were ahead though. Grant Hall hadn’t taken note of the panto chant “He’s behind You!” with Clarke making the run, now in front of him, and Hall unable to make up the lost couple of yards. Clarke’s diving header following a great curling cross found the back of the net well out of Foderingham’s reach.

I don’t care how people celebrate a goal as long as it’s safe. However, Clarke – still with a chip on his shoulders it seemed – decided, instead of celebrating with the Coventry fans, to run in front of both dug outs and then along the side line of the Arkells Stand giving it large, pointing both thumbs at the back of his shirt in true Andy Monkhouse fashion. In hindsight an error of judgement from the new Panto Villain. Had he calmly walked back to the centre circle, I am sure the Swindon crowd would not have reacted with such level of determination and support in cheering the home team on for the remainder of the match.

However, for the next 20 minutes Coventry were in control displaying some great combinations in midfield. They had chances but were unable to take them to score a second. A long range effort from Fleck who put all his weight behind his shot exploded onto the bar. The final roll of the dice for Swindon came on 70 minutes with Harley making way for Mile Storey, which turned out to be an inspired substitution. Whilst Foderingham seemed to waste time at 0-1 down, Coventry’s Baker nearly made it 0-2 but the rather weak shot after creating the space for himself allowed Foderingham to tip the ball against the post and collect it.

The equaliser came on 76 minutes from a Luongo free kick. The ball was mis-headed twice before ending up at the edge of the box. Kasim made easy work of it as his volley ended up in the back of the net between the melee of players obstructing Murphy’s view who remained unmoved in the Coventry goal.

The fight back had commenced and Swindon were now in the ascendency spurred on by the crowd. Leon had his comeuppance as all Panto Villains do. His forward movement following his acrobatic backward header at the far post made him ending up hugging the StratttonTandoori.com advertising hoarding.

Substitute Storey had a great chance not long after, but Coventry’s goalie – who went down very quickly I thought – managed to get a leg onto the ball and put it wide. It was a very open game now with both teams chasing a winner and the Swindon midfield being overrun at times. However, it was Foderingham’s long ball and Ranger’s flick-on header into space for Miles Storey to run after that proved to be the match winner. Perhaps last year, Storey would have been pushed off the ball, but his strength allowed him to brush aside Coventry’s Seaborne and flick the ball over the onrushing Murphy for 2-1 which turned out to be the final score.

I have been to enough away games where we deserved all three points. I am sure most of the 1,219 Coventry supporters wondered what went wrong as they made their way back home. For me, it was the celebration of Panto Villain Leon. As I left the County Ground I am sure I heard Swindon Panto’s Villain FleshCreep shout at the departing Coventry supporters his famous catchphrase.

Swindon were lucky to pick up all three points. With the best home record in League One, the next game is on Boxing Day away against Brentford where hopefully we will be able to start an unbeaten away run.

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