November & December 2013: Power surge at Swindon
2013 was an eventful and unforgettable year at Swindon Town. Brendan Hobbs jumped at the chance of writing our review of 2013 and you’ve now made it to the final part…
Port Vale must hate playing at the County Ground, that’s ten goals they’ve shipped in two encounters. Town galloped into the lead courtesy of a 24th minute N’Guessan strike, but straight after the break two goals in seven minutes should have put Vale to bed, with Ranger and Luongo finding their way onto the score sheet.
Vale responded by taking off three defenders and putting on eighteen forwards, including everyone’s favourite player Lee Hughes. And following a handbag-flying scuffle in the dugout, in which Fraser Digby rolled back the years and displayed the kind of safe handling he was famous for, the triple substitution paid off as in the 73rd minute Tom Pope finished expertly.
The sense of dread grew around the ground; seemingly unsettling our defence even more as typically Lee Hughes nipped in to reduce the arrears further and ratchet the tension up another few notches.
If Cooper wanted a reaction, then he got one, as if the beast had just been angered by a tick bite on its skin, Swindon swelled up and charged down the other end to land the killer blow. A beautiful curling effort courtesy of Nathan Byrne’s right peg flew past a stricken goalkeeper who could only watch and admire – it was a thing of beauty. Just to reinforce our superiority further, Luongo added a super-sexy fifth in injury time.
With Town’s shooting boots firmly laced on, the Town faithful were pretty confident of another goal glut as they travelled up to non-league Macclesfield for a first round FA Cup tie. The impending demolition would act as a fine revenge job as it was the Silkmen who dumped Swindon out of the competition at the same stage last year.
A demolition it was, but unfortunately it was Swindon who copped it, offering up a wonderfully shocking display in which they demonstrated the same levels of defensive ineptitude reminiscent of a Town display under King or McMahon.
To pierce all the doom and gloom Town then travelled to the Essex Wasteland that is the Weston Homes Community Stadium, Colchester and grabbed a two nil win, with Coopers tactical nous coming out on top with an unorthodox 4-6-0 formation. Ajose and N’Guessan, who both played as wingers grabbing the two vital goals which propelled Town back into the playoff picture once more. Yay, optimism!
That went straight out of the window against the all-conquering surprise package (when do they lose that tag?) Leyton Orient. Town deservedly took the lead courtesy of Nicky Ajose, Orient pegged us back immediately with a sublime goal from David Mooney, catching a possibly distracted Wes Foderingham off his line with a fine lob – it had been reported in the previous days Adver that Wes could be off in the January transfer window.
After that it was plain sailing for Orient. Moses Odubajo scoring twice (although I still maintain they were both OG’s), oh and an idiot ran onto the pitch and tried to thump Jamie Jones in the goal, but less said about that the better. Town were down to seventh, yay, pessimism! Town had been ‘found out’ again!
A trip to Crawley beckoned and Town finally claimed a precious clean-sheet, unfortunately Swindon failed to score at the other end, but a point away from home is always a good result nevertheless. During the match Nathan Byrne had obviously been thinking that he hadn’t been a victim of a harsh red card recently, so promptly got one for a splendid tackle in which he clearly won the ball. Mark Cooper was incensed.
The game was played against a background of uncertainty surrounding the future ownership of the club, with rumours surfacing that a secret ‘Power’ struggle for control was currently in full swing.
Meanwhile, the Crawley owners decided after the match that a home draw against Swindon was not good enough for a club of their immense stature so they sacked their manager Ritchie Barker shortly after the game. I’ll bet he was still in those shorts as well, fancy that, a grown man being sacked whilst wearing shorts.
Town got back to business with a nervy three-one win over an improving Carlisle, a game in which a cruising Swindon took the lead through Luongo, but then inexplicably turned off in the second half allowing another ex-Town centre half in the shape of Sean O’Hanlon to head the Cumbrians level.
Straight from the kick off Town finally realised that if they wanted to win, they would need to actually attack at some point – so they immediately set about driving at the Carlisle defence, who quickly buckled and conceded a free kick on the edge of the box. Step forward Alex Pritchard, who for the third time this season, showed how deadly he is from a…er.. dead ball situation.
Dany N’Guessan, on as a substitute, put the game out of reach, combining with another sub in the form of the returning Nile Ranger, to slot home with what was his first and only touch in-between warming up and coming on and the post-match warm down.
After the Carlisle game, Town enjoyed a 14 day hiatus in the league programme, ahhhh, we could all now take a breath and relax. No chance, because like some previously contained cowboy brawl in a Saloon Bar, the boardroom struggle had now burst through the swing doors and out onto the dusty street – it was all out in the open and everyone wanted to join in.
Mark Cooper did his best to play down the unrest, saying that his troops were focused on the football and nothing else. Needless to say, it was quite a relief when the dust settled and it was Lee Power who strode away from the battle intact – and in charge. Following Jed McCrory stepping down as Chairman, Power released a coherent statement via the Adver and took part in a good Q&A session with fans, like some top model clad in a ten denier body stocking, the apparent transparency was pleasing for all to see.
Sandwiched between league games was a JPT Southern Section Semi-Final encounter with Stevenage. In a game reminiscent of the recent league game with Carlisle, Town dominated the early stages and took the lead through Nicky Ajose but then failed to capitalize on their dominance and seemingly forgot to attack again.
The inevitable Stevenage equaliser came, forcing the game to penalties in which Town amazingly coasted to the win. Back-up keeper Ty Belford delivered a masterclass in annoying wind-up tactics and off-putting antics, saving two and causing the hapless Ben Chorley to launch his effort so far over the Town End the club had to phone the Jury’s Inn to get their ball back.
Back to league action, and Town lost away to Sheffield United, again. I think an agreement should just be drawn up between the two clubs that we simply forfeit the trip to Bramall Lane each year, we’d save on the inevitable petrol, heartache etc. Town going down on this occasion on- nil, with one time Football Manager legend Jose Baxter grabbing the only goal. I tweeted my mate who went to the game to ask him how we played; I received a one word response: ‘Dogshit’.
I feel this is the right place to leave my review of the year, the last few games plus Nile Ranger’s imminent departure all seem a bit too recent to include in a recap. It would be like reminiscing on the colour of my first wee I had when I got up this morning – it’s all too recent and largely unnecessary.
To sum up the year in some all-encompassing final paragraph would be impossible, too much went on – in the boardroom and on the pitch, so I will leave this over-long, rambling piece with a question:
What exactly do you think I’ll be covering in a review of next year?
It’s a terrifying thought….